Poverty: Half the World Lives on Less than $2.50 a Day

Almost half of the world-over 3 Billion people- has to survive with less than $2.50 per day. The current events unfolding in Thailand, India and Kyrgyzstan have a lot more to do with the problems of poverty and social injustice than conventional ideological issues.

In Thailand, the Red Shirts are the poor from the rural areas fighting for a small share of the pie controlled by the urban elites and the military. In India, the economic boom has left most Indians behind, and the Maoists movement is getting a popular boost because of it. If, as a global community, we do not seriously reconsider our model of development and urgently address the issues of poverty and social injustice, it is likely that the social unrest unfolding in Thailand, Kyrgyzstan and India will become more widespread. If anything can be learn from world history, it is that once a society has reached the breaking  point where a very small percentage of the population control the wealth and most of the resources, the poor will eventually organize and revolt against the existing order. This was the case in France in 1789 when the revolution toppled the monarchy, and again in Russia in 1917 when the communist revolution took down the Czar.

To say that the facts and statistics on worldwide poverty are troubling is an understatement, as matter of fact they are overwhelming, and only getting worse on a daily basis. For instance, at least 80 percent of humanity lives on less than $10 a day, and more than 80 percent of the world’s population lives in countries where income differentials are widening. Not only the gap between rich industrialized nations and poor developing countries is growing, but income differentials are increasing within the boundaries of rich nations and poor nations alike. Globalization is having a negative impact on the poor in both the industrialized world and the developing one.

For example, the poorest 40 percent of the world’s population accounts for 5 percent of global income while the richest 20 percent accounts for 3/4 of world income. According to UNICEF, 24,000 children die each day due to poverty. Among the 2.2 Billion children worldwide an estimated 1 Billion live in poverty. There is currently 121 Million children with no access to education worldwide; and for the 1.9 Billion children from the developing world there are 640 Million without adequate shelter, 400 Million with no access to safe water, 270 Million without health care, and 121 Million children worldwide with no access to education.

Meanwhile, the total wealth of the top 8.3 Million people around the world is globally rising dramatically, effectively giving them control of nearly a quarter of the world’s financial assets. In other words, in 2004 about 0.13 percent of the world’s population controlled 25 percent of the world’s wealth. If we consider the global spending priorities of 1998, the trends were already extremely alarming.

In 1998, $8 Billion were spent to buy cosmetic products in the United States, $11 Billion to buy ice cream in Europe, $12 Billion to buy perfumes in Europe and the United States, $17 Billion for pet foods in Europe and the US combined, $ 50 Billion to buy cigarettes in Europe, $105 Billion to buy alcoholic drinks in Europe, $400 Billion to buy narcotic drugs worldwide, and $780 Billion were spent in military expenditure globally. In comparison, according to Anup Shah from Global Issues.org, the cost to achieve universal access to basic social services in all developing countries would be as followed: $ 6 Billion to provide basic education for all, $ 9 Billion to bring everyone water and sanitation, $ 12 Billion to provide reproductive health care for all women, and $13 Billion for basic health care and nutrition.

Our current form of globalization has not leveled the social playing field whatsoever, but has instead increased the unsustainable gap between the rich and the poor. According to the new economic data for March, American consumers are spending again, they are back in the shopping malls and buying durable goods, which could indicate that the worse of the recession is over. While this is good for Wall Street, which has regained all of its losses from the crash of 2008, it is not necessary good news for our society as a whole. The global financial collapse was a unique opportunity in America and elsewhere to adjust our mode of economic development and make it more sustainable. Unfortunately, because of a general lack of political vision and will from our governments, the process of re-thinking capitalism to finally address the issues of poverty and social justice  in the context of globalization never really took place.

Editor’s Note: Please follow Gilbert Mercier on Twitter and The News Junkie Post to stay updated on all of our articles.

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14 Responses to Poverty: Half the World Lives on Less than $2.50 a Day

  1. +5 Vote -1 Vote +1Stephen Dufrechou
    April 15, 2010 at 7:43 pm

    Slam dunk. Stellar article, Gilbert!

