If Finally Good News could wake up to any morning headline it would be “World Poverty Eliminated!” Maybe “Global Peace Achieved!” would be a close second. Either would be enough of a jolt to make me skip my cup of coffee. OK, my second cup of coffee was what I meant. But what if the headline came in periodic installments? Couldn’t we still be justifiably amazed? The Economist brings us the incredible news that the world wide poverty rate has dropped by half over the course of twenty years. Between the years 1990 and 2010 the global poverty rate fell from 43 percent to 21 percent.
Some explanation is certainly needed for this to be more than a deceptive massaging of numbers or false claim wrapped in shiny packaging. The global poverty rate is the result of averaging the poverty lines of the world’s 15 poorest countries. This number is the comically (if it weren’t so tragic) paltry figure of $1.25 a day. It goes without saying that $2 a day isn’t exactly living in the lap of luxury.
The basic take away from the data is that actually eliminating dire poverty is a realistic objective. It used to be, perhaps because of who was doing the promising and what was being proposed, that such talk was the stuff of feel-good conferences looking for an inspiring sound-byte. I have attended many of them, and still kept my optimism intact!
The engine powering the drop in poverty seems to be economic growth. So all the UN pronouncements and programs might be well intentioned. But in the end, it is job creation and increased opportunity – even if under the watchful eye of the Chinese communist party – that made the difference. After all, China saw 620 million people lifted out of extreme poverty. The next billion might present more of a problem. Here we’re focusing on sub-Saharan Africa, particularly lawless zones like Congo and Somalia. The next fifty years may still herald an African miracle and with it, the actual end of world poverty.