Today (October 17) marks the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty. While advances and technology in healthcare since the last century have meant the amelioration and improvement in the lives of millions of people, many millions, especially in South Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa are still living in abject poverty. True, the basic definition of poverty still implies the fulfillment of basic needs like ‘food, clothing and shelter’, if an equal opportunity to strive for these basic needs is denied, then this mantra of basic needs is reduced to little more than pious homilies.
Unfortunately, the ravages of the COVID-19 pandemic since late-2019 and wars across the globe have added to general poverty, and the rise of the ‘new poor’. While the origin of the former is still up for debate, the latter is undoubtedly a man-made phenomena. The imperialist North, backed by huge standing armies and the latest murderous technology, can wilfully destroy whole countries at the push of a button in their search for resources which are primarily located in the impoverished countries of the South. The huge multinational corporations entering these war-ravaged countries afterwards exacerbate the plight of the poor in the latter, forcing them to become refugees and migrants.
The recent plights of wars in Syria and now Afghanistan are proof of this. In a poor country like Pakistan, with still a largely agricultural base, the implications of ‘celebrating’ this day are manifold. The poor in Pakistan deserve more than the less than five percent of the Gross Domestic Product which us currently being spent on providing social services like food security, health, employment and shelter. This will take a sustained effort at turning Pakistan from a national security state where the bulk of the national budget goes into debt servicing and national defence; to a social welfare state envisaged by Pakistan’s fathers. In this case, the experiences of our giant neighbor China can prove to be very instructive for China has the record of lifting the greatest number of people out of poverty in the 20th century.