I've just read Paul Shaffer's excellent article “New Thinking on Poverty: Implications for Globalisation and Poverty Reduction Strategies” (Real-world Economics Review, Issue no. 47, 3 October 2008, pp. 192-231). It is a great overview of the current thinking on poverty reduction and clarified a number of issues that have been bugging me. One of the most important ones relates to Friday's post, "How many people line in Poverty in the Caribbean." Shaffer's article points out the there is a significant difference between those who are impoverished--living chronically in extreme poverty--and those who pass cyclically into and out of extreme poverty. He cites a studies showing that the number of people that pass through poverty is much higher than those that are chronically poor. If we switch our focus from a "stock of poverty" (as per my previous entry) to one of poverty flows, the programmatic focus switches from providing assistance to escape poverty to helping prevent people from falling into poverty. I don't think this invalidates the idea of tracking the number of people living in extreme poverty, but means that the programs should focus also on helping people above the line to not fall below it.
Equally interesting in Shaffer's article is a very thorough catalog of the different anti-poverty program and approaches. He lists seven types of capital (p. 200: Economic, Human, Social, Political, Cultural, Coercive, and Natural capital) and then describes how the different anti-poverty programs tackle each one. This is a nice catalog of interventions and best practices.
So what does this mean for our movement to end poverty in the Caribbean?
First of all, I suggest that we keep the "stock of poverty" banner as a useful oversimplification. Although it is certainly true that the list of individuals in extreme poverty today will be different than those in a list compiled in three months, the overall number is a useful motivational tool.
However, we need to keep in mind that people do not graduate out of poverty. Instead, people naturally move into and out of poverty. Therefore, the program must have the twin goals of raising people out of poverty and of keeping them out.
Finally, the Shaffer article includes a useful framework for tracking progress in building the different types of capital and for classifying the different interventions. In subsequent blogs, I will try to look at these different type of interventions.