Lent is a time for praying, a time for sharing, a time for helping, a time of sacrificing, a time of asking God's mercy and pardon, a time of forgiving people, and most of all, a time to prepare for Easter.
Grabbing an idea from the school's lenten calendar, I asked the kids one day if they happen to know someone going through a hard time and if so, to make a card or scribble a note for them to cheer them up and to let them know that they are in their prayers.
Here are some of the kids works and let me know your ideas. I'm sure they would appreciate receiving them, especially from you guys, people they haven't met at all.
Some even took the initiative of making one for the victims of the earthquake and tsunami in Japan without being told. Wow, awesome thoughtful kids! Wonderful job!
Shown on the leftis an unedited note authored by a cute young girl for the people in Japan. She's a terrific doll!
Incidentally, the Catholic Relief Services (CRS) has designed a fund raising project, entitled "Operations Rice Bowl", in which majority (75%) of the proceeds shall be earmarked for CRS development programs worldwide primarily to help families and communities overcome the challenges of hunger and poverty, specifically in Haiti, Indonesia, Senegal, Honduras, and Kenya. The remaining 25% shall be used to fund the local diocesan programs all over the United States to alleviate hunger and poverty in certain parts of the country, especially the underprivileged and the homeless.
If you happen to be involved in a catholic school in the U.S., you probably have gotten this cute cardboard box whereby students were given the opportunity to help and contribute in any way they can during the Lenten season to care for our brothers and sisters throughout the world.
Have you done something like this before, or are you still about to do something like what the kids did?
Who would have ever thought that Japan, located in the Far East and tagged as the land of the rising Sun could be facing the opposite direction, the west side horizon, where the Sun normally sets? Who would have ever imagined that an industrialized and developed nation like Japan would experience a catastrophic incident which could have impact on its economy or even the global economy for that matter?
As mentioned, Japan is one of the wealthiest and the most technologically advanced nations in the world. It has all the high profile and state-of-the-art technology as far as electronics, hard wares, automobiles, and even robotics are concerned. The Japanese people have earned this accolade in view of their ingenuity, hard work and resiliency. After World War II, the Japanese focused on manufacturing high technology exports and since they are disciplined people particularly on work habits coupled with good corporate governance, they drove their country’s economy way up, rubbing elbows with those countries already in the upper echelons of the world’s economy.
Being an industrialized nation, Japan has always been an active and strong supporter and advocate of development efforts particularly in alleviating poverty in third world and developing countries. UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon in his remarks of sympathy, stated that, “Japan is one of the most generous and strongest benefactors” in terms of development assistance throughout the world. This is indeed true, as some of development projects and former colleagues of mine were recipients of either technical assistance grants from the Government of Japan or from bilateral agencies such as JICA. It cannot likewise be argued that the major fund contributor and strong ally among the member countries of the Asian Development Bank (ADB) is Japan.
With the “triple treat” or should I say “triple scary threats” : earthquake, tsunami and now the nuclear radiation leaks on the row, however, Japan’s economy could potentially be affected as a result of the said tragic incidents. I think what happened now to Japan in view of the deluge would not only affect itself but other countries as well specifically those economies whose development projects are financially and technically dependent from Japan Government’s assistance either thru loans or grants. Without the tsunami and radiation related problems, there is no doubt that Japan, being a rich country in tandem with its hard working citizens could easily rise up and build again what have been lost. But with the “triple threat”, so to speak, it may take a while for the Government to recover.
Just like in any kind of business, Japan however rich it may seem, is also heavily indebted. As reported by Reuters early this year, Standard and Poor’s (S&P) , one of the credit rating agencies, slashed the country’s credit rating as it failed to come up with a concrete solution for its public debt which is double the range of the country’s $5 trillion economy. Thus, any rehabilitation and new project investment efforts for those areas which have been totally wiped out would definitely further affect the financial picture of the Government particularly on its budget and expenditures.
Japan may be currently facing a crisis not only economically but also emotionally. Some of the citizens may be grieving for the loss of their loved ones and their personal properties as well. This is an expected aftermath scenario, which is common in any given similar situation. However, what happened to Japan is entirely different from what happened in other parts of the globe. Out of the terrible “triple threats”, the radiation leak is quite worrisome not only to the Japanese but to the entire mankind as well. We are all aware of the potential danger that nuclear radiation can cause to people. There are also costs and risks associated to this as we are not speaking of only one reactor that is affected, maybe there’s more than that. Probably that is the reason why some of the executives of multinationals and rich people living near the danger zone have left Japan so easily because of the radiation related crisis. But how about the other people who cant afford to pay for private chartered planes and jets? Oh, there we go again…..
