Saturday, September 10, 2005

Fight Poverty - International Day of Action

Just for fun, here are some statistics. Today I went to Calgary's event for the International Day of Action to Help Make Poverty History, but the turnout was very disappointing. The heavy rain was a factor, but apparently there were some problems getting the word out, so only about 40 people showed up. I hope it isn't indicative of a city that doesn't care about the issue. After Live 8, I would expect a lot of momentum to remain. Oh yeah, and the white "make poverty history" bands were too big.

I heard an interesting slogan at the event: "Solidarity, Not Charity". I strongly agree that the governments of our first world nations need to get involved in this. A small percentage of citizens donating a few bucks a year has not and will not end poverty. The problem is just too big for that; not only does the entire first world need to increase its spending on foreign aid, but foreign and domestic policies need to change, to mitigate factors that keep "developing countries" from actually developing.

For example, consider the agricultural subsidies first world governments grant to farmers. In poor countries, farmers generally don't get subsidies; furthermore, they generally can't afford large farm equipment, so they cannot reach efficiency levels of the first world. It seems to me that first-world nations offer subsidies in order to help farmers compete in the international market; but the net effect is keeping farmers in poor nations poor. First world governments should collectively agree to drop their local subsidies to help end poverty.

Update: This story suggests the effects of subsidy are more complicated than they seem. To Crypticity: I'm not sure what to make of it either.


Crypticity said...

Dropping horticultural and agricultural subsidies is political suicide in many countries. Sad but true.

Qwertie said...

Ugh. How do the farmers get so much power in the first world? In the third world, they seem to be treated as the lowest of the low.

Anyway, it does seem like a bad idea to drop the subsidy in any one country. For competition to be fair at the international level, ALL countries must drop it. If only a single country drops it, then that country's farmers are at a disadvantage internationally.

Crypticity said...

My country (New Zealand) has had no subsidies 1985ish. We did it so that we would best placed when all countries lower theirs... however no one else did... Apparently the WTO is close to resolving agricultural subsidies (but they have been for several decades now, apparently).

The farmers are strong because of democracy - there are a large number of them - subsidies. Also in Japan, it is cultural. Rice is their food. So they will preserve that way of life.

It can also potentially kill of the economy of large countrysides. It would make large areas with lower populations unemployed or poor (in the short term).

But in the end I think it would be good. Throwing money away for no reason is just dumb. And then sooner you ween farmers of subsidies the sooner new industries can be developed.

Then sometimes it is not as simple as it seems:

I am not sure what to make of it. I support free trade, but such articles make me wonder.