The Middle East Tribune

Centered on Civil Liberties & Political Issues, Human Development & Socioeconomic Matters

Poverty: The Matrix of All Troubles

Poor people in oil-rich Iraq waiting for food rations/photo

At the onset of this millennium, the World Bank established a set of international development targets, known as the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), to reduce poverty by half in 2015. On that point, during the annual meeting of the World Bank (WB)  and International Monetary Fund (IMF) held in Dubai, in September 2003, James Wolfensohn, then-president of the WB declared that over one billion people survive on less than one dollar a day. While around one billion people control more than 80 percent of the global Gross Domestic Products (GDP).

Eight years later, in 2011, at the spring meetings of the WB and IMF in Washington, Robert Zoellick, president of the WB then, forewarned that the world is “one shock away from a full-blown crisis”. He added that the continued ascent of food prices is the main threat to poor nations who risk “losing a generation”.

In spite of that, the World Development Indicators (WDI) 2012 of the WB acclaim that the global poverty indicator of those living on less than $1.25 per day has been cut down by half (from 44.3% in 1990 to 22.0% in 2012). In contradiction with the WDI of 2012, the WB issued on February 29, 2012, a “Global Poverty Update” manifesting that “At the current rate of progress there will still be around 1 billion people living below $1.25 per day in 2015”.

Obviously, the World Bank update has reconfigured the original goals of the Millennium Development Goals, which were set to reduce global poverty by half­­, not just to reduce the number of those living on less than $1.25 a day only. However, the same global update also reports that, “The number of people living between $1.25 and $2.00 has almost doubled from 648 million to 1.18 billion between 1981 and 2008”, which made the WB’s data in its Global Update short to provide the real data of global poverty—let alone it is inconsistent with the reality.

In any case, the world has 2.47 billion hungry souls in 2008 living on less than $2 a day compared with 2.59 billion in 1981, not counting hundreds of millions of impoverished people who were re-categorized into higher poverty bracket as a result of wage adjustments mainly to moderate the effect of recurring high inflations-let alone what the worldwide economic crisis of 2008 and its recessional aftereffects have added to the global poverty strata.

It is unreasonable to condone that the World Bank, the leading international financial organization, could not slash the numbers of poor (who subsist on less than two dollars a day) by more than 120 million people in three decades. Most likely, the mass majority of those 120 million people were Chinese citizens who made it themselves.

What a pity!

Given the actual and continuous depreciation in the purchasing value of $1.25, $2.00, or $5.00 throughout the last 30 years or so, the plain fact is that poverty has only been reduced by half in the statistical data sheets of the World Bank because of some unrealistic custom-built indicators. Unfortunately, poverty is intensifying and spreading out far and near whereto the primary objectives of the WB projected poverty reduction program became purposeless and impossible to achieve—unless they plan to rewrite their statistical data again!

In view of the delinquency of the international community and the shortcomings of international organizations to combat poverty, many people wonder about the status quo of poverty in the Middle East region and the Arab world, in particular. Except for few states of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), poverty is extensively stretching out like a wildfire in most of the twenty-two Arab states, especially among the low-income classes and jobless people.

This actuality, however, is owed to many economic and socio-political reasons. The first one is a result of long years of continuous inflation and inordinate depreciation of the spending value of wages, which in effect crippled the working class and degraded the economic status of the middle-class.  The second reason is imputed to the prolonged presence of high level of unemployment, especially among the youth; and to a longstanding lack of adequate governance of state resources.

The direct visual conclusion is that the social and economic gaps between the rich and poor are widening here and there in the Arab world as never before. Rich people are becoming wealthier and more well off, while the poor are unfairly becoming poorer. It is consequential to know that impoverished people blame the state authorities, political leadership and economic elites for their ill-being; while most of the wealthy tend to lay the blame on the poor themselves. Rationally, it is unfair to impute poorness of the poor solely to their own bad arrangements and ignores the flawed economic and social policies of governments and parliaments, not to mention the role of moneymaking cliques.

The mildest illustration of irresponsible governance of many Arab authorities is Lebanon’s government. Since its formulation in spring of 2011 as yet, the current Lebanese government, headed by Prime Minister Najib Mikati and backed by Hezbollah, has not provided any socioeconomic plan or framework to tranquilize the consequences of the current very high unemployment level.

Likewise, Mr. Mikati’s government has neither made any surgical economic measures nor created social welfare mechanisms through which it can improve the conditions of the badly off and daily wage earners, most of whom were born into poverty and couldn’t have the proper education to find their way out of it or do not have political patronage to win a job in the public sector.