We have learned our lessons respectively and for sure Japan likewise did. The abrupt movements of the Earth or should I say the wrath of nature can be so powerful that even ultramodern infrastructures and high tech safety measures couldn’t have them prevented. But with Japanese outstanding ability to withstand earthquake related crisis just like the past Kobe quake and their well coordinated teamwork of dealing things, there is always a possibility that everything will retrun to normalcy at the end of the day.
What the Japanese needs from us right now perhaps is to give them that encouragement through our good wishes and prayers that they be able to withstand the crisis and that the radiation problem most particularly be quickly resolved. The Government of Japan has been generous to some of our disadvantaged brothers and sisters all over the world and it is only but appropriate on our part to give back those good deeds and show our sympathy to them or even share something in any way we can.
With the positive attitude of the Japanese people and with our humble help and prayers, Japan would be able to smile once again like the sun rising in the East with its brilliant and colorful rays!
*Samira, the author of this blog is one of those who submitted to myusfultips.com in response to the blovesary contest.. A timely entry. More to come from her….
How powerful can people power be? Can it be a means to an end?
As the old proverb goes, vox populi, vox dei, the voice of the people is the voice of God! Considering my faith in God’s power, I quite agree with the said old adage. It can be deduced in a way that some sort of Divine intervention could have played a vital role in a successful people power revolution, especially in a non-violent and bloodless scenario. This could probably be a way of God’s response to the impassioned plea of the majority of the people for help, regardless of religious conviction. As such, if God so plans for any change in any given circumstance, anything impossible will be possible. However, the possibility of success and radical change in a difficult scenario would definitely require a strategic plan and courses of action from various key players involved. Yes, it couldn’t be through prayers alone, but it has to be coupled with a prudent action.
Typically, oppressed and disgruntled people would voice out their grievances especially under a Government whose leadership is marred with corruption, greed, decades in power, economic problems (e.g. poverty, unemployment) and other related issues. Initially, these people would at first voice out their grievances in the streets or in any other venue to demand reforms in policies and even to clamor for change in the leadership of a particular bureaucracy. If demands are not heard and merely ignored for so long years however, the next reaction would normally for the more active people to go out and hold large mass protests and as a last resort to instigate and topple the leadership either through non-violent or violent means of people power revolt. That’s what had happened in certain government administrations in the past and even during historic times, and this is apparently being experienced in certain countries at present.
The recent people power revolt in Egypt, the so-called cradle of civilization, can be considered as a remarkable paradigm shift in the political sphere in Africa and the Middle East. Why Africa and Middle East? While Egypt is geographically located in Northern Africa, it has close ties with the Middle East as it shares the same customs and traditions, and likewise politically closer to the Arab World. We all know from reports in tri-media that Egypt’s people power revolt was a hit all over the world as it made its long overdue ruler, President Hosni Mubarak stepped down and relinquished his post to the military. Imagine, the people waited for 30 long years for the economic goods to come but nothing came, which persuaded them to take their hardships to the streets. Many people have been injured and some of them unfortunately offered their lives as a result of which, but in the end they won. And yes, it has been observed that some of these people who were on the streets, especially the peace loving Egyptians, were praying and carrying their Koran, reflective of their yearning for Divine intervention.
However, the downfall of Egypt’s Mubarak may not be considered as of yet a full blown victory on the part of the public masses as the country may still in limbo as far as leadership is concerned. As such, the country’s present military management should facilitate the critical next steps particularly the holding of an official Presidential election and allow the people to exercise their right of suffrage for their desired worthy, capable and incorruptible President, if they so desire. In which case, they would be able to complete the revolt stage and realize the dreams of the people, particularly the ideal young ones, to have a President that would hopefully lead them and pave the way for the country’s economic recovery. They should make sure though that the reforms they wanted be realized and that the gains and fruits of their labor in the streets be not squandered for nothing.
The successful people power revolution in Egypt is echoing outside its borders. Based on news reports, Libyans likewise are currently braving their way out to oust an even more long overdue Qaddafi (Gaddafi) administration of 41 years. However, it is sad to note that many have sacrificed and the numbers are rising as of to date. So, what we ordinary worldwide citizens could help in any way we can is to offer prayers for the Libyans, that the internal conflict among them will be resolved soon, particularly to put a stop to further suppression and human bloodshed. I am not pretty much of a militant type of person, as I believe there are several ways to help other than being in the large crowd, if given the option. My prayer is for the entire leadership to be enlightened and for them to realize that their oppressed countrymen have human rights that should be respected and honored.
