No surprise. UNCTAD (United Nations Conference on Trade and Development) in its annual Least Developed Countries Report said yesterday that the poverty rate in the world’s 50 least developed countries is rising – despite an overall economic growth in these countries of 7% between 2005-2006, the fastest in 30 years. Instead of the poor though experiencing substantial improvements in living conditions, 277 million people still live on less than US$1 a day (compared with 265 million in 2000 and 245 million in 1995); while two-thirds of all people in those 50 countries survive on just US$2 a day.
Since 2006 the situation for the poorest of the poor has worsened with the biofuel and climate change induced food crisis having led to a steep increase in world and domestic food prices in 2007/2008. In some countries the prices of staples such as maize, wheat and rice have doubled in the past 18 months.
While a rising population and a shortage of well-paid jobs are named as major reasons for the surge in the number of people living in poverty, unequal distribution of income and wealth of course is also a major factor behind the poor not being able to improve their life’s circumstances.
The increase in the number of people living in poverty means that the 50 least developed countries will not be able to achieve the first of the UN millennium development goals, halving the proportion of those living on less than $1 a day between 1990 and 2015. To achieve this, they would need to cut their absolute poverty rate to 20% by 2015. UNCTAD said that if current trends continued, they would only achieve 33% of the target by that date.
Source: The Guardian, July 18, 2008