Posts tagged ‘Poverty’

28/01/2016

Grossly Deceptive Plans (GDP) | The Economist

ON JANUARY 19th China declared that its gross domestic product had grown by 6.9% in 2015, accounting for inflation—the slowest rate in a quarter of a century.

It was neatly within the government’s target of “around 7%”, but many economists wondered whether the figure was accurate. Online chatter in China about dodgy GDP numbers was fuelled a week later by the arrest of the man who had announced the data: Wang Baoan, the head of the National Bureau of Statistics. The country’s anti-graft agency accused him of “serious disciplinary violations”, a euphemism for corruption. But beyond all the (justifiable) doubts about the figures lies another important question. That is: why does China have a GDP target at all?

It is the only large industrial country that sets one. Normally central banks declare specific goals for things like inflation or unemployment. The idea that a government should aim for a particular rate of output expansion, and steer the economy to achieve that, is unusual. In the case of China, which is trying to wean its economy off excessive reliance on GDP-boosting (but often wasteful and debt-fuelling) investment, it is risky. It is inconsistent with the government’s own oft-repeated mantra that it is the quality of growth that matters, not the quantity.

In the past, setting a target may not have made much difference. For all but three of the years between 1992 and 2015, China’s growth was above target, often by a big margin. A rare period when targets seemed to affect the way officials tried to manage the economy was from 2008 to 2009, when growth fell sharply (see chart). It would be hard to argue that targets themselves have been responsible for China’s overall (impressive) record of growth in recent decades.

Now, however, the economy is slowing. This is inevitable: double-digit growth is no longer achievable except at dangerous cost (total debt was nearly 250% of GDP in the third quarter of 2015). But the government is worried that the economy may slow too fast, and that this could cause a destabilising surge in unemployment. So it has been ramping up investment again, and goading local governments to do the same by setting a high growth target.

For a while there were signs that the leadership itself had doubts about the merits of GDP target-setting. In 2013 Xinhua, an official news agency, decried what it called the country’s “GDP obsession”. By the next year, 70 or so counties and cities had scrapped their targets. In 2015 Shanghai joined them, becoming the first big city to break with orthodoxy (each level of government sets its own GDP target, often higher than the national one). Liu Qiao of the Guanghua School of Management at Peking University says the central government ought to follow suit.

Last year there were hints that it might. The prime minister, Li Keqiang, said the government would not “defend [the target for 2015] to the death”. And in October, talking about the government’s work on a new five-year economic plan (which will run from 2016 to 2020), President Xi Jinping avoided mentioning a number. That raised expectations that targets might at least be downplayed, if not abandoned.

They have not been, however. An outline of the five-year plan, unveiled in November, contained the usual emphasis on growth. And Mr Xi appeared to change his tune, saying expansion must average at least 6.5% a year until 2020. Many economists believe that will require yet more debt-inducing stimulus. A GDP target for this year is all but certain to be announced, as usual, at the annual session of the legislature in March (when the five-year plan will also be adopted). It will probably be higher than 6%. Speculation that the government might set a target range in order to give itself more policymaking flexibility (as the IMF and the World Bank have urged) has ebbed. In December some national legislators complained that local governments were busting their debt ceilings because there was “still too much emphasis on GDP”.

So why is there still a target? The reasons are political. In a country so large, central leaders are always fearful of losing their grip on far-flung bureaucrats: setting GDP targets is one means by which they believe they can evaluate and control those lower down. Local officials are also judged by environmental standards, social policies and what the Communist Party calls “virtue”—that is, being uncorrupt and in tune with the party’s latest interpretation of Marxist doctrine. But GDP is usually the most important criterion, having the attraction of being (roughly) measurable.

Source: Grossly Deceptive Plans | The Economist

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21/12/2015

Panda power | The Economist

THE feeding frenzy for the pandas comes at nightfall. People furtively approach them, pouring bags of old clothes down their gullets.

By day, the trucks arrive to clean the bears out, leaving them empty for the next big meal. The pandas are plastic. They are large, bear-shaped receptacles, designed to entice people to donate their unwanted garments to those in need.

First deployed in 2012, there are now hundreds around Shanghai, often placed by entrances to apartment buildings. They swallowed about a million items of clothing last year. The procession of donors feeding trousers to pandas is impressive. But they usually do so under cover of darkness. Charitable giving is not yet a middle-class habit. Many people still feel awkward about it, despite their growing prosperity. China’s GDP per person is about one-seventh of America’s.

But in 2014 Chinese gave 104 billion yuan ($16 billion) to charity, about one-hundredth of what Americans donated per person (see chart). This is partly a legacy of attitudes formed during Mao’s rule, when the party liked to present itself as the source of all succour for the poor (to suggest otherwise was deemed counter-revolutionary). Even until more recent years the party was reluctant to encourage charities, worried that they might show up its failings.

The middle classes have worries too—that giving large amounts to charity may draw unwanted attention to their wealth. They do not want to fuel the envy of the have-nots or encourage tax collectors to pay them closer attention.