The same situation is happening in the neighboring countries of Egypt. People in Tunisia, Bahrain, Yemen, Lebanon, Algeria, Jordan, Syria are also facing “dark clouds” in their respective leadership. As such, protests, riots, demonstrations, and other uprising means of emotions are exploding in these countries. Why do you think these things are happening nowadays? Could there be a reason, or could it just be a mere coincidence? The on-going phenomenon could perhaps serve as a wake-up call for other bordering Middle East and African states to address the needs of their people. I understand the Saudi Arabia administration has recently decided and announced to offer remarkable economic benefits for its citizenry such as employment assistance, interest free home loans and other related social welfare financial packages. I hope this could be a start of the happy days for these people.
The people power revolution in the Philippines was an “iconic” example of a successful non violent bloodless revolution throughout the world. People flocked through the streets and highways of the metropolis to support the call of the key leaders to bring down a 20-year running regime. The said revolution was unique as tons of prayerful mass demonstrations from all walks of life were held in various parts of the country. Considered as the only prominent catholic country in Asia, religious leaders, priests and nuns have actively participated and were out in the streets together with the large crowd of people praying, providing food, singing and giving out flowers to the soldiers manning the military tanks, making the environment a little bit subdued and peaceful. Perhaps because of the prayers offered by everyone, the deposed President did not react violently to the vehement demands of the people for him to step down. Of course, this is aside from the pressure of certain foreign governments which made the deposed President to painfully exit paving the way for a new and fresh administration to rule the country.
There are lessons to be learned from the people power revolution in certain countries. In the Philippines for instance, while it was relatively unproblematic and at the same time pretty successful in toppling down some of its Presidents, it has not really progressed much at all compared to its neighboring countries after a triple of people power. True, the exceptional and peaceful manner within which the Philippine people power was undertaken 25 years ago, did serve as a role model for other similarly situated economies. However, what remains and happens after the fact is the most relevant and important. Despite its success however, people power revolution is definitely not a means to an end of economic hardships. Corruption, poverty, and other major problems are eminent and its effects are still being felt by the common people in the Philippines. The rich are becoming richer, the poor ones are becoming poorer, the gap between the two classes of society is widening. This is sad to note but the poor Filipino people have still high hopes that someday they will be freed from the sufferings of poverty.
A rural poor setting in one of the provinces in the Philippines….
(photo not for reproduction please)
Hence, people power should be a continuing and learning process for all of us. We should be vigilant and always on the look out for any misdoings in our respective leaderships.
With the foregoing being said, I believe that the voice of the people, from both the vocal and silent majority, may represent the voice of God for the betterment not only for the majority but for all the people, good or bad. As such, people power is an influential and powerful weapon to overthrow tyrants and it has been proven time and again. The people power with an aid of prayer power and a favorable response from God is far more valuable and effective than anything else. Prayers can move mountains and I firmly believe in this!
Is Microfinance an effective financial strategy to eradicate poverty particularly in developing economies?
I would blog on this as briefly and pragmatic as possible, as some of you may know that this topic is quite broad and would require empirical data/analysis to support any findings and recommendations.
In its simplest terms, microfinance involves extending loans to a group of borrowers or individuals, specifically the marginalized sector of society involving poor people encountering difficulties to transact business with private and government banking institutions. In other words, these are the poor people throughout the world numbering over 1 billion living in rural areas with less than $1.25 per day and who cannot afford to meet the collateral requirements offered by banks and other financing institutions. As such, these people cannot qualify for credit services which, in a way, could help improve their lives. Microfinance is also known as microcredit as lending transactions can go as low as $25.00 for a start-up business. Grameen Bank is one of the pioneers in microfinance operations.
Four years ago, I was contemplating on coming up with an impact study regarding microfinance activities in South East Asia, in conjunction with the plan to privatize the operational aspect of a particular government owned credit facility in my home country. The study would have likewise touched on how the money from donor countries, multilateral institutions and affluent private individuals were utilized for these kind of operations, specifically on whether or not the funds were properly utilized/monitored and that the funds indeed were catered to intended beneficiaries, the qualified poorest of the poor. However, the said plan was put on the back burner in view of the 180-degree turnaround in my career. While the said plan was set aside, it was not forgotten, these things were still part of the agenda and to-do-lists.
Incidentally, Microfinance is considered by the UN as important and an integral part of the efforts to achieve its Millennium Development Goals (MDG’s). You’ll observe that my blog has tackled earlier topics on the MDG’s and so the subject matter is still in line with my blog’s objectives.
