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This book offers a critical analysis on employing a universal understanding of poverty and suggests ways forward for poverty reduction for developing countries in a post-2015 era. Taking specific country-contexts into account, the author argues that national poverty lines should be the benchmark for future anti-poverty policies.



1. Introduction

This chapter insists that the volumes of debate on poverty suggest there is no unanimously agreed-on definition of poverty that can be applied for everyone. Poverty is a political and highly contested concept because what commentators mean by poverty depends on what they intend to do about it. Given this context, two key aspects are identified for further investigation. First, is it really possible to understand poverty for all poor countries through a ubiquitous definition? Second, to what extent can a universal understanding of poverty contribute to poverty reduction for poor developing countries? This is of particular significance in the final year of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), especially to find out more effective ways forward for poverty reduction after 2015.

Palash Kamruzzaman

2. An Overview of Understanding Poverty from Diverse Perspectives

This chapter offers an overview of poverty from different perspectives such as absolute and relative contexts, social exclusion, capabilities approach, participatory approach, chronic poverty, multidimensional poverty and psychological aspects of poverty (such as shame). It is seen through all these perspectives that poverty is neither universal nor just an economic issue. Drawing on this discussion, it therefore raises the question of why a one-size-fits-all $1 a day poverty, based on Purchasing Power Parity (PPP) value, was incorporated in global poverty reduction discourse? Although, during the past decade, and especially after setting out the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), poverty has become virtually synonymous with an individual’s income of less than $1 a day, is it applicable to all poor countries? This also sets the ground for the following chapters.

Palash Kamruzzaman

3. Problems of Dollarising Poverty

This chapter offers a critical analysis of the universal conceptualisation of poverty of $1 a day through PPP value focusing on the aspects of (1) in-built incoherence of this mechanism for different revised versions of PPP; (2) poor people’s realties that make them pay much higher price for a set bundle of goods, in practice, than the suggested amount; (3) inability to represent an amount of income for a very basic living cost for poor people in actual realities; and (4) creating pseudo-awareness among non-specialist actors of poverty reduction. This chapter then asks why it was so important to promote a dollarised understanding of poverty for all poor countries when it is evident that poverty cannot be encapsulated in one single framework?

Palash Kamruzzaman

4. Poverty Reduction as a Development Agenda — Looking Beyond 2015

This chapter critically looks at the impact of a dollarised measure of poverty, prescribed for universal application, for global poverty reduction. It explores how the agenda was donorised and technicalised so that it can be claimed that global number of poor people are being halved even though situations have not improved to a satisfactory level for majority of the poor countries. This chapter then offers a review of existing proposals for poverty reduction after 2015, followed by a proposition arguing that locally developed national poverty lines would be more effective for future poverty reduction in specific country cases. A genuine political will to make meaningful partnership among various actors would also require fights against poverty at country levels.

Palash Kamruzzaman

5. Conclusion

This chapter contends that poverty is not about crossing a set-line. Drawing on from the ideas of culture of poverty and structural violence it is argued that poverty (and poverty reduction) should not only be looked at through universal income/consumption lens. It also needs to be acknowledged that poverty is a structural issue that makes and keeps people poor, increase/persist inequality in societies and therefore poverty reduction policies after 2015 should clearly address these issues. Future poverty reduction paths need to entangle multiple dimensions of national contexts. At the same time, it is also imperative to build a synergy to reduce the exploitative nature of global trade. Focus should also be on women, employment, remittance, youth, and environment in building future poverty reduction policies.

Palash Kamruzzaman


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