Tuesday, 26 April 2011

POVERTY: Barclays Capital, the investment banking arm, blamed for driving price rises through commodity trading

 Felicity Lawrence guardian.co.uk,  25 April 2011

Stephen Omondi works at his stall selling maize in Kibera slum, Nairobi Selling maize in Nairobi, Kenya. Food prices around the world have risen to record levels in recent months, with campaigners blaming commodity traders for adding to the pressure. Photograph: Khalil Senosi/AP

Barclays will be targeted during its annual meeting on Wednesday by anti-poverty campaigners accusing it of playing a leading role in driving up food prices on global commodities markets.
Barclays Capital, the investment banking arm of the high street bank, is the UK's biggest player in food commodity trading, and one of the top three banking players globally, according to a new analysis for the World Development Movement.
Along with Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley, BarCap has pioneered new kinds of financial products that have enabled pension funds and other investors traditionally barred from commodities exchanges to bet on food prices.
Deborah Doane, director of the World Development Movement (WDM), accused Barclays of making excessive profits at the expense of millions in poor countries. "First, it was sub-prime mortgages, now it's food commodities," she said. "The lack of transparency in these markets bears worrying resemblance to the behaviour that led to the 2008 financial crash. Like any irrational asset bubble, the investors pile their money in for short-term profits, in spite of the consequences."
The WDM report estimates that BarCap may have made as much as £340m in 2010 from its activities in food speculation. Precise figures are not known because much of the speculation takes the form of over-the-counter derivatives – trades entered privately between banks and clients. Banks do not publish a breakdown of revenues within divisions, so the WDM figure for Barclays is extrapolated from other measures published by the company, such as money at risk.
Barclays declined to comment in detail on the WDM report but said in a statement: "Barclays Capital conducts a variety of investment banking activities to help our clients across asset classes and geographies." It added that it acted as "an intermediary for our clients globally" rather than trading on its own behalf.
Barclays has already found its business ethics questioned this year, with UK Uncut, the campaign group, targeting branches over its tax avoidance activities. Soaring food prices have further highlighted the role of investment banks and hedge funds in commodity price spikes. The UN Food and Agriculture Organisation's (FAO's) food price index has reached record levels in recent months, and steep rises in the price of staples helped trigger the revolutions in Tunisia and Egypt.
While a range of factors, from climate change to demand for biofuels, have contributed to food price rises, financial speculation in agricultural commodity derivatives is believed by many, including the FAO, to have magnified volatility. Others, including the banks and the OECD, argue speculation is not a significant factor.
Financial activity in the commodities markets has seen explosive growth in the last few years. According to data from the UN special rapporteur on the right to food, Olivier De Schutter, investment in commodity index funds rose from $13bn (£7.9bn) in 2003 to $317bn by 2008. While there are no definitive figures on how those index funds break down, it is estimated that their holdings in agricultural commodity markets rose from about $3bn to over $55bn over that period.
Producers and processors of physical goods have long used commodities exchanges to hedge against risks such as bad harvests. But much of the recent growth has been through new "structured" products invented by banks and sold to investors.
After intense lobbying, banks won deregulation of commodities markets in the US in 2000, allowing them to develop these new products. Goldman Sachs pioneered commodity index funds which offer investors a chance to track changes in a spread of commodity prices. Barclays, meanwhile, invented "collateralised commodity obligations" in 2004, which resemble the synthetic collateralised debt obligations (CDOs) of credit crisis notoriety, except that they are backed by commodity trigger swaps instead o f credit default swaps. BarCap also has a leading position in commodity index investments.
There has been concern that the commodities boom represents a new risk to financial stability. The global financial watchdog, the Financial Stability Board, has warned that it has all the hallmarks of a bubble waiting to burst.
Michael Masters, the hedge fund manager who gave testimony to the US Senate on speculation and food prices in 2008, agrees that the growth is potentially dangerous. "Financial speculation now accounts for more than two thirds of the market, and only about 30% is physical hedgers," he said. "The percentages have flipped in that period. When billions of dollars of capital is being put to work in small markets like this, it amplifies price rises and if financial flows amplify prices of food stuffs and energy, it's not like real estate and stocks – when food prices double, people starve."

POVERTY: Grameen Bank cleared of financial breaches by Bangladesh government

  • guardian.co.uk, 

  • A Bangladeshi government probe has cleared microlender Grameen Bank of financial irregularities, the finance minister said, but the finding will not change the decision to fire Nobel laureate Muhammad Yunus.

    Yunus, 70, was dismissed by a central bank order – upheld by the high court and supreme court – on the grounds that he had overstayed in his position and refused requests to quit.
    Yunus, winner of the 2006 Nobel peace prize, set up Grameen, which means village in Bengali, and had been the bank's managing director since 2000.
    Lauded at home and abroad by politicians and financiers as the "banker to the poor", he has been under attack by the government since late last year, after a Norwegian documentary alleged the bank was dodging taxes.
    Yunus denied any wrongdoing and a Norwegian government investigation later also cleared him of any malpractice.
    The Bangladeshi finance minister, Abul Maal Abdul Muhith, told reporters on Monday that a committee appointed by the government to investigate Grameen Bank's operations had also found no evidence of financial irregularities.
    But officials and experts said the finding would have no impact on the government's decision to fire Yunus as the bank's managing director, because he had overstayed the official retirement age for bank managing directors in Bangladesh of 60 years.
    Associates of Yunus say his removal was government retaliation after he briefly considered a political career to challenge the prime minister, Sheikh Hasina.
    No comment from Yunus or the Grameen Bank was immediately available.

    Monday, 25 April 2011

    MALARIA: Britain pledges it will help to halve malaria deaths in 10 of the worst affected countries in Africa and Asia over the next four years

    Andrew Mitchell 25 April 2011 guardian.co.uk The UK will do all it can to make malaria a thing of the past
    To mark World Malaria Day on Monday, Britain pledges it will help to halve malaria deaths in 10 of the worst affected countries in Africa and Asia over the next four years

    kenya child malaria net A Kenyan child plays under an insecticide treated mosquito net. Photograph: Stephen Morrison/EPA

    The facts are stark: every week 15,000 children die from a disease that is not only treatable but preventable.
    When I became development secretary I pledged the UK would do all it could to make malaria a thing of the past. When I commissioned reviews of all the UK's aid programmes, I made malaria one of our top priorities.
    Those reviews set out our plans – over the next four years we will help to halve malaria deaths in 10 of the worst affected countries in Africa and Asia. We will improve prevention, diagnosis, and treatment, and we will support the development of innovative ways to tackle the disease.
    Our approach to aid means making every penny count, and doing what works. We will start with one of the simplest but most effective weapons against this disease: bednets.
    It costs less than £4 to deliver a long-lasting insecticide treated bednet. We can save the lives of 3 million children by 2015 if every child at risk of malaria sleeps under a net. The UK will oversee a massive increase in the number of bednets, targeting them especially at women and children. Through the Global Fund to fight Aids, TB and Malaria, we are contributing to the distribution of 110m bednets in the developing world.
    The UK will work with partners to scale up access to and use of effective diagnosis and treatment of malaria, to make sure that these are available to those who need it most – particularly women and children – when they need it.
    Too many children with malaria are not getting malaria drugs, while at the same time many children with other diseases are being given malaria drugs that they do not need. New rapid diagnostic tests allow doctors in Africa and Asia to improve the diagnosis of fever in children. Malaria is often mistaken for pneumonia, meningitis and other major diseases. These new tests, combined with improved training for people seeing children with fevers, can reduce deaths from malaria and from other common childhood illnesses.
    Because the effects of mistreatment are far-reaching. Inappropriately used malarial drugs can build up drug-resistant strains of the disease, which can follow patterns of migration and spread across the globe. This is why the UK is spearheading a drive to tackle malaria in Burma, where drug-resistant strains of the disease have been detected.
    Innovative programmes and partnerships are the third prong of our approach. We must continue to outpace this disease, be it though public-private partnerships like the Roll Back Malaria Partnership, which helps to galvanise and co-ordinate malaria efforts; the Medicines for Malaria Venture, which is finding innovative ways of increasing access to medication; or by funding organisations such as Unitaid to secure the supply of arteminisin, a vital component of anti-malarials.
    There have been notable successes, especially in Africa. In five years, following rapid improvements in control efforts, deaths from malaria fell by nearly 70% in Rwanda and 62% in Ethiopia. In Zanzibar, in east Africa, overall deaths from malaria have fallen 90% since 2003.
    These success stories should give us hope. While eliminating malaria completely will always be our ultimate goal, there is no reason why anyone should die from it. Every life lost is needless. With common resolve and a united front we can beat malaria