Similarly, some of my closest relatives have recently participated in lending money to the poor.
They joined (as lenders) Kiva, an international non-government organization (NGO), the mission of which, among others, is to assist poor people access to safe and well-priced credit through its lenders and field partners. Said lenders are given the choice on which person or loan requests they would like to fund. As mentioned earlier, the minimum fund ceiling involves a measly amount, only $25.00 and the lenders can hopefully make a change in the life of a small borrower. Since it involves small amounts, the loan is non-interest bearing and the repayment schedule would depend on the borrower’s capacity to pay, thus there may be some risks attached to it. The primary objective here is not for the “haves” to gain interest from their investments, but the happiness that they gained from helping alleviate the lives of the poor. I was just happy to note of my relatives’ decision to join in this endeavor. A good deed to start for the New Year!
But as I said, does microfinance activities really benefit the qualified poorest of the poor? Does it really improve the quality of life of the poor? There are so many things being said in the media but how accurate are these? While there are positive contributions and advantages of microfinance activities throughout the world, there are calls for changes and reforms as there were findings and cases where there were anomalies and bad practices in certain NGO’s and non-profit organizations involved in this undertaking. One was a case of fund diversion and another was about some of the funds earmarked for qualified beneficiaries went to individuals who weren’t poor at all!
Likewise, there is also a need to look at the entrepreneurial skills of the borrower individuals as most of them may lack education about engaging in any form of business. I recall some small borrowers of a certain government financial institutions were not able to continue operating the business and not being able to pay the loans at the end of the day as they were not equipped with all the skills needed to be successful even in low level businesses. It turned out these borrowers faced various difficulties on the marketing aspect and other financial services such as insurance, etc. Apparently, the lending institutions merely approved loans without giving due attention to the other needs of the small borrowers, i.e. educating them about doing business, particularly products marketing.
Sure, there are visible positive effects but there are dangers of the hype of microfinance. Yes, it may sound something smart and in-thing to do but there are things to look at before a particular developing economy ventures into this kind of endeavor. Perhaps a policy framework and implementing guidelines should be well crafted taking into account the best practices and the lessons learned from other countries which have previously dealt with it.
Should you however have the heart now and extra bucks to help those in need and willing to improve their lives, go ahead and look for a reputable NGO who would be able to assist you on this matter. It would be good to conduct due diligence before embarking on any venture, especially if it involves large amounts. By the way, my relatives are now receving the monthly payments from their chosen borrower. Good job!
My next blog on microfinance is on how overseas contract workers and retirees can avail of said activity in their respective home countries.
I can understand why formulation of “anti-corruption” policies is never mentioned in the targets or indicators of the UN MDG’s, in correlation to poverty and economic growth. I presume the subject matter may not be within the realm of UN’s aims, duties and functions, as provided for in its charter. However, there is a vague reference to it wherein one of the targets included in MD Goal No. 8 is a commitment from the world leaders to “good governance”, by supporting, among others, transparency and accountability at all levels but said indicator is specifically geared towards allocation and spending of international aid and donations only. Based on my recollection, “governance” is a high-tech jargon coined by the donors which involves several things including power and politics where donors themselves may not be able to interfere. Outside of this “good governance” box, however, there is no mention on how to address the systemic graft and corrupt practices in other forms by some people from both the public and the private sector that are prevalent in third world and developing countries. I think neglecting the problem of corruption, be it petty or large scale, in any poverty reduction goals may be futile as we all know that corruption in any form is undoubtedly, not just a perception, a major deterrent to poverty eradication.
As you may be aware, corruption happens not only in third world or least developed economies but also in rich, developed and industrialized countries such as the US. Thus, it is present in all government societies regardless of level of income and development, location, race, culture and traditions. However, the degree of impact of corruption, as one of the causes of poverty, is rampant and is adversely felt more among the poorer nations where some people are susceptible to accepting and committing all forms of corruption activities, which include among others, misuse and abuse of power, fraud, bribery, extortion, collusion, embezzlement, “kickbacks”, money laundering, nepotism, or even undue influence and the like.