The top 100 philanthropists in China gave $3.2 billion last year, according to Hurun Report, a wealth-research firm based in Shanghai. That was less than the amount given by the top three in America.

In 2008 when a powerful earthquake hit the south-western province of Sichuan—the deadliest in China in more than 30 years—it seemed that one positive outcome would be a boom in charitable giving. Volunteers poured into the devastated region and donations filled the coffers of aid organisations. Problems soon arose, however. Embarrassed that private relief efforts were proving more effective than official ones, the government reined in citizen-led organisations.

Source: Panda power | The Economist

21/01/2015

India’s Poor Are More Upwardly Mobile Than You Think – India Real Time – WSJ

Despite India’s reputation as a country where millions of families are stuck in grinding poverty, a new World Bank report shows that a surpassingly large portion of the South Asian nation’s poor population has been finding its way out of poverty.

The report titled “Addressing Inequality in South Asia,”– which looked at the gaps between the haves and have-nots in India and its neighbors– looked at different income groups and how they changed over the five year period up to March 31, 2010.

Over that period close to 40% of the people that had been classified as poor had clawed their way above the poverty line. Of course, the income mobility went both ways, but was not as bad on the down side. Around 15% of the people that had been previously classified as middle class or just above the poverty line fell into poverty over the five years.

via India’s Poor Are More Upwardly Mobile Than You Think – India Real Time – WSJ.

19/12/2014

China to construct 7 mln affordable homes in 2015 – Xinhua | English.news.cn

China will begin construction of seven million apartments under the affordable housing program in 2015, the Ministry of Housing and Urban-Rural Development (MOHURD) announced on Friday.

MOHURD minister Chen Zhenggao revealed the target at a national conference on housing and urban-rural development. He said 4.8 million such homes should be completed next year.

The affordable housing program is aimed at providing cheap homes for eligible low-income earners. China began the construction of over seven million homes and completed 4.8 million in 2014.

Chen said China will also continue to push forward the shanty town renovation program extensively as “it can not only improve people’s livelihood but also spur economic growth“.

via China to construct 7 mln affordable homes in 2015 – Xinhua | English.news.cn.

19/10/2014

How Poor Is China? – Businessweek

By one measure, China is set to surpass the U.S. this year in gross domestic product as the world’s largest economy—in terms of purchasing power parity (rather than nominal GDP), says the International Monetary Fund. China also has the world’s second-largest population of ultra-wealthy, with some 7,600 people possessing at least $50 million, according to a report released on Tuesday by Credit Suisse. (The U.S. remains No. 1 in its number of super-rich).

Sifting through trash near Hefei, China

Still, that wealth contrasts with impoverishment. About 82 million Chinese still live in poverty, an official announced at a press conference in Beijing on Tuesday, reported the China Daily.

That figure is according to the Chinese poverty standard of about 2,300 yuan a year, or about $1 a day. Using the international standard of $1.25 a day, set by the World Bank, raises the figure to 200 million, said Zheng Wenkai, vice-minister of the State Council Leading Group Office of Poverty Alleviation and Development. This means that 15 percent of China’s population is impoverished, according to the broader measure.

All told, China has 120,000 villages plagued by poverty. Residents lack electricity, running water, schools, and proper health care, the English-language paper reported. Dire conditions are exacerbated by the fact that most are in remote, often mountainous parts of the country that have inadequate roads.

Poor populations are concentrated in extremely poor contiguous regions with poor living conditions, inadequate infrastructure as well as being afflicted with natural disasters,” the Global Times reported. Last year, China lifted 40 million residents out of poverty, and it plans to bring an additional 10 million out in 2014. China will send resident-assistance teams to the worst hit regions, the official said.

via How Poor Is China? – Businessweek.

06/03/2014

* India’s path from poverty to empowerment | McKinsey & Company

India has made encouraging progress by halving its official poverty rate, from 45 percent of the population in 1994 to 22 percent in 2012. This is an achievement to be celebrated—yet it also gives the nation an opportunity to set higher aspirations. While the official poverty line counts only those living in the most abject conditions, even a cursory scan of India’s human-development indicators suggests more widespread deprivation. Above and beyond the goal of eradicating extreme poverty, India can address these issues and create a new national vision for helping more than half a billion people attain a more economically empowered life.

MGI senior fellow Anu Madgavkar and McKinsey director Rajat Gupta discuss India’s prospects for raising living standards and ending extreme poverty.

To realize this vision, policy makers need a more comprehensive benchmark to measure gaps that must be closed and inform the allocation of resources. To this end, the McKinsey Global Institute (MGI) has created the Empowerment Line, an analytical framework that determines the level of consumption required to fulfill eight basic needs—food, energy, housing, drinking water, sanitation, health care, education, and social security—at a level sufficient to achieve a decent standard of living rather than bare subsistence.

In applying this metric to India, we found that in 2012, 56 percent of the population lacked the means to meet essential needs. By this measure, some 680 million Indians experienced deprivation, more than 2.5 times the population of 270 million below the official poverty line. Hundreds of millions have exited extreme poverty but continue to struggle for a modicum of dignity, comfort, and security. The Empowerment Gap, or the additional consumption required to bring these 680 million people to the level of the Empowerment Line, is seven times higher than the cost of eliminating poverty as defined by the official poverty line (exhibit).

via India’s path from poverty to empowerment | McKinsey & Company.