    MALARIA: NetsforLife®: Achieving Progress and Impact

    21 April 2011
    With over 247 million cases of malaria occurring annually, NetsforLife® continues to be an innovative global player in the fight against this deadly disease. In commemoration of World Malaria Day 2011: Achieving Progress and Impact, the NetsforLife® program partnership is working to ensure that sustainable gains on both the national and community levels of its malaria prevention approach are maintained and bolstered.
    For World Malaria Day 2011, NetsforLife(®) will join with the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) in Mozambique to hang 100,000 malaria nets in homes in the Homoine and Panda Districts of Inhambane Province. Over the course of five days, 180 volunteers will be trained to help families learn how to use nets to prevent malaria, and an additional 400 volunteers will be mobilized for the distribution of nets.
    "We are excited about partnering with agencies like UMCOR, a sister faith organization, to amplify the reach of the NetsforLife(®) malaria prevention initiative," said Meg L. DeRonghe, Acting Executive Director of NetsforLife(®). "Our local and global partnerships are critical to the sustainability of the program and the positive changes it is making in so many communities."
    Through community engagement, education, and monitoring and evaluation, NetsforLife(®) works in 17 malaria-endemic African countries and collaborates with international agencies, national programs and local malaria stakeholders to combat malaria by instilling a 'net culture': a community-wide understanding of the protective value of nets and the right way to use and care for them. In countries where NetsforLife(®) has been active for a number of years, there is now renewed focus on maintaining people's working knowledge of how malaria is transmitted and how it can be prevented. [Watch a video interview with Samuel Asiedu Agyei, Monitoring & Evaluation Manager for NetsforLife(®), discussing the importance of net culture in motivating families to take malaria seriously.]
    Churches are often the only functioning institutions in communities located "at the end of the road," and utilizing this long-standing, trusted delivery system to empower and unite people to bring about lasting results is essential to success. This strategy has led to widespread change in attitudes and behavior around malaria nets, and also helped NetsforLife(®) gain a reputation for effective community outreach. These outcomes have made the program a valued partner that is routinely solicited to participate in formal country-wide strategic planning, and often tasked with technical leadership of these key components to ensure better overall results. In the Democratic Republic of Congo, which has one of the highest rates of malaria cases and deaths in Africa, the initial baseline survey showed net use by children under five - the most vulnerable group - to be 9.2%. Currently, monitoring and evaluation analysis points to an impressive net use rate of 82.5%, which exceeds the World Health Organization target.
    "The success of NetsforLife(®) is a result of our monitoring and evaluation program, which includes training people to collect data and assess the impact of the programs on communities that are often underserved by health facilities," reflected Dr. Stephen Dzisi, NetsforLife(®)'s Technical Director. "Capacity building of local communities, and follow up to ensure malaria prevention knowledge is sustained, are built into the NetsforLife(®) system." [Hear more from Dr. Dzisi in this hour-long NetsforLife(®) conference call, recorded on April 12.]
    The goal for the current phase (2008-2013) of the NetsforLife(®) program partnership is to distribute 7 million nets in sub-Saharan Africa. So far, the program has distributed over 4.8 million nets, trained nearly 43,000 malaria control agents, and directly reached almost 9 million community members. From net use to symptom recognition and treatment-seeking behavior, all NetsforLife(®) metrics show significant progress in malaria prevention in program areas. Nevertheless, challenges in malaria control continue as the world races to achieve universal coverage (defined as one net for every two people) and the Millennium Development Goal (MDG) target of reducing malaria-related deaths by 75%.

    POVERTY: BURUNDI: Banana blight threatens food security

    BUJUMBURA, 22 April 2011 (IRIN) -

     Photo: BSPP:
    Banana blight is threatening livelihoods in Burundi (file photo)

     A disease affecting banana plants has spread to five provinces of Burundi, raising concern among agricultural officials, who fear the disease could hit the country's food security.
    According to Adelin Girukwishaka, a plant protection officer in the Ministry of Agriculture, the disease, "Banana Xanthomonas Wilt" - commonly known as banana blight - was first detected in November 2010 in Cankuzo province, near the border with Tanzania.
    "In January 2011, the disease was reported in the eastern province of Ruyigi and Makamba in the south; the disease has also been identified at Cibitoke and Bujumbura Rural provinces," Girukwishaka said.
    Ernest Manirambona, deputy coordinator of the Food and Agriculture Organization's emergency coordination unit, told IRIN: "The disease is now confirmed; it spread to five provinces within six months."
    Leonard Ndayishimiye, a farmer in the northwestern province of Cibitoke, said the disease had infected most of his plantation; he is worried his monthly income will drop as a result.
    "When the plants are healthy, a single plant can extend to 5m wide, giving me five big bunches," Ndayishimiye said. "However, since the disease struck, I only get one tiny bunch or even nothing, depending on when the plant was infected."
    Burundians consume bananas raw, cooked, as a juice or alcohol. Ndayishimiye said: "I eat it as breakfast before going to work, at lunch with beans and sometimes as banana juice in the evening."
    Cibitoke, which means "the land where bananas are plenty" in Kirundi, is known for producing banana beer consumed across the country. Many of its residents depend on banana farming for their livelihoods.
    Girukwishaka said: "Banana plants cover the biggest cultivated areas and represent more than 60 percent of the population's income. If the banana is affected [by this disease], it will not only mean great problems for farmers but also a socio-economic problem for Burundi."
    At the main market in Bujumbura, the capital, the price of green bananas has increased because of the spread of the disease.
    A buyer at the market told IRIN she could no longer afford to buy a whole bunch, estimated at 6,000 francs (US$4.80), and was opting to buy the bananas singly.
    "I think it is not only climatic conditions that are behind the shortage of bananas in the market; the banana blight is also to blame," the trader said.

    "No need to panic"
    Celestin Niyongere, head of the fruit and vegetable division at the government's Research Institute for Agronomic Sciences, told IRIN the disease spreads slowly in some banana varieties, especially those that grow in the highlands.
    However, he said, "no variety resists the disease even if there are some varieties more sensitive than others".
    Niyongere said: "This is the case with the banana variety grown in Cibitoke, Makamba and Rutana; they can be totally decimated in a few months."
    However, FAO's Manirambona said there was no need to panic: "The disease has been identified, preventative measures are also well known; we only need to implement them."

    Preventative measures
    Agricultural officials say they are making the population aware of the best field practices.

     Photo: David Gough/IRIN
    The price of bananas is rising (file photo)

    Farmers have been encouraged to remove male buds in the banana plants since insects, "notably bees, can spread the disease to uninfected bananas 60km away in one day", according to an agricultural officer.
    Theodomir Bigirumuhirwa, the head of Agrobiotech, a private research laboratory dealing with bananas, said local agronomists in direct contact with farmers would be trained in June.
    Once a banana field is infected, the only remedy is to cut off all the infected plants.
    Farmers have also been advised not to re-plant bananas on the same land within six months and to use clean field tools and planting materials.
    Manirambona said: "We also need to raise funds to mobilize not only farmers but also give support to the producers of in-vitro plants. People who depend on bananas for their livelihood should get support to encourage them to cut all their infected plants."
    Apart from sensitizing the public, the Burundian government plans to distribute at least 750,000 selected bananas shoots in September to ensure that farmers have plants free from the disease.