I recall in my home country, most or if not all of the politicians running for higher office would like to associate themselves with the poor. As part of their strategies, they go to urban slum areas and remotest towns and villages with promises of high hopes and aspirations, i.e. improve people’s lives and ultimately help them get rid of their miserable plights. One recent winning candidate even has this slogan, which says, “When no one is corrupt, no one gets poor”. This only shows that corruption is still prevalent and permeates in every level of society, from local and national governments, judiciary functions, big ticket and small companies, military services and so on and so forth. How do we explain this? Oh, in so many ways. I just don’t want to delve in this blog the nitty-gritty of the transactions which I myself have observed in my long years in public service. We all know it’s happening but majority of us either turn a deaf ear or wear a blind eye for certain reasons beyond our control. As I said earlier, corruption is not just a perception but is actually happening both upstream and downstream, especially those people engaged in front line operations or people entrusted with revenue generating activities and with “juicy” positions, so to speak.
While I do agree with some schools of thoughts that bad macro-economic policies and fiscal reforms adopted by certain poorer Governments as a result of negotiations with multilateral agencies (e.g. World Bank, IMF, etc), may have posed threats to economic recovery, I still consider corruption as one of the major causes, and likewise one of the effects of poverty, (it’s a “chicken and egg” situation”). I hate to say this, but this is the truth, corruption in the bureaucracy can be likened to a dreadful disease which may be hard to resolve in its final stage. I don’t know why some groups don’t consider it as a serious problem. Is it because they are either guarded by their own rules, or afraid to encroach on other’s turf, or worried they might break their “hard-earned” local or international/bilateral relationships? I don’t have answers to these series of questions for now but only time can tell.
As Karl Kraus said, “corruption is worse than prostitution” which means that committing any kind of corruption activities is far morally horrible than engaging into prostitution considering that the former will ever jeopardize not only the morality of the corrupt person but the morality of the entire country as well. The consequence of a large deal of corruption, for instance diverting funds intended for a noble purpose to someone or to few individuals personal gain, can be devastating to the concerned individuals and those around them. A classic example is one of a top ranking official in Asia where she stood trial with her cohorts for embezzling about 300,000 dollars (depositing certain fund donations to her family’s personal trust fund accounts) which was originally intended to build a state orphanage. Before the charges and the trial happened, said prominent lady official was included in Forbes list of the world’s 50 most powerful women. Truly, the act of corruption itself does not only affect one’s persona (in this particular case the lady top official dropped instantly from glory to humiliation), but it also contributes making a particular economy poorer without any conscience to humanity (particularly the impoverished people) and the country’s future generations.
As mentioned in my previous blog on poverty, the Government’s leadership of a certain economy can trap poverty if there’s political will and political direction to do it. Candidly, there’s political will from Governments most of the times, but do they have the heart to do it? There seems to be no sincere commitment as some of the leaders themselves who were responsible for instituting anti-corruption policies may have been allegedly guilty of amassing the State’s wealth in their favor. At present, there are local (e.g. ombudsman offices) and international (e.g. Transparency International) watchdogs which acts as overseers, monitors and prosecutors for corruption related activities throughout the world. There are also civil society and advocacy organizations and some media which supports in this endeavor.
Believe me, the issue of corruption, as insurmountable as it is, can not be eliminated by said credible organizations and crusaders alone, much more overnight or just by a click of a finger, particularly if it’s already widespread. It’s worrisome that such ill-fated activities appear to be ingrained in the system, considered as a way of life, or a norm in an organization where management and employees tolerate the existence of corruption and no longer bother about their values and integrity and just couldn’t care less about the adverse effects of what they’re doing. Some of them may have been wrongly informed or may have skewed existing rules and regulations, or may have learned to rationalize that doing so is part and parcel of their day-to-day operations; that it is okay for them to receive bribes in exchange for a swift delivery of public service or to expedite a needed public document and so on and so forth. Based on a study conducted by the World Bank, petty corruption was endemic in all sectors in almost all countries, and this is more vexing as it involves the delivery of basic public services to the poor, such as healthcare, education, power, land administration, taxation, military, police and judiciary. However, I don’t discount the fact that there are “good guys”, decent men and women in Government and business which do not engage in corruption activities. Thus, if only all people from both the public and private sector will abide with the rules and regulations, just like the “good guys” , would it be fair to say that corruption can actually be eradicated? Does it mean that corruption involves or affects one’s values alone?
In the penultimate paragraph of my previous blog on poverty, it was indicated that poverty can be eradicated with proper Government policies, right attitude and participation from all of us. I will also clamor for the same thing, that corruption can be reduced, eliminated or cured if only all of us will start to change, change of our attitudes is of utmost importance, starting from the leader to the bottom. However, I believe corruption is not just about ethics, it has to be side by side with a well managed bureaucracy coupled with transparency, accountability, institutional checks and balances, dedication and loyalty to the service. There are existing civil service rules and regulations or policies within the respective offices, governing public servants as far as discipline, spending, saving, property ownership and the like, which are meant to prevent them from engaging in said unhealthy practices, and if these are property enforced (i.e. if caught and punished for corrupt behavior), there may be no corrupt people in any organization.