To make things worse, the government did not firmly regulate and control, more purposely than not, the inordinate presence of foreign cheap laborers, thus making it impossible for the underprivileged and undereducated Lebanese, especially those living in remote rural areas, to find fair paying jobs since foreign workers will work for lower wages.

As for the issue of youth unemployment, Mikati’s government fell short to generate the required business-friendly environment for foreign and domestic investments from which the Lebanese job market can grow to absorb the accumulated numbers of jobless college graduates. Disregarding that the current size of Lebanon’s economy can only provide 12,000 decent paying jobs per year, at best, which leaves more than 20,000 new graduate jobseekers each year either to emigrate or to join the unemployed club.

Given the country’s history of irresponsible governance and the failing performance of Mikati’s government, the poor will unfortunately remain poor as long as political leaders and business magnates have overwhelming influence on the authorities to maintain their notorious trade monopolization and shady commercial transactions, in spite of the detrimental consequences of these practices on the economy and low-income classes.

For the Lebanese and Arabs, public lectures and government promises about economic growth does not mean much when the mass majority of the populations are struggling to live on the day. Since the first sign of socioeconomic progress should show a downslope track in the rate of unemployment and upturn in the living standards. Actually, Arab people realize that the main origin of their socioeconomic hardships and living difficulties stems from incorrect economic planning, misgoverning, corruption of state officials, and the greedy profiteering practices of moneymaking cartels.

Obviously, there are many pressing socioeconomic issues, such as inflation, unemployment, healthcare, and public education, that need urgent reforming measures so that to confine any further escalating of poverty and unemployment; and hence put off the sparks of the foreseen civil strife.

After all, the remedies for poverty will only emerge when Arab governments start before long a real political, social, and economic reform process that can provide justice, equality, and development to all citizens.

Meanwhile, Arab leadership and economic magnates should keep in mind that poverty is the matrix of all troubles.


Author’s Note: This article is also published at Arabian Gazette



19 comments on “Poverty: The Matrix of All Troubles

  1. Pingback: When America Leads From Behind | The Middle East Tribune

  2. yousser
    September 5, 2015

    Yes inequalities and injustice are the source of poverty

    Liked by 1 person

  3. minuman berenergi
    May 7, 2015

    Howdy! This blog post could not be written any better! Looking at this
    article reminds me of my previous roommate! He always kept talking about this.

    I will send this article to him. Fairly certain he’s going to have a very good read.
    Many thanks for sharing!


  4. dean sm
    December 3, 2012

    you couldn’t have said more perfectly, yes “poverty is the matrix & the source of all problems” it makes the citizen focus on his daily needs day by day to survive rather than plan ahead & develop. Maybe corrupted Arab governments outside the Gulf are using the poverty to their advantage & prolongue their autocracy or regime. However, history & recent arab springs have taught us that the people will reign & will revolt against autocracy & inequality. It is a matter of time until they wake up & shake the system again & again. Therefore the WB role in eradicating poverty should be top priority because when you eradicate poverty, you eradicate ignorance, fear of the other, violence & chaos.
    the WB & United nations need to reconfigure a solution & plan asap for the sake of better educate civilized world.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Mohammad S. Moussalli
      December 4, 2012

      I’m very happy to receive your smart comment.
      All the best


      • Azam Ali
        December 4, 2012

        Unfortunately, everything said in the article is a bitter truth. The ever widening income gap phenomenon is not just prevalent in Arab world but everywhere in developing countries including the advanced economies,.thanks to the free market efficiency hypothesis which is a proven fallacy now.

        As far as UN system bodies are concerned, they are maned by American B school PHds, who produce one size fits all text book style strategies that often fail and the unfortunate recipient countries are pushed in ever deeper debt trap, to the benefit of UN system contributing countries (what an enrichment lop). The point is, UN and WB & IMF operational and functional parameter is an extension of US and its European allies foreign policy. As such, the international politics nexus will never allow elimination of poverty from the developing world, more so now then ever, owing to advance economies ageing population, they need the slaves to produce primary commodities and then become consumer market for their high tech gadgetry, forced down their neck through effective consumerism philosophy (the dream merchants).

        The solution lies in imitating Chinese model of poverty alleviation coupled with instilling effective governance architecture. As such, the way forward is mixed economy model and formation of regional economic blocks on the pattern of EU.


      • Linda Banks
        December 7, 2014

        Good Morning ‘M’; Again the discussions continue on how to appease the masses; What I am beginning to wonder is sustainability the real issue of what I am reading for all this dissension? Are the Powers Elite pitting us against each other so we can do the dirty work for them? Makes heading to Africa in the spring a little scary, but I am more determined than ever to roll up my sleeves and make a difference. Plus can’t wait to meet the children and build a greenhouse!
        Have a wonderful Holidays my friend with loved ones and friends.