    MALARIA: New malaria drug better but not cheaper

    JOHANNESBURG, 21 April 2011 (IRIN)

     Photo: Ashley Clements/Flickr
    Quinine takes four hours to be administered through an IV drip

    The World Health Organization (WHO) this week recommended a change in the first-line treatment for malaria that could save nearly 200,000 lives a year, but health activists in Africa are bracing themselves for a potentially long battle in getting the new guidelines implemented.
    Most cases of malaria are uncomplicated and non-fatal, particularly when patients have been exposed to the parasite and developed an immune response to it, but about eight million cases a year progress to “severe” malaria, which resulted in 781,000 deaths in 2009. Ninety percent of those occurred in Africa, where the disease is the leading cause of death in children.
    Quinine has been the drug of choice for treating severe malaria for years, but it is difficult to administer and can have dangerous side effects.
    "It requires a lot of calculation," said Veronique De Clerk, medical coordinator for international NGO, Médecins Sans Frontières in the northern Ugandan district of Kaabong. "You need to dilute it into infusions, and those infusions need to run through an IV [intravenous line] for four hours [every eight hours], and you need to monitor that, so it requires well-qualified personnel."
    In rural Africa, where health workers are in short supply, it was common for patients to receive too much or too little quinine, with results that could be deadly, said De Clerk. "Recently, some studies from Uganda showed one in four administrations of quinine weren't correct."
    WHO has recommended artesunate for severe malaria in adults since 2006, but this week revised its guidelines to include children, based on findings from a nine-country trial in Africa in 2010, which found that for every 41 children treated with artesunate instead of quinine, one life could be saved.
    "It's very rare you have such a clear benefit of one drug over another, especially in neglected diseases like malaria," commented Nathan Ford, medical coordinator for MSF's Campaign for Access to Essential Medicines.
    Several large clinical trials in the last decade have demonstrated that artesunate is safer, easier to use and more effective than quinine. It can be administered over three days either intravenously or through a daily intramuscular injection, meaning that non-medical personnel could be trained to provide the drug, bringing life-saving treatment closer to remote, rural communities.
    It's very rare you have such a clear benefit of one drug over another, especially in neglected diseases like malaria
    This week, MSF released a report, Making the Switch, which lists the benefits of treatment with artesunate rather than quinine, and the challenges in translating this evidence into policy and practice.
    The biggest barrier is that artesunate costs two or three times more than quinine - around US$3.30 to treat one child compared to $1.3 for quinine - with additional costs for training health workers to administer it.
    "Any change in protocol which results in an increase in cost is going to be a challenge in countries where health budgets are over-stretched," Ford told IRIN. MSF put the additional annual cost of treating severe malaria globally with artesunate at $31 million.
    Ford said international donors could absorb this amount fairly easily, but had not traditionally supported the cost of treating severe malaria and would be unlikely to offer support until governments took the lead by changing their national guidelines.
    "The WHO guidelines are just the first step," he told IRIN. "[They] need to be translated into national and local guidelines and protocols, with adequate training."
    WHO recommended abandoning the use of chloroqine as the standard treatment for malaria a decade ago, but health professionals in some African countries still prescribe it. "It's a matter of changing long-term habits and practices," Ford commented.
    De Clerk noted that although Uganda's national guidelines listed artesunate as an alternative to quinine, in reality the drug was unavailable. "For government, the price is important, and quinine has a very long shelf-life, so they'd want to get rid of those stocks first," she said.
    WHO has prequalified only one manufacturer to produce artesunate, but MSF hoped that rising demand would encourage more manufacturers to enter the market, improving supply and reducing the price, and making long-term donor support unnecessary.
    In the meantime, said Ford, "what we want is a very clear message from donors to say that any country switching [to artesunate] will be supported by us to cover the increased costs in the short term."

    MALARIA: World Malaria Day : National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases

    April 25, 2011
     B.F. (Lee) Hall, M.D., Ph.D., and Anthony S. Fauci, M.D., National Institutes of Health
    In commemorating World Malaria Day and reflecting on this year’s theme, “Achieving Progress and Impact,” we celebrate the important strides made in many regions of the world to control malaria, while acknowledging the enormous challenges that remain.
    In 2000, an estimated 350 million to 500 million clinical cases of malaria occurred worldwide and more than 1 million people died from the disease, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). By 2009, there were about 225 million cases of clinical malaria and 781,000 deaths. Decreases in cases of malaria occurred in all affected regions, with the greatest decline in the number of malaria deaths occurring in Africa. Furthermore, in 2010, WHO certified that two countries, Morocco and Turkmenistan, had eliminated malaria—that is, reduced the incidence of infections in their countries to zero. Although these numbers reflect significant improvements, the global burden of malaria remains far too high and will require sustained and coordinated efforts from the international community to reduce it further.
    Today we enter the third year of the Global Malaria Action Plan (GMAP), developed by the Roll Back Malaria (RBM) Partnership. The GMAP, an international framework for coordinated action against malaria, sets ambitious goals to control, eliminate and eradicate malaria. The National Institutes of Health is committed to supporting the GMAP. To make continued progress and achieve long-term GMAP goals, we must build a sustainable pipeline of new products, novel interventions and innovative strategies to diagnose, treat and prevent malaria as well as interrupt its transmission. Below we describe examples of significant advances made in these areas during the past year.
    The emergence and spread of parasites resistant to conventional anti-malarial drugs threatens treatment efforts. Recently, NIH grantees identified a novel compound that rids mice of malaria-causing parasites with a single oral dose. This compound acts on a novel target in the parasite that may allow it to kill parasites that have developed resistance to other antimalarial drugs. Further studies will determine whether this compound can become a new therapy. Similarly, insecticide resistance can undercut mosquito-control strategies for containing malaria. Although research on insecticides with novel mechanisms of action continues, such compounds, like current insecticides, run the risk of selecting for the emergence and spread of mosquitoes resistant to the new insecticide. Therefore, novel approaches must be pursued.
    NIH-funded researchers recently identified a genetically modified fungus that blocks development of malaria parasites in the mosquito and thereby interrupts malaria transmission. Because the fungi do not kill the mosquitoes, they would be unlikely to develop resistance. Such fungi could become an important malaria intervention if future studies demonstrate that they are safe and effective.
    Within the next few months, we expect to learn the results of a large-scale clinical trial in Africa of a candidate malaria vaccine known as RTS,S. We all hope that an effective vaccine that confers protection against the most deadly type of disease, Plasmodium falciparum malaria, soon will be available. Meanwhile, efforts to develop new and improved malaria vaccines continue globally, with 16 candidates currently in preclinical development and another 23 in clinical trials.
    Early this year, we joined with others in announcing a renewed interest in the possible eradication of malaria, as described in the Malaria Eradication Research Agenda (MalERA), the result of a global consultation effort among multiple stakeholders and disciplines. A key message of MalERA is that the tools to eradicate malaria do not exist and must be developed. A major challenge will be to continually assess the changing epidemiology of malaria as control and elimination efforts prove successful to ensure that appropriate tools and interventions are developed and effectively deployed.
    To bridge clinical and field research with new laboratory-based methods in immunology, molecular biology and genomics, we at the NIH National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases recently launched a network of International Centers of Excellence for Malaria Research. This network, which supports teams of scientists conducting research in more than 20 malaria-endemic countries, will provide new insights from research conducted in the context of rapidly changing malaria epidemiology.
    A strong foundation of scientific insight, technological innovation and effective implementation has enabled us to achieve progress and advance several fronts in the fight against malaria. We must sustain this critical foundation as we continue to work together toward our shared goals of global malaria control, elimination and eradication.

    For more information on malaria, visit NIAID’s Malaria Web portal.
    Lee Hall, M.D., Ph.D., is Chief of the Parasitology and International Programs Branch in the NIAID Division of Microbiology and Infectious Diseases. Anthony S. Fauci, M.D., is Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Maryland.

    POVERTY: What Does Adam Smith’s Linen Shirt Have to do with Global Poverty?

    Martin Ravallion 2011-04-18

    In his Inquiry into the Nature And Causes of the Wealth of Nations Adam Smith pointed to the social-inclusion role of a linen shirt in 18th century Europe:

    Adam Smith. Photo: Istockphoto.com“A linen shirt … is, strictly speaking, not a necessary of life. The Greeks and Romans lived, I suppose, very comfortably though they had no linen. But in the present times, through the greater part of Europe, a creditable day-labourer would be ashamed to appear in public without a linen shirt, the want of which would be supposed to denote that disgraceful degree of poverty which, it is presumed, nobody can well fall into without extreme bad conduct.”