There have been success stories where attitude change was promoted and utilized by certain Governments as a measure and solution to eradicate corruption. The Hong Kong Government for instance, specifically thru its Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC), adopted a long term, three-pronged approached, one major strategy of which is to educate the people about attitudinal change putting emphasis on integrity and moral values. Educating the people did not only include behavioral change, proper attitudes but also changing faulty conviction and beliefs. Children in schools in fact were not only informed about the implications of corruption related activities but it also included a process to instill values. As a result, thousands of people volunteered, in addition to advocacy organizations and media, have been enlisted to support in the battle against corruption. Said strategy proved successful, turning a once upon a time most corrupt place to a clean Hong Kong nation.
With the Hong Kong Government’s encouraging experience, it is neither impossible nor unrealistic that other nations would not be able to replicate and successfully do it. Only skeptical people who have reservations and often reacts with a shoulder shrug doubting certain leaders ability to promote change, certainly should have no place in the society. These are the people who are complacent, lukewarm and consider corruption as inevitable. What is needed are people who have the passion and the willingness to change for the better. As we’ve learned, battling corruption is definitely not a one-man show, it requires a concerted effort from all of us. As the song goes, “No man is an island, No man stands alone, Each man’s joy is joy to me, Each man’s grief is my own”. How I wish everyone would sincerely help each other someday, especially to those in need, the poor ones.
May I end this blog quoting an excerpt from a speech of one of the leaders in South East Asia, prescribing a simple cure for poverty and corruption:
“We can only end poverty, if we fight corruption and this is where everyone has a major role to play. It can be done in simple ways, by showing common courtesy to strangers, by paying taxes, by following traffic rules, and by disposing of our waste property”.
“We can do even more by reporting any wrongdoing that might be brought to our attention. Let us challenge ourselves and our leaders to brave the straight path”.
Oh yes, let’s challenge ourselves to make a change in our lives, to change our attitudes. Let’s challenge our leaders, demand action and hold them accountable. This is a call for all the people throughout the world. Remember, battling poverty and corruption merely requires simple ways!
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Ever since my childhood, I have seen the sad reality of disparity and inequality between the rich and the poor*. This gap continues to widen through the years and is almost similar and happening in all parts of the globe, particularly in underdeveloped and developing countries where people are predominantly poor. As of 2008, about 80% of the world’s population lives in countries where income differentials are widening. This bleak scenario becomes even worse when victims, particularly the children, of the creeping disaster of poverty can no longer open their eyes and would have no other choice but to wait for their time to die of hunger, to die of lack or absence of health and medical care, and other facets of poverty.As a matter of fact, UNICEF’s latest data show that about 20,000 to 25,000 children die each day due to poverty and these are mostly happening silently in the poorest villages on earth.Indeed, this is a sad reality wherein even those in power cannot or may not be able to help contain or lessen the widening gap between the two social classes either because of selfishness and greed in the guise of corrupt and uncaring people who may not want to end poverty.
When I briefly described the overview of UN’s Millennium Development Goals (MDG’s) in my earlier blog,I was a little bit skeptical of how the formulatedgoals and the tasks to be undertaken can be achieved by 2015 in view of the many inherent factors and problems attached to it.I don’t doubt the wisdom and the expertise of the world leaders and the superheroes appointed by the UN to facilitate the project when they committed to and accepted the said grand and bold targets, so to speak.I just hope this is not like one of the studies that were undertaken by tapped consultants with hefty professional fees, and later only to find out in an archive, with no concrete solutions and tangible results.In hindsight, poverty is something complicated characterized by a plethora of moving ways and styles, a fundamental and critical issue which deserves some serious consideration by all of us.It’s like a serious illness that has been there for centuries and decades and could not be eradicated even if attended to by experts or the who’s who in economics or even with the recent discoveries of health and science and new state of the art technologies.
Nevertheless,as I am an advocate of quality of life and alleviating poverty is one,I do firmly believe that this particular MDG goal (Goal #1) can be attained and a big change can happen only if therespective Governments and big ticket corporations have political will which can provide political direction for this cause.I further believe that we can get on with this and ultimately overcome poverty, only if each one of us, the luckier ones, will sincerely unite and provide our share for this worthy undertaking.What is being required from all of us is a simple cooperation and willingness to make a paradigm shift, not only in terms of economic variables but also in ourselves, our attitude towards life, and our moral and social responsibility and concern for the impoverished.