    • Gilbert Mercier
      +2 Vote -1 Vote +1Gilbert Mercier
      April 15, 2010 at 8:50 pm

      Thank you Stephen, coming from you this comment means a lot to me.

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  3. -2 Vote -1 Vote +1Joe Sixpack
    April 16, 2010 at 3:40 am

    The American “right” would have you believe that the only way to enrich the lives of those 3 BILLION people living in poverty is to have a complete absence of law when it comes to the economy. Capitalism and hence globalism, unhindered, will elevate the quality of life, they say. But what if all it does is make it so 0.13 percent of the worlds population can pepper their lives with Ferrari’s, iPads, leather shoes and quality cuts of steak while the rest of the planet provides the materials necessary to support the rich’s avarice? Nobody even entertains that question. There’s evidence to support the theory that libertarian economics creates circumstances in which billions suffer, yet I see no evidence that libertarian policies are fair or sustainable.

  4. +3 Vote -1 Vote +1Roger
    April 16, 2010 at 4:20 am

    Very good article, Gilbert, what amazes me is that such catastrophic tragedy barely gets a blip on the international news media radar. I do see things somewhat differently than you, however, I personally don’t view the causes of this in terms of simple neo-marxian ‘rich vs poor’, the real causes are to be found elsewhere: that we refuse to recognize human beings in terms of their biological nature as animals. Even though they are real humans endowed with the same basic, universal rights as everyone else, the bottom 3 billion have devolved to a biological, animal-like state of primitive biological reproduction and survival, but in so doing they’ve lost the natural mechanisms for preventing the holocaust-like tragedy of over-population that exist in the animal world. One statistic that sticks in my mind is that during the days before and after the Haiti earthquake over 40,000 new babies–”earthquake babies”–were born on that relatively small island. Haiti is small, but it is teeming with 9 million souls! So how can world aid groups be expected to come in and stabilize the situation in terms of basic human needs when 1000s of new, soon-to-be starving mouths are coming into those squalor-like camps every week? And, viewed globally, there are 1000s of little Haitis going on all over the world as I write this. The problem is not rich vs poor–that model is completely inadequate to explain the 40,000 new babies born in Haiti during the earthquake, rather the problem is our fundamental inability to embrace our biological nature as animals as a critical aspect to any solution. We have to recognize that marxism is a dead-end, that Marx was wrong–he himself had seven children amidst the squalor of Victorian London (!!)–and move on to conceptualize this rapidly growing biological time-bomb in radically new ways.

  5. Vote -1 Vote +1TWC
    April 16, 2010 at 4:25 am

    Joe – funny thing is, the American left is probably more familiar with Ferraris & iPads.

    The right possibly has the edge on steaks. And I don’t understand your point about leather shoes.

    • +6 Vote -1 Vote +1Lester
      April 16, 2010 at 4:40 am

      Actually I suspect you don’t think you understand much at all.

      Did you even read his post? The left right divide is an illusion. Rather than bashing the other guy across the road, how about realizing you share much more than you differ, and that you’re both being screwed by the same set of megalomaniacs.

    • +3 Vote -1 Vote +1Dustin
      April 16, 2010 at 7:26 am

      TWC, I actually saw an interesting statistic that, on average, those that self-identify as liberal tend to earn slightly more and volunteer slightly less than those that self-identify as conservatives.

      I don’t think that throwing tax payer money at this will solve anything. What will help are more volunteers trying to help with community-driven food donations, donations of books and money for education, etc.

  6. Vote -1 Vote +1Curt Doolittle
    April 16, 2010 at 8:31 am

    Unfortunately, the first prerequisite for prosperity is to control your population’s breeding.

    The worlds problems are not ‘density’ or ‘pollution’ or ‘capitalism’ but the transfer of life-extending technology to peoples who do not the cultural ability to control their breeding without the limits set on life by agrarian food production. For thousands of years, food production and disease gradients have limited population for people who lack the personal and social technology to control their birth rates so that they may stay within their productive means.