    This passage has often been used to justify the view that poverty is not absolute but relative—that certain socially-specific expenditures are essential for social inclusion, on top of basic needs for nutrition and physical survival.

    The way this idea is implemented in practice is to set a “relative poverty line” that is a constant proportion of average income for the country and date in question. That is how poverty is measured in most of Western Europe. By contrast, poverty measures in developing countries have almost invariably used absolute lines, which aim to have a fixed real value over time. The World Bank’s international “$1 a day” poverty lines also aim to be absolute lines across countries, using purchasing power parities from the International Comparison Program.
    Yet much social science research in developing countries has confirmed the social roles of certain forms of consumption—just as Adam Smith had noted about a linen shirt in 18th century Europe. Anthropologists and economists have pointed out that festivals, celebrations and communal feasts are not just entertainment. They have an important social role in maintaining the networks that are crucial to coping with poverty and even escaping it. Household budget surveys have often revealed seemingly high expenditures on celebrations and festivals by very poor people. It is also known that clothing can serve an important social role. In many developing countries today one can see even very poor, and evidently undernourished, people with cell phones. And much research has also suggested that people in poor countries care about relative deprivation, as typically revealed through self-reported questions on happiness or satisfaction with life.
    But such research findings do not imply that poverty lines should also be set at a constant proportion of the mean. This assumes (implicitly) that the cost of social inclusion needs are much lower for poor people—indeed, their cost goes to zero as incomes fall to zero. That is implied by a poverty line set at a constant proportion of average income. If we were to apply such an idea to poor countries—recognizing that poor people too have social inclusion needs—we would be saying that the cost of Adam Smith’s linen shirt can be virtually zero for the poorest person. But that makes no sense; the cost of a socially-acceptable linen shirt will not be zero, and will presumably be no different for a poor person. This is a troubling property of such poverty measures.
    To come up with a feasible approach to measuring “relative poverty” that can span both poor and rich countries, Tony Atkinson and Francois Bourguignon (AB) have postulated two key capabilities, namely physical survival and social inclusion. The former is the capability of being adequately nourished and clothed for meeting the physical needs of survival and normal activities. On top of this, a person must also satisfy certain social inclusion needs. Each capability has a corresponding poverty line, giving the absolute and relative lines. AB proposed that one should only be deemed “not poor” if one is neither absolutely poor nor relatively poor.
    However, AB follow the Western European model of assuming that the relative line is a constant proportion of the mean. This assumption needs to be dropped, to allow for the (strictly positive) cost of Adam Smith’s linen shirt. On doing so one gets the “weakly relative poverty lines” that I have proposed in a paper with Shaohua Chen, soon to be published here. The following figure shows how we implement the idea, using the same data set on national poverty lines that we used to derive the new international absolute line of $1.25 a day (as documented here).

    The weakly relative line is $1.25 a day up to a mean consumption of $2 a day, and then rises with a slope of 1:3. The lower bound to the relative line is $0.60 a day, which can be thought of as the cost of Adam Smith’s linen shirt.
    With economic growth, our weakly relative poverty lines tend to rise after some point, and proportionately more as average income rises. But they will never be proportionate to the mean. So if all incomes grow at the same rate, all poverty measures will show a decline. This is in marked contrast to the strongly relative measures, which will show no change even when incomes of the poor grow at the same rate as for others.
    On implementing this schedule of weakly relative poverty lines using 700 surveys for 115 countries, Chen and I find that there is more relative poverty in the developing world than previously thought. And the pace of progress against relative poverty is slower than that against absolute poverty. We find that 47% of the population of the developing world lived in relative poverty in 2005, of which about half lived in absolute poverty, as measured by the $1.25 a day line. The incidence of relative poverty fell from 53% in 1990 and 63% in 1981. This was not a sufficient rate of decline in the incidence of poverty to prevent a rise in the number of poor. By contrast, the corresponding absolute poverty measures show falling poverty counts in the aggregate.

    POVERTY: Iraq: Ministry of Planning confirms 23% poverty rate

    April 18th, 2011
    Revealed the Iraqi Planning Ministry, on Monday, that the rate of poverty in Iraq, 23%, expressing willingness to launch a campaign to calculate the poverty line in the country in 2012, stressing the need to strike a balance between capital resources and human resources, and projects that attract labor to reduce the problem of unemployment.
    He said Undersecretary Mahdi Keywords, in an interview for “Alsumaria News”, on the sidelines of the Conference of the Development Department in Iraq after the change, challenges and opportunities, which convened the College of Management and Economics at the University of Qadisiyah, “The Ministry of Planning will be carried out a campaign to measure the poverty line in Iraq in 2012 to determine the effectiveness of the national strategy for poverty alleviation, and the percentage rise or decline in poverty rates in the country, “noting that” the poverty rate reached 23% of Iraq’s population of 30 million people. “
    And launched a poverty alleviation strategy in 2009, after the preparation of the technical support by the World Bank, the first official effort to measure the incidence of poverty and develop a strategy to alleviate it in Iraq, from 23% to 16% by the year 2014.
    He acknowledged, Undersecretary of the Ministry of Planning, that “the deficit of the Supreme National Committee to run, will end the problem of unemployment, especially among the graduates alone,” noting that it “focused through the Five Year Development Plan, which launched it, the balance between capital resources and human resources and projects capable of running the largest possible number of graduates and the unemployed. “
    The Keywords “the need to make major changes in the national economic sector, and support the private sector, to contribute to the reduction of unemployment.”
    The aim of the conference organized by the Faculty of Management and Economics at the University of Qadisiyah, to bridge the gap between academic science and the requirements of society, to achieve the scientific renaissance and development, and seek to determine the paths future directions in the fields of administrative, statistical and accounting, financial and banking, and stand at the problems suffered by the Iraqi economy, and to identify trends administrative, economic and accounting contemporary, and their application in different environments.
    Presented at the conference dealt with various scientific research studies in various areas of modern economics and statistics to Tdrisien and researchers from various Iraqi universities.
    Referred to the Faculty of Management and Economics at the University of Qadisiyah, founded in 1988 and recently opened offices of the administrative and economic consulting, accounting and statistical, to provide advice and studies for various governmental and private sectors.
    The Minister of Planning and Development Cooperation, Ali Yousef Shukri, said in an interview earlier “Alsumaria News”, the ministry will develop a plan to provide job opportunities for graduates of colleges and institutes of Iraq, noting that it will establish an integrated database, after the preparation of a comprehensive study of cadres working in government departments .
    The Baghdad and a number of Iraqi provinces, has seen since 25 February, demonstrations demanding reform and change and the eradication of rampant corruption in the joints of the State, in addition to providing jobs for the unemployed, organized by the youth of university students and intellectuals are independent across social networking sites on the Internet, at a time continues to escalate calls for demonstrations across the country until the achievement of full services.
    The Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs, in September 2010, the number of unemployed registered in the database of the Department of Labour, from among the graduates, ranging from the years 2003 to 2009 is one million and 500 thousand.
    The announced survey data of social and economic status of families in Iraq for the year 2007, prepared by the Ministry of Planning and Development Cooperation, it was revealed that the rate of poverty in the countryside and reached 39%, while the rate reached in urban areas to 16%, and the rate of underemployment in rural areas 43%, compared to 21% in urban areas.