I don’t consider myself poor and I don’t consider myself rich either.I certainly am no expert on this field but I am fortunate enough to be given the opportunity to have a decent education to make me relate and understand the people’s miserable state, people with no access to basic needs in life: food, shelter, clothing, education, health, livelihood and the like.This is where all of us can unite and it is may be the right time for us to extend help to our neighbors with no or scarce resources.I don’t want to delve on the history and the series of events why people become poor. I don’t want to blame anyone why these faces of poverty are happening.What I would like to do now is how I can help and share in my most humble way, realize the dreams of our brothers and sisters who were not lucky enough to experience at least even a piece of the good things in life.
The topic on poverty is absolutely heart wrenching, especially from my vantage point.This is not merely based on recounts from people throughout the globe but exact graphic recollections of my actual experiences and observations on how rural and urban poor in the country where I was born and raised cope with their sad condition.I have come face to face with the realities of poverty in both urban and in far flung areas. In the rural areas for example,I have seen boys and girls walking on barefoot under the scorching heat of the sun with big rattan baskets or a sackcloth on their back filled with local produce, apparently helping their parents who till the soil of a landlord, to liquefy the said produce into cash.It really pained me to see those small kids forced to help their parents to earn for a living and being denied the right to go to school and being exposed to health hazards because of economic deprivation.Another story is that of a man and his neighbor carrying on foot the former’s sick pregnant wife in a hammock–like carrier to the nearest health center which is located lakes and plains away from their place and only to find out after reaching the place that his wife has already expired due to absence of immediate medical attention.This is just one of the genuine tragic stories and misery plights that do happen and being experienced by some of our less fortunate brothers primarily due to faulty economic policies, i.e., lack of government support on health and maternal care and inefficiency of support services, particularly in the remotest towns and villages.
On the other hand,the face of poverty in urban and metropolitan areas are sometimes depicted by so-called impoverished informal city dwellers and their condition may even be worse than those in the rural areas.As all of us may know,the urban poor are mostly composed of migrants from the rural areas who have moved in to try their luck in cities.These are homeless people proliferating citywide with no permanent addresses and were left with no choice but to live under bridges, along railroad tracks and most of the times in so-called “smoky mountains” or smoking garbage dump site, so to speak.I had the chance to observe how these people try to cope with this kind of a desolate lifestyle and try to make do the little that they have in order to get by.There was one time I visited a family living under the bridge located probably just few miles from the Presidential Palace.This family of five lives with the other squatters who seem to have formed a community under the bridge.They live in a shack made of scrap cardboard/carton boxes and rusty tin roof, erected on a more or less 5 sq.m. area.However, above where they stayed was a newly repaired concrete bridge and decorated by local officials with glittering lights for the upcoming Christmas celebration, exactly the opposite of what was actually happening under it.This situation was a classic example of irony at its fullest.I recall the mother told me that everything is being done in the very small area.His husband and their three children eat, sleep,and do their personal needs there.Their focus everyday was on how they can feed their small children and how to survive and it was impossible to think of other needs like the health and education of their children.In fact, the older kids, about 7 to 10 yrs old helped their father look for food, scavenging or sifting through the garbage of nearby restaurants and food chains for leftovers to eat and recyclables which can be sold for a song, so to speak,to a scrap dealer.I had goose bumps while listening to her story and I knew from that moment that there are many other families suffering the same plight, families who got used to a slum lifestyle scavenging food for survival.
In the Philippines,for instance, ADB data, shows that there are over 3 million people who live in slums around Metro Manila and guess what,this is about the same number of people living in Chicago.Based on UN’s figures,Metro Manila is considered as one of the largest cities (ranked as 15th) and populous cities (ranked as 11th) in the world with a total population of about 12 million people, although some accounts show a higher number at over 16 million.On the other hand, New York City, an industrialized and well developed city has a population of only about 8 million people, the bulk(2.7 million people) of which come from the Brooklyn area, based on a 2008 survey.The Metro Manila situation probably could be similar as in other countries having the same socio-economic hardships.