    Then we in the west, in our compassion, and in our lust to profit, sell these people life extending technologies without demanding that they control their birth rates.

    Were we to distribute all the wealth of the west to these people they would simply consume it and would match their reproduction to all increases in production, impoverishing the west as well.

    The division of knowledge and labor, the resulting increases in production, and the virtuous cycle of lowering prices because of this increased production are only one half of the equation. The control of breeding in the (protestant) countries is the other half of the social problem.

    More countries need a one-child policy, and the infrastructure to support that policy. Unfortunately, corruption is so rampant in these breeding-centers.

    Thankfully the rate of capitalism’s transformation of the world from agrarianism where children are a productive asset, to industrialization where children are a very high cost, is slowing the overbreeding problem in the ‘second world’ of organized states. Incorporation of women into the workforce further controls breeding, and often too much (Japan and Russia). The reason we need women’s participation in the work force, especially in poorer countries, is so that they do not breed their civilizations into permanent poverty.

    The problem isn’t money. It’s cultural discipline. If we are going to even discuss mobilizing states to correct poverty then we should mobilize states to control breeding. Otherwise, along with our technology of life extension we are simply handing a murder weapon to a madman.

  7. Vote -1 Vote +1Curt Doolittle
    April 16, 2010 at 8:47 am

    “In other words, in 2004 about 0.13 percent of the world’s population controlled 25 percent of the world’s wealth. If we consider the global spending priorities of 1998, the trends were already extremely alarming.”

    Most people who read have heard of the 80/20 principle. Which means that 20% of the people control resources. This principle was developed by Vilfredo Pareto, for whom it’s named the “Pareto Principle.” He used quite a bit of data to show that in England in particular, 20% of people controlled about everything, and that income was rewarded accordingly.

    This also supports the value added by people. Despite our rhetoric of egalitarianism and equality, the top third of people are more productive than the bottom two thirds combined. And, at least it appears, that the top twenty percent are more productive (have more impact on generating goods and reducing prices) than the rest combined. The problem for any society is allowing the most productive people to concentrate sufficient capital that they may raise the population into prosperity. After which it’s possible to implement programs of redistribution. you can’t share what you don’t have.

    Unfortunately, the only value most citizens have in an economy is to provide menial labor and to consume goods and therefore create demand for goods and sevices. Imbalances in assets are needed to allow the creative and productive members of society to concentrate capital (which is the ability to influence others in an organized fashion) so that productivity can be increased.

    There is no record in history of this system of wealth concentration being abated. If it IS changed, then the vast majority of people on this earth will rapidly die. The problem is instead, to control reproduction and to increase production and continue the ‘virtuous cycle’ while we live within our means, so that we can redistribute something on the order of 20% of our wealth to those who have EARNED that right by the cost of forgoing further reproduction.

    In other words, you EARN redistribution by controlling your breeding.

  8. -4 Vote -1 Vote +1Jennifer
    April 16, 2010 at 6:14 pm

    Only true capitalism can save the world from poverty. And no, the United States is no longer capitalist, that’s why we are collapsing.

    • -3 Vote -1 Vote +1Jennifer
      April 17, 2010 at 1:49 pm

      Whoever dug me down, do you want to explain why you did rather than just cowardly clicking the thumbs down button?

  9. Vote -1 Vote +1Ketan
    April 18, 2010 at 6:57 pm

    Hi, interesting article.

    Where do you get all your sources from. A lot of it looks like it was lifted from that link you gave, is that right?

  10. Vote -1 Vote +1SAI
    April 21, 2010 at 6:41 am

    Tnx to all of you, especially to Gilbert, I read your article, it really shows how it is. I was a bit socked of the numbers that you showed, I know that the problem of poverty is huge, but that it is so catastrophic I didn’t even imagined. I’m a free volunteer to Africa we are organizing a stand against poverty in the world at Copenhagen centre. Your article really helped me to understand the situation of the poverty worldwide. It’s a bit sad that you didn’t mentione the situation Africa but still tnx.