        • Mohammad S. Moussalli
          December 8, 2014

          I tend to believe that your point is active, one way or another,especially when we know that the world have done so little to fight poverty. On that, unfortunately all evils will remain in place as long as the world at large keep exploiting the poor.
          Thank you Linda.
          All the best


    October 21, 2012

    Some idea of counting need to be changed , the working share of local female under their cultural dressed and local hard condition need to be looked at some good standard .


    • Mohammad S. Moussalli
      October 21, 2012

      Yes, the adopted criteria of all poverty indicators need to be realistically reconfigured.


  6. Azam Ali
    October 19, 2012

    An eye opener article, it not only provide pointers towards unachievable Millennium Development Goals by Worldbank and IMF, but also is suggestive of required change in the architecture of UN and its bodies and developing countries sociopolitical construct, coupled with vigorous economic & financial infrastructure development and implanting of social safety net. The argument by many that poor countries are not in a position to undertake the above, then this is a fallacy. The honesty leadership be it a mediocre (the age of giants have passed), with good governance and overarching meritocracy instilled will do the trick.


  7. Corrado cantatore
    October 15, 2012

    Dear Mr, Moussalli, thank you for sharing with me this article, which I fully share. Congratulations on your acute and accurate analysis.


    • Mohammad S. Moussalli
      October 15, 2012

      It’s to my pleasure to know that you liked the article.Thank you Mr. Cantatore for your kind commendation .


  8. Mac-Z Zurawski
    October 14, 2012

    This is an incredible view of the WB and IMF. Many people do not realize that these institutions are more at fault for world hunger than individual governments. Governments are forced to pay high loan rates to each organization. When the rates increase, the government loan recipients have less monies to use on social programs for the needy. These organizations are well known for lending money to governments without enforcing strict structures for usage of the monies. So, as the WB and IMF pat themselves on the back, they are the culprits in creating poverty.
    Check out this great book called “Confessions of an Economic Hitman”. The author reveals his role in creating these high loans and the many ways the WB and IMF perpetuate poverty.

    This passage caught my interest: “To make things worse, the government has ignored the inordinate presence of foreign cheap laborers, thus making it impossible for the underprivileged and undereducated, especially those living in remote rural areas, to find fair paying jobs since foreign workers will work for lower wages.” Cheap labor and laborers are boring holes into every economy across the globe. As Indonesia and countries surrounding it become the epicenter of cheap labor, everyone else suffers. Glad to say these global areas are witnessing union protests. Thank goodness peoples sense of worth has arrived. Countries should try to employ their own first and foreigners secondly. I know it does not sound like global social justice but empowerment starts at home.

    Lastly, What is the role of entrepreneurism in the Arab world? Can people get loans to start businesses, go to school, etc?


    • Mohammad S. Moussalli
      October 14, 2012

      Thank you Mrs.Zurawski for your kind citation. Your suggested book is queued up on my reading desk. your point about foreign labor comprises no wrong, seeing that there no global sharing of resources to globaly share labor. The idea of globalizing everything is somehow proved to be beneficial to some , but not to all.
      Nations and people alike, have no option but to cooperate. But this should be according to their needs and situations, and not according to some imposed international notion or trend.
      Thanks again


  9. Linda Banks
    October 13, 2012

    It is frightening how the world is almost headed towards an un-natural cleansing. Those who can afford to eat will, and those that can’t will starve. Population control from the most adverse aspect of reality. My small Nation of Natives can not sustain the mortality rate caused from the hoplessness that we are feeling. Since I have been here there have been over 97 deaths, of which only 1/16th. are from natural causes or old age. They can not sustain the mortality rate with their birth rate. When one looses hope you have lost your ability to see a future, and the end product is alot of small children with no parents. It breaks my heart to see our Political arenas smoke screen the truth and not take the world situation more serious between the have’s to much and the will never haves. As a Volunteer In Service To America, I work for free. Only a small living allowance sustains me and it is adquit for I am a very low maintenance person. Truly I wish I could do more, as there is so much that needs to be done.


    • Mohammad S. Moussalli
      October 14, 2012

      Dear Linda,
      It’s a heartbreaking actuality. I believe that you are doing the most honorable job one can do. Helping to soothe the suffering of these unfortunates is the most humane task of all. I hope oneday people will consider to really start helping their fellow humans directly, and not through fake organizations.
      May God bless you


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