For many of us who are fortunate to have an affluent lifestyle, who have the luxury of buying nonessential things,who have beengiven the chance to have steady decent jobs and sufficient income,would it be hard for us to spare a piece of bread, so to speak,to these people who live on less than $2 or even $1 a day?Can we afford to be blind not to see the unmasked faces of poverty in poor countries in Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean and Africa?How can we help?How can some of us receiving huge bonuses or decent salaries from our respective work and realizing substantial gains from our businesses, help alleviate poverty in the poorest of the poor nations? Our extra money spent on luxuries could help feed so many starving children throughout the globe.So, instead of attending gambling sessions, frequenting saloons and bars for drinking spree or beauty salons for facial and aesthetics purposes, or shopping all the time for unnecessary things, would you not feel happy if you share something for the poor or form a group among your family and friends, which I am doing now by the way, for something more valuable, not only in the eyes of man but also in the eyes of God?There’s happiness in helping the poor, by the way, and that’s the best gift that you’ll receive after helping.
For policy makers out there and government authorities in power, I hope you will do your very best to do more for your country and constituents.You have been bombarded with so many complaints from your critics but nothing much has changed.Some of you out there may have stolen from coffers or squandered resources of an impoverished economy either thru mismanagement or “kickbacks” from implemented projects without oversight and auditing, this is your opportune time to renew, give back and show that you deserve to be the leader of your country.Majority of the people have still high regard in your sincerity, dedication and commitment to public service, particularly in improving people’s lives.
Finally, the beauty of the world where we live is that, it has vast and rich natural resources to provide food for everyone, to provide clean water, shelther, education and the like. With appropriate government policies coupled with the right attitude and contributions from all of us, I firmly believe that we would be able to help alleviate poverty and eventually save our less fortunate brothers and sisters from the shackles of poverty and build a better world for all of us.
I have so many things in mind to write about the subject, its causes and impact on economy and the community as well, but the topic on poverty is just so enormous.I know I have not covered all of it but my blog is quite lengthy already.I would therefore invite you to give your comments and feedback and it will be greatly appreciated.Thank you!
While this is not my first involvement as one of the bloggers of Bloggers Unite (BsU), a month ago, I was invited via email by one of the organizers to participate in the campaign to make some noise for the United Nations (UN) Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).
Briefly, UN MDGs cover a broad spectrum of policy framework adopted by the world leaders in 2000 and is spearheaded by the UN with certain “ambitious” end goals and indicators to achieve. Said development goals include, among other things, 1) eradicate extreme poverty and hunger; 2) achieve universal primary education; 3) promote gender equality and empower women ; 4) reduce child mortality; 5) improve maternal health; 6) combat HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases ; 7) ensure environmental sustainability; and 8 ) global partnership for development.
I mentioned earlier the word “ambitious” since the said 8 development goals are time bound and with quantifiable targets to accomplish by 2015. It is envisioned that should targets be met, the “world poverty will be cut by half, tens of millions of lives will be saved, and billions more people will have the opportunity to benefit from the global economy. “ Wow, this is great!
I was awed to read the invitation but I was more awed to read the “beauty” of the mission and vision of the said goals. Nonetheless, I am delighted to be part of this mission as from my vantage point, as a mere small time blogger and originating from a developing country, I would be able to shout out to the whole world, not in the streets but through written words, my outlook on the said goals which incidentally are in fact my blog’s advocacies. While my academic background is neither economics (specifically development economics) nor political science, I consider myself an economist/political scientist by heart! My several years in public administration, to which few of my younger professional years, I accidentally held positions of Economist to Senior Financial Economist, drew me more to actively participate in this meaningful and prestigious endeavor. To say the least, my active involvement in policy formulation on fiscal and financial reforms would help in assessing and monitoring the progress of how certain Governments undertake and implement said MDGs in both local and international level.
Bloggers Unite’s (BsU) role, by the way, is to unite bloggers in the blogosphere and harness its power to make our world a better place. For this particular effort, BsU tries to encourage bloggers throughout the world to promote the said activities and submit ideas and suggestions, provide possible strategies and solutions, which could have impact to any of the said goals, to their respective leaders and delegations to the forthcoming UN Review summit to be held in September 2010 at the UN General Assembly in NY.
So, to my legitimate readers, I may set aside from time to time the more manageable and glamorous topics to pave the way for a more significant and big ticket issues that will provide hopefully, a big change in our day-to-day lives. I don’t want to be pessimistic and entertain negativities on the proposed targets but all I can say for now, I believe in this, this is it what I wish for the world I live, and I ask, if you will, for your help, to make it happen! As the UN MDG by line says: “This is our year, let’s make it happen”.
My next MDG blog is on poverty, the first goal. Just like football/soccer game, it has certain goals and these goals are meant to be accomplished, not just written down!
On a lighter note, congratulations to whoever would be the world cup champion for 2010.