    POVERTY: Georgia (Caucasus): Living below poverty line

    20 April, 2011

    Almost 60 per cent of Georgians live below the poverty line
    Georgian authorities claim the fight against poverty is one of their top priorities. But even foreign help does not appear to be making a dent in the deep desperation experienced by many Georgians.
    The small, sunny country of Georgia has long been known for its fresh, organic produce. But recently, it seems the fruits of Georgia's economy have been rotting away.
    “People come to the market and don't buy anything, because they can't afford it,” says Tsiala, a market vendor in Tbilisi. “Out of all the goods here, only the potatoes and onions are local, everything else is imported from Greece, Turkey and Iran, and it's so overpriced. We stay here anyway, because we have to try and sell something so we can eat.”
    Ketevan Chubinidze, a common Georgian mother, knows all about having nothing to eat.
    She has not even been able to afford apples for her handicapped daughter, as they are too expensive.
    “I have no home, no job, no money, and no social support! All I can do is sit outside a church and beg, so I can feed my sick child,” says Ketevan. ”The only money we get is my pension – around $30 a month, and Mariam's pension. Altogether it comes to around $75 a month. With that, we have to eat, pay the bills and buy medicine for Mariam, which is impossible.”
    Mariam has cerebral palsy and is in desperate need of surgery. It can only be performed in Germany, but her family has no hope of raising the money.
    “She's already had eight operations, and needs five more,” adds Ketevan. “But I've almost lost hope. I even went to a charity TV show, but they turned me down.”
    Ketevan and her family live well below the poverty line. And in this, they are not alone.
    The Georgian government has a growing social welfare system that includes cash benefits, free or low cost health insurance, pensions and vouchers for day care.
    These social benefits are aimed at the poorest of the poor.
    However, a 2009 World Bank Poverty Assessment showed that only 30 per cent of those citizens actually receive cash assistance.
    Ketevan is a professional singer, and in these tough times, music is all she and her daughter have.
    But the only real music to their ears would be an offer of help, something neither has much faith they will hear anytime soon.

    POVERTY: Nigeria: Breaking the poverty cycle through entrepreneurial revolution

    April 18, 2011
    Nigeria is a country of absurd economic realities. The 12th largest crude oil producer in the world and the second largest economy in Africa earn an estimated $2.2 million a day in oil revenue. Yet, its GDP per capita, at just over $1,400, is among the lowest for the continent and 54% of its 148 million people live on less than $1 per day.
    The figures are especially shocking because of the abundance of natural resources primarily oil and natural gas, and massive agricultural potential based on its climate and significant rural population.
    Human development data for Nigeria has remained persistently bleak despite a considerable upturn in the country’s economic fortunes since 2000.
    The UNDP ranked the country 80th in a poverty survey of 108 developing nations that focussed on severe deprivation . The agency gave Nigeria a Human Poverty Index of 37.3, placing it below more impoverished African neighbours with far smaller economies like Rwanda and Malawi. Significantly, the study looked not just at income destitution, but also at secondary aspects including education, access to health care, standard of living and life_expectancy. More than 67 million Nigerians are docketed as poor according to standard definitions, while 35% of the total population live in extreme poverty.
    These recent trends are especially worrying because they parallel a significant but contradictory improvement in Nigeria’s macro_economic performance. Before the current global financial crisis set in, Abuja had been successful in wielding substantial positive change in its overall balance sheets through a process of re_prioritisation and economic reform since 1999. A slew of measures, including privatisation of several steel, petrochemical, mining and port entities helped develop the non_oil sector, bring down inflation and boost international currency reserves. Nigeria also successfully negotiated with the London and Paris clubs to do away with a large part of its foreign debt.
    However, World Bank research confirms that even during periods of relative prosperity, poverty levels remained unabated in the broadest sense, and actually worsened during successive positive growth periods.
    Between 1972 and 1980, for instance, the Nigerian per capita income shot up from $1,300 to $2,900 based on rapidly escalating oil prices.
    A subsequent decline in global oil revenues dragged down per capita income, consumption and expenditure to critical levels. However, Nigeria neglected investment in human development projects and continued to pump borrowed finances into capital_intensive enterprises. The fallout was that the dramatic rise in national fortunes bypassed the majority of Nigerians, as evident from the negligible rise in per capita consumption figures for the same period.
    The differential effect on poverty levels in rural and urban areas for the coinciding period is equally startling. Because of a simultaneous worsening of income distribution, rural poverty declined slightly while the number of urban poor gained. However, the worst_off were also the worst losers, as the population living in extreme poverty across Nigeria swelled up from 10 million to 14 million. The obvious explanation behind this is that policy makers sorely failed to share the increase in wealth equitably.
    Till 1985, a variety of local factors (political turmoil and social unrest) and foreign influences (falling oil prices and mismanagement of state assets) was responsible for increasing poverty and a widening disparity between rural and urban incomes. Even by 1995, per capita income and consumption remained lower than at the beginning of the oil boom in the ’70s.
    It was only towards the end of the 20th century that Nigeria began to press forward a concerted though gradual effort at reform and regulation, made possible by relative political stability and the establishment of a democratically elected government.
    The advent of more inclusive policies truly began with the adoption of a proactive manifesto that sought to wean away Nigeria’s exclusive dependence on non_renewable resources and promote micro and macro level entrepreneurship as the only viable means to durable economic prosperity.
    This change of stance pertinently describes the entrepreneurial spirit in general: the insistence on unique and creatively challenging business models for rapidly sustainable wealth creation. Entrepreneurship is the core ideal of all developed nations that have successfully capitalized on their human and natural resources to drive economic progress.
    Since the Thatcher_Regan era of the 1980s, most developed and developing nations the world over have wholeheartedly embraced entrepreneurship as the key to economic and market superiority.

    POVERTY: West African states launch plan to eradicate poverty

    April 23 2011

     Ecowas secretariat in Abuja. The 15 member Economic Community of West African States, ranked among the poorest countries in the world has launched a regional programme to eradicate poverty. Photo/courtesy ECOWAS

    The 15 member Economic Community of West African States (Ecowas), ranked among the poorest countries in the world has launched a regional programme to eradicate poverty.
    The Regional Poverty Reduction Programme was launched in Senegal’s capital Dakar on Friday, April 22, which the Ecowas President, James Gbeho said would need $15 billion to implement. So far, the regional bloc has been able to secure $7 billion to support the initiative.
    “The successful implementation of the regional poverty strategy will, to a large extent depend on the availability of resources, specifically financial resources, for the procurement of material and human resources required to support the programmes and projects elaborated in the strategy, ” Mr Gbeho said.
    During the launch, it was pointed out that one out of every two people in the region is afflicted by poverty.
    The Commissioner of the Ecowas microeconomic policy directorate, Bamba N’galadzo attributed the cause of “endemic poverty” to “sluggish economic growth, high demographic growth with its corresponding effects as well as crises and conflicts.”
    What has happened over the years is the fact that, “almost all countries in the region have designed national poverty reduction strategies with the support of development partners,” Prof Bamba added.
    Unfortunately, these efforts have not worked because “these approaches are limited and fragmented, not taking into account certain dimensions of the fight against poverty, particularly cross-border issues.”
    Ecowas and the West Africa Economic and Monetary Union (UEMOA) , which brings together the Francophone countries in the region, have joined hands in the fight against poverty.
    The issue of poverty eradication has been central to ECOWAS’ programme because “it is critical to the attainment of the Millennium Development Goals by 2015,” said Mr Gbeho.
    In addition, he said, “the strategy was born out of the need to deepen and accelerate the regional integration process, a need that is deeply rooted in the vision of the founding fathers of ECOWAS and enshrined in the Treaty that binds the member states.”