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20/02/2014

A New Way to Measure Poverty in India – India Real Time – WSJ

How should you measure poverty?

It is a question that has generated enormous controversy in India. The country’s government says that since the mid-1990s, the number of people living below the official poverty line has dropped by more than half, hitting 270 million, or 22% of the population, in 2012.

Still, India continues to rank extremely low in United Nations’ measures of well-being. India ranked 136 out of 186 countries in the 2012 U.N. Human Development Index and 94 out 119 in the U.N. World Food Programme’s Global Hunger Index.

The Indian government sets its official poverty line at 816 rupees per person per month in rural areas and 1,000 rupees per person per month for city dwellers. That works out to about 40 cents a day in the countryside and 50 cents a day in the city.

A new study by the McKinsey Global Institute – the research arm of consulting company McKinsey – says that such a gauge of extreme poverty has its place. But it argues India should focus instead on a more comprehensive measure of what it would take to satisfy a person’s basic needs for food, energy, housing, drinking water, sanitation, healthcare, schooling and social security.

McKinsey calls its new measure an “empowerment line.” It is the level where the report’s authors conclude that India’s citizens can get out of poverty and have the resources to build better lives for themselves, rather than scrape along at subsistence levels. McKinsey set its empowerment line at 1,336 rupees a month – roughly 50% above the government poverty line.

“It’s an expanded definition of poverty and aims to calculate the escape velocity needed to get people sustainably out of poverty,” said Anu Madgavkar, a senior fellow at the institute in Mumbai.

According to McKinsey’s calculations, about 680 million people, or 56% of Indians, now live below the empowerment line. Insufficient and ineffective public programs, poor agricultural productivity and a lack of better jobs all conspire to keep people poor.

via A New Way to Measure Poverty in India – India Real Time – WSJ.

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27/01/2014

* Nearly 100 mln people suffering from poverty in China – Xinhua | English.news.cn

The latest statistics show there are still nearly a hundred million people suffering from poverty in China. Officials in charge of China\’s poverty alleviation work said in a briefing that China has made remarkable progress in terms of poverty reduction.

Under the international standards of poverty relief, China has helped more than six hundred million people out of poverty. China will promote rural poverty alleviation through an innovative mechanism. Officials said that China has now decided to set up a precise poverty reduction mechanism, and make sure those in need will receive adequate support.

China also plans to establish a complete database covering all poverty-stricken people by the end of this year. Officials also pointed out that there are still challenges facing China\’s poverty reduction work, including a detailed monitoring of the allocation of poverty-relief funds.

via Nearly 100 mln people suffering from poverty in China – Xinhua | English.news.cn.

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26/01/2014

* Poverty relief to become priority for poor counties – Xinhua | English.news.cn

The Chinese government seems to appreciate the management axiom that “you don’t manage what you don’t measure”. When implemented, this new ruling should be good for the poor as well as ensure that some local authorities don’t jack up their debt any further to increase their GDP.

“Chinese officials in poverty-stricken counties can stop worrying too much about regional GDP figures from now on, as the central authorities have moved to make poverty relief the priority for their work.

The country will reform the evaluation system for officials from poor counties by prioritizing the work of poverty reduction rather than the regional GDP, according to a guideline released Saturday jointly by the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China and the State Council, the Cabinet.

GDP figures will no longer be a standard for counties with fragile ecology or where development is restricted by the government to ensure sustainable growth, the guideline said.

\”The country will take improving the livelihood of people in poverty and reducing poor population as major indicators\” to guide officials in poor regions to put their work priority on poverty relief, it said.

Chinese leaders have recently set new standards for local officials, stressing that their performance cannot be simply based on regional GDP growth rates, but should include resource and environmental costs, debt levels and work safety.”

via Poverty relief to become priority for poor counties – Xinhua | English.news.cn.

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21/04/2013

* Thirty-three percent of world’s poorest live in India

Reuters: “India has 33 percent of the world’s poorest 1.2 billion people, even though the country’s poverty rate is half as high as it was three decades ago, according to a new World Bank report.

India reduced the number of its poor from 429 million in 1981 to 400 million in 2010, and the extreme poverty rate dropped from 60 percent of the population to 33 percent during the same period. Despite the good news, India accounts for a higher proportion of the world’s poor than it used to. In 1981, it was home to 22 percent of the world’s poorest people.

The World Bank report comes just days after it proposed a $12 billion to $20 billion plan to reduce poverty levels over four years in the Indian states of Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, Odisha, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh. Sixty percent of the financing would go to state government-backed projects, according to the Hindu Business Line newspaper.

The study that came out today showed a similar decline in the number of people living in poverty in recent years. People living below $1.25 (67 rupees) a day fell considerably from more than half the people in the developing world in 1981 to 21 percent in 2010, despite a 59 percent increase in world population during the same period.”

via India Insight.

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