    POVERTY: `Boost agribusiness to fight poverty`

    Felix Andrew : 20th April 2011
    African business leaders have requested financial institutions to improve lending to agribusiness saying the sector plays a crucial role in poverty alleviation and as a source of income to individuals.
    In a question and answer session at the second day of 9th Africa Investment Forum 2011, investors discussed the importance of agribusiness and food security.
    Speaking during the session, Sebastian Kingu, a business consultant said most commercial banks in African countries including Tanzania prefer financing companies that pay off.
    “Agriculture is the backbone of many African countries but these commercial banks want to deal with other sectors which they think can return their money in the short term,” he said.
    Kingu urged commercial banks to increase lending to agriculture since it has been proved that the farmers are bankable.
    “We have been witnessing an increase in food prices everywhere. This tells us that agriculture now is a good source of income to many people including bankers,” he stated.
    He also urged organisers of the forum to convene a special meeting with bankers later on to discuss the importance of lending to the agricultural sector.
    “I wonder why this forum has not invited many commercial banks to hear and work on our views so that we improve our agricultural industry and food security,” he said.
    Hadija Simba, an entrepreneur, insisted on production of large quantities of quality goods.
    She said agribusiness financing was the only way which would improve the livelihood of farmers and increase income to the government.
    “Due to poor financing mechanisms we find that agriculture has failed to produce goods in large quantities and of a quality that can compete in the market,” she said.
    Prosper Ngowi from Mzumbe University, urged multinational companies to increase investments in food security without grabbing land.
    “Many of these foreign investors especially in agriculture tend to change their intention, diverting land to other non agricultural activities like jatropha farming,” he said.
    He urged financial institutions to increase their lending portfolio to agriculture which employs a significant number of people in African countries.
    Felix Mosha who is the chairman of Confederation of Tanzania Industries (CTI) and one of the moderators, said governments in Africa need to do more in agribusiness and food security.
    He said Tanzania is facing a challenge of post harvest losses which stand at between 40 to 60 per cent.
    “We have to bridge the gap through financing agribusiness so that the lives of farmers become much better,” he said.
    He said that the market is available and urged stakeholders to increase their support in the sector so that production is doubled.
    He said last year, China imported about 40 million tonnes of soya from Africa and other countries in the world.
    Tom Adlam, Managing Director from African Agricultural Capital urged pension funds to invest in agricultural activities.
    “Time has come for these funds to look into possibilities of putting their money into agribusiness so as to raise the economies of the African continent,” he stressed.
    The two-day Forum brought investors and projects together to showcase new opportunities, enhance African trade and investment and build new business partnerships.
    The principal sponsors of the Forum were IPP Media and Vodacom.
    Forum sponsors were Burundi Investment Authority (API), Ecobank, Equity Bank, KCB Bank, Movenpick Hotel, Rwanda Development Bank, Trade Mark East Africa, Trade Mark Southern Africa.
    Forums supporters were Anglogold, Bakhresa, Bank of Africa, Bank of Kigali, Bank of Tanzania, Eximbank, Maxcom, Nakumatt, Parastatal Pensions Fund, Precision air, Public Service Pension Fund, Tanesco, Tanzania Breweries Ltd, Tanzania Broadcasting Corporation, TiGo Twiga Cement, Zakhem Construction and Zantel.

    POVERTY: Christian Aid's manifesto for change tackles eight issues of poverty

    guardian.co.uk, 23 April 2011

    A chance to make a difference
    Christian Aid's manifesto for change tackles eight issues of poverty that could change the lives of billions around the world. But governments must act now to shift the balance of power and help the poor

    Loyce Nkala stands by her drought devestated maize crop in Filabusi, south west Zimbabwe Farmer Loyce Nkala stands among her drought-devastated maize crop in Filabusi, south-west Zimbabwe. Photograph: Howard Burditt/Reuters/Corbis

    The economic crisis that has hit countries both rich and poor presents the world with a unique opportunity. As governments search for ways to recover from the worst financial slump since the Great Depression of the 1930s, Christian Aid believes there is now a real chance to confront, and even finally overcome, the scandal of poverty.
    To bring about the scale of effort required to end poverty, Christian Aid believes that world leaders and the public need to face up to the urgency of the task. The global financial crisis has pushed more people into poverty. But long before this, it was clear that poverty could never be over without unprecedented change.
    Over the past six weeks Christian Aid has spelled out its groundbreaking vision, Poverty Over, through a series of articles in Weekend magazine and additional material on guardian.co.uk/poverty-over. The international development charity is demanding urgent action on eight global issues, and looking at some of the changes required to shift the balance of power in favour of the poorest. If dealt with, these eight issues – climate change, conflict, corruption, disasters, food and agriculture, health, inequality and tax – could make a fundamental and lasting difference to billions of people around the world. Christian Aid wants more people to understand these issues and, crucially, to act on them.
    The economic crisis provides an opportunity to make these changes. Old truths, old ways of thinking and old economic models have been exposed as fundamentally unsuited to promoting human development.
    Ending poverty will require economies and markets to function in ways that protect the environment, and enable women and men to make a dignified, secure and sustainable living. Governments must put the needs of people living in poverty at the heart of decision making, ensuring their security and their access to justice.
    It is imperative that people in developing countries are able to benefit from taxation as a sustainable resource for their own development. "Tax provides the revenues that allow states to be independent of donors, and in turn to provide their citizens with basic services, as well as investing for the future," says David McNair from Christian Aid's economic justice programme. "Fair political representation and better governance – less corruption – is systematically associated with a functioning tax system.
    "Tax has been neglected for too long in development discussions, but must now be moved to the top of the agenda if we are serious about a future of independent, effective and politically responsible states. A lack of transparency in the global financial system facilitates both tax dodging and illicit capital flight [illegal movement of money overseas] at the expense of poor countries."
    It is not just the economic situation that provides an opportunity for change. We are at risk of a climate crisis, caused largely by carbon emissions from richer nations. The countries most vulnerable to the effects of climate change are in the developing world. Zimbabwe is just one example of the disastrous impact of climate change on poor people and their livelihoods.
    "Severe droughts in Zimbabwe are directly linked to climate change and the situation can only get worse until this is addressed," says Alison Doig, Christian Aid's senior adviser on climate change. "Rainy seasons are starting up to 33 days later than expected, and rainy periods are more erratic. Failure to act now on climate change will not only delay the eradication of poverty, it will make poverty dramatically worse, and could make it permanent."
    Christian Aid believes that wealthy countries must urgently agree legally binding targets to reduce emissions. They must also help poor countries develop cleanly and adapt to the changing climate.
    Last year David Cameron, the prime minister, promised his government would be the greenest ever. Yet UK-listed companies, which are responsible for 12-15% of global carbon emissions, are still not required by the government to report emissions to an agreed standard. But it's not only governments that need to act – Doig cites the World Bank as not following through on its original target.
    "The World Bank was set up to end poverty," she says. "Yet it is lending poor countries money for fossil-fuel power plants that benefit big businesses, accelerate climate change – and do little for poor communities."
    As an organisation driven by a passion for justice, Christian Aid believes we must seize this opportunity. Change in the world can be achieved by campaigning and other advocacy work. A global compact to end poverty is possible, and the necessary thinking is within reach – if we build an active, committed movement for social and political change.

    POVERTY: Ghana: Samia Nkrumah’s Policies to Reduce Poverty

    21 April 2011 : Jeffrey, Peter

    Samia Nkrumah’s Policies to Reduce Poverty and Accelerate Sustainable Development in Ghana.
    Samia Yaba Christina Nkrumah has vowed not to leave the poor behind as Ghana pushes ahead to become sub-Saharan Africa’s third country to attain middle income status behind South Africa and Botswana by 2015.
    In an age of austerity, financial restructuring, wage retraction, job loses and free market ideology, few public officials or candidates for office have much to say about the persistence of poverty, yet as Samia prepares herself to run for the chairmanship of Convention Peoples Party, and in effect the presidential candidate of that party, the only thing on her mind is how to solve the issue of poverty in the country.
    Samia has downplayed what most of her detractors called “class war” but which she insisted is more about social justice.
    Although she is not running for the presidency in 2012, Samia has not only resurrected the rhetoric, but also has pinned her hopes for 2016 on a strategy of connecting with the majority poor, the voiceless, jobless graduates, the youth, market mothers and fisher folks, those that she often referred to as the “silent majority and/or my constituents”.
    Since she was elected into the Ghanaian parliament just over two years ago, the ex president’s daughter has become the political voice of the poor. She has said that “policy instruments that could be useful in reducing poverty and hunger are not in short supply”. Apart from directing investments (both public and private) aimed at pro-poor growth, there is also the micro-credit, redistributive policies such as directing companies to invest in poor regions with massive tax incentives, setting up of mechanize co-operative farms and manufacturing small scale industries etc, she said these policy instruments is political and if properly implemented must withstand any politically contested opposition.
    Samia’s top economic aide and a respected former World Bank staffer said, “Since the stabilization and reform policies (Structural Adjustment Programs of the Bretton Woods Institutions) that opened-up the economy and reduced public sector’s role, many Ghanaians thrown onto the economic scrapheap became destitute and couldn’t escape from the poverty trap they find themselves”. “These are the folks Samia is fighting for, these are the folks she has pledge never to leave behind, he stated”.
    He did acknowledge that the structural policies did generate a surprisingly quick recovery and unprecedented average growth of 5.7% in five years under Dr Kwesi Botchwey (an Nkrumaist), policies that Samia broadly agrees with. He argues that what is lacking is an improvement in social indicators, including gender related indicators. He put the blame squarely at the feet of the last NPP administration for their mismanagement and massive corruption under their watch.
    Samia’s economic team criticized high literacy rates and high infant mortality in the country. They broadly agrees that life expectancy at birth has increased, as well as school enrollments under Mills administration, however they argue that the estimated fall in the overall poverty reduction does not go far enough.
    They also raise the “technological dimension” and the inability of our researchers to be more innovative due to lack of resources. According to her economic team, Samia will increase Ghana’s share of Gross Domestic Product in Research and Development. They argue that Samia wants to turn University of Ghana, Legon, Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology, Kumasi and University for Development Studies, Tamale, into academic of excellence in the sub-region. They also hinted that all the polytechnics in the country would be upgraded to institutes of technologies, moving from political and social discourse to science and technical know-how. According to one youth leader and a member of Samia’s economic team, the neglect of technical education by successive governments is criminal. James Kwabena Bomfeh, aka Kabila, the dynamic and telegenic CPP Youth leader and a member of the “The Patriots” said, “Since 1966, we as a nation not been able to innovate and equip our people with technical skills which has had a profound effect on our poverty reduction strategies”. He mentioned education indicators (a set of primary enrolment rates and a set of literacy rates) and health indicators (access to sanitation and access to clean water) in the rural areas and urban slums, where there is fairly high degree of deprivation and thus access to education and health care are very low. James said in some rural communities, citizens do not have access to piped water and sanitation, thus exacerbating already worse situation into persistent poverty.
    Samia has said that access to decent education, health care and employment creation would be at the heart of her poverty reduction strategies. Investment in infrastructure and human capital will underpin CPP first two years in government. She said CPP government would put in place incentives to support public and private-sector employment as well as support the productivity and incomes in the informal sector.
    Samia’s economic team will mobilize domestic and Diaspora resources for development instead of relying on traditional drivers of economic growth (export of raw material and development aid) as is the case in many sub-Saharan African countries. Since 1996, investment from Ghanaian Diaspora has poured into the country at very fast pace.
    Since Ghana’s economic reforms began in the mid 1980s, much have been written about the country and its relative stability and good economic management, especially under Flt Lt John Rawlings’ watch. Non Resident Ghanaians have played a major part in foreign investment but its contribution to the Ghanaian economy has only lately been recognized.
    Samia said, “There would have been no Ghana economic miracle without the help of the Ghanaian Diaspora”. It is estimated that there are over 2.5 million Ghanaian nationals and their dependents residing outside the country. The cultural-economic gap between Ghana and Ghanaian Diaspora is narrowing. Ghana, through whose ports many were taken into slavery relax her citizenship criterion to their descendants, thus recognizing the country’s historic past. Samia said, “like the Irish, we are a small country, but over half of blacks in North America, South America and the Caribbean can trace their roots to Ghana – this is our strength that has been recognized the world over”. Samia paid tribute to Jake Obetsebi-Lamptey, the former Tourism Minister for working hard to bring more investment from this constituency.
    Listening to the daughter of the late president talking about how to reduce the cost of doing business in Ghana brings back memories of Ghana’s golden years under father’s old CPP administration.

    POVERTY: India's double-digit growth ambitions fade

     Apr 24, 2011, : T.N. Ninan
    NEW DELHI: India's dreams of attaining double-digit economic growth within the next few years are fading, undermined by high inflation, slow progress on reforms and an uncertain global outlook.
    The ruling Congress party has long wanted to make history as the administration which ushered in growth of 10 per cent -- touted by successive governments as vital to significantly reduce crushing poverty.
    But India's main economic planning body looks set to row back on the goal of double-digit expansion when it fixes the country's five-year economic, social and other goals to 2017.
    Setting a target of 10 per cent average growth "for the next five years is not feasible", Planning Commission deputy chairman Montek Singh Ahluwalia admitted late last week, citing inflation, a need to jump-start reforms and an "international situation full of uncertainty".
    However, Ahluwalia said nine per cent was a realistic target as the country of 1.2 billion people struggles to haul millions out of poverty -- over 40 per cent of Indians live below the extreme poverty line of $1.25 a day, according to the World Bank.
    Despite moves to free up its economy, India still runs on five-year plans introduced in 1951 by its first premier, Jawaharlal Nehru, who admired the Soviet Union's central economic planning model.
    Back then expansion was forecast at just 2.1 per cent.
    Fast forward and according to the Planning Commission, average growth during the current 2007-12 plan period is likely to be 8.2 per cent -- a huge leap from the 1950s but far short of the magic double-digit figure.
    Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee optimistically said late last year he hoped India would "find the means to cross the double-digit growth barrier in the coming year or two".
    Premier Manmohan Singh, who initiated the first wave of economic liberalisation in 1991 when he was finance minister, has voiced similar hopes.
    But the goal will remain elusive without radical reforms to cut government control over the economy, better skills education for a burgeoning population and heavy investment to improve India's infrastructure, economists say.
    Despite government promises, the reform pace has been slow, hamstrung by fierce political opposition.
    Under an optimistic scenario, if reforms are implemented quickly, growth could "reach 10 per cent as soon as 2020 and reach slightly above that by 2025", said HSBC chief India economist Leif Eskesen.

    POVERTY: India: 27 million out of poverty net

    Chetan Chauhan, Hindustan Times:  April 20, 2011
    A new data analysed by the Planning Commission says that around 382 million Indians were below poverty line in 2009-10, a decline of 27 million since 2004-05. The decline of over five percentage points (from 37.2% to 32%) in as many years was much less than the target of annual reductio n of 2% in poverty in the 11th plan. What the UPA government can showcase is the highest poverty reduction since 1993 when annual rate of reduction was 0.7%.
    "The results are neither good nor bad," said Abhijit Sen, plan panel member, who calculated the new poverty figures for India based on preliminary data provided by the National Sample Survey Organisation (NSSO) of its survey for the year 2009-10.
    "Not good because we may not achieve the 11th plan target. Not bad as there was a drought year and global economic recession in between".
    The panel’s analysis show higher poverty reduction in urban India because of more increase in income levels than in rural parts.
    "Economic growth has helped in poverty reduction in India and China," said a global monitoring report 2011 of the World Bank and International Monetary Fund (IMF).
    Sen had used the same cost of living index derived by Suresh Tendulkar Committee for calculating India poverty in 2004-05 to be 37.2%.
    The only difference was on price indices to calculate the cost of living. Sen opted for consumer price index whereas Tendulkar had used NSSO data on inflation. The cost of living index is the monthly expenditure on basic food, health and education.
    Announcing the decline on the day Supreme Court questioned commission’s poverty estimation methodology, the panel deputy chairperson Montek Singh Ahluwalia said he agrees with Sen’s assessment and added the exact impact of the 11th plan on poverty reduction will be known only when results of second sample survey of 2011-12 are available in 2013. The 11th plan ends in March 2012.
    The new poverty estimate will have implications for the proposed National Food Security Law, which is being hotly debated between the National Advisory Council and the UPA government. The new estimation could mean fall in the food subsidy burden for the government as till now all the calculations were being done on 37.2% estimation.
    "It can help in bridging the differences between the NAC and the government of NFSL," a senior plan panel functionary said and informed the new figures will be presented at the next meeting of the Group of Ministers on food on April 25.
    The commission is, however, expected to come with final poverty estimation figure later this year once the NSSO submits its report.
    "We will submit final data by this June," said TC Ananth, the chief statistician of India.

    POVERTY: MDG poverty goals may be achieved, but child mortality is not improving

    Claire Provost guardian.co.uk, 18 April 2011

    IMF and World Bank advocate 'performance-related' pay for medics to improve maternal and child mortality, but the greatest threat to MDGs remains the 'cycles of violence' in fragile states

     Children in Delhi, next to a billboard for a comic book fair
    Children in Delhi, next to a billboard for a comic book fair in February. Child mortality targets for the millennium development goals are unlikely to be met and, despite India's economic progress, there remain deep-rooted wealth disparities and enduring social exclusion. Photograph: Manish Swarup/AP

    Two-thirds of developing countries are on track or close to meeting the millennium development goal (MDG) targets for extreme poverty and hunger, say the World Bank and the IMF.
    According to the Global Monitoring Report, released on Friday in Washington during the Bretton Woods spring meetings, the number of people living in extreme poverty – on less than $1.25 per day – will drop to 883 million by 2015, from 1.4 billion in 2005 and 1.8 billion in 1990.
    The joint IMF-World Bank report explores current successes and shortfalls on achieving the MDGs, attempting to project future progress while also offering policy prescriptions – with an emphasis on sustained economic growth.
    Much of world's recent progress on the first goal – to halve between 1990 and 2015 the proportion of people in extreme poverty and those suffering from hunger – reflects rapid growth in China and India; the report projects that, by 2015, only 4.8% of China's population will be in extreme poverty compared with 36% in sub-Saharan Africa. While the world is set to halve extreme poverty by 2015, 17 African countries are still off-track.
    Progress on reducing poverty at national levels often obscures deep-rooted disparities, says the analysis, adding that enduring issues of social exclusion could lead to uneven improvements that would put at risk aggregate success.
    At a press conference on Thursday, Robert Zoellick, the World Bank president, warned that high and volatile food prices could prevent success on poverty and hunger targets. Forty-four million people have "fallen into poverty" since June 2010, said Zoellick.
    "If the food price index rises by just another 10% … another 10 million people will fall into extreme poverty where people live on less than $1.25 a day. And a 30% increase would add 34 million more people to the world's poor."
    Zoellick's proposed steps to reduce the impact, and likelihood, of future food crises include a new code of conduct on export bans, improved information on the quality and quantity of food stocks, and preparing small stocks of humanitarian food in places like the Horn of Africa.
    "The World Bank and the regional development banks can help countries with quick support for the most vulnerable through effective, targeted nutrition and safety-net programmes rather than mistaken price controls or broad-based increases in wages," he added.
    Many developing countries are close to meeting targets on primary education completion and eliminating the gender disparity in education, as well as access to safe drinking water. However, no low-income country has reduced mortality for under-fives sufficiently and they are unlikely to meet that MDG target.
    Maternal and child mortality targets remain among the most intractable of the goals: 40% of developing countries are far from meeting health MDGs, despite unprecedented amounts of aid funnelled into the health sector in the past 10 years.
    Delfin Go, the World Bank's lead economist and the report's lead author, said: "Certain health and education outcomes are disappointing, in part because spending has focused largely on increasing the quantity of services, while not paying enough attention to quality." Go suggests improving incentives for health workers by, for example, paying on the basis of their performance, as well as "strengthening institutions".
    The report points to Rwanda's experience, where the government supplemented primary healthcare with a "cash for performance" programme – paying clinics on the basis of, for example, the number of children vaccinated, the number of women who start to use contraceptives, the number of mothers who give birth in the presence of skilled midwives, or the number of malnourished children referred for treatment.
    But 45% of developing countries are far from meeting the notoriously neglected international targets on sanitation.
    And lagging furthest behind on MDG targets are the so-called "fragile states". These countries "require additional support, to help in building institutions and moving towards a virtuous circle of development, peace, and security", says the report.
    The World Bank also urges a stronger focus on development in fragile states in its 2011 development report (WDR), released on Monday last week, in advance of the meetings. But, warns the WDR, the greatest blocks to reaching international development goals are the chronic cycles of criminal and political violence.

    MALARIA: Cases of malaria among UK travellers rise by 30%

    24 April 2011  Dominic Hughes Health correspondent, BBC News

    A mosquito feeding

    Malaria, spread by mosquitoes in tropical areas, is one of the world's biggest killers
    The number of malaria infections recorded among UK residents has increased by nearly 30% over the past two years.
    New figures from the Health Protection Agency (HPA) reveal there were 1,761 new cases in 2010.
    Over the past decade most infections have occurred among people who visited West Africa or South Asia.
    The HPA is warning travellers to heed advice on how to avoid malaria, which is the world's second biggest killer.
    In 2008 there were 1,370 new cases but the following year the numbers increased to 1,495.
    In 2010, almost 40% of UK residents who contracted the disease had visited either Nigeria or Ghana, while 11% had been to India.

    Travellers at risk
    The HPA believes these travellers may not have sought or were unable to access advice on malaria prevention or had not thought they were at risk because they knew the area they were travelling to.
    And these kind of travellers appear to be more at risk because they generally stay for longer than other visitors, such as those on business
    “It is a myth that people who have had malaria will not get it again” Dr Jane Jones, Health Protection Agency
    They also tend to stay with friends and family rather than in hotels or resorts, and so are exposed to the same risk of contracting the disease as local people.
    Professor Peter Chiodini, who heads the HPA's malaria reference laboratory, said the figures - released on World Malaria Day - are a timely reminder for travellers to take precautions against the disease.
    "Anyone who is travelling to a country where malaria is present should take travel advice and appropriate medication.
    "Even people living in Britain visiting the country in which they were born or grew up, or have previously visited, are not immune from malaria and should take precautions."

    Second biggest killer
    Malaria is a devastating disease in the developing world, accounting for 20% of childhood deaths in Africa.

    Malaria facts
    There are several different types of malaria, but most deaths are caused by Plasmodium falciparum
    Malaria is the world's second biggest killer after tuberculosis
    Malaria is spread by mosquito bites
    It cannot be spread directly from human to human
    A billion of the world's population is at risk
    In 2008, 247 million cases of malaria with almost 1 million deaths were recorded
    The societies and economic development of the world's poorest nations are severely affected
    Only tuberculosis kills more people worldwide.
    Malaria is spread by mosquitoes in tropical areas but it cannot be transmitted directly from person to person.
    The symptoms include a flu-like illness, fever, shaking, headache, muscle aches and tiredness, as well as nausea, vomiting and diarrhoea.
    Dr Jane Jones, head of the HPA's travel and migrant health section, says while malaria is a potentially deadly disease, it is also one that is almost completely preventable.
    "Anyone who is planning to travel to a tropical destination should always seek advice from their GP or travel health clinic before their trip.
    "It is a myth that people who have had malaria will not get it again.
    "Our advice is the same for all travellers - you must take anti-mosquito precautions and medication to keep safe."

    Sunday, 24 April 2011

    TUBERCULOSIS: Treating Russian tuberculosis patients suffering from alcoholism

    Posted on 04/20/11

    Alcoholic TB patients disproportionately live in rural areas.

    In the district of Tomsk, Russia, between one-half and one-third of people living with tuberculosis (TB) suffer from alcoholism, with a majority of these people binge drinking alcohol upwards of three or more times a week. For people suffering from a potentially fatal and highly contagious disease, addiction manifests in irregular medication use--which can lead to drug-resistant strains of TB--and an increased risk of HIV co-infection. All of these factors have left this Siberian region of just over a million people with the unfortunate distinction of having some of the world’s highest TB and alcohol consumption rates.
    In response, PIH-Russia, Brigham and Women’s Hospital’s Division of Global Health Equity, McLean Hospital, and the Tomsk TB-Alcohol Working Group implemented an initiative aimed at curbing those numbers. The six-year clinical trial—called IMPACT—will conclude in June 2011.
    Treating tuberculosis and preventing its spread in this isolated region historically posed seemingly insurmountable challenges for health care workers in Tomsk. In 1998, the government of this remote Russian province partnered with PIH to bolster the efforts of the local health system. With proven results treating TB in Peru, PIH was well equipped to meet a similar challenge in central Russia.
    While TB rates in the region have continued to decline in the past decade, shockingly widespread alcoholism rates threaten to reverse those trends.
    Even without the factor of TB, alcoholism is a major concern. According to “Alcohol and cause-specific mortality in Russia,” an article published in the medical journal Lancet in 2009, 52 percent of deaths in people aged 15-54 are associated with alcohol abuse. In fact, twelve of the top 20 causes of death in Russia are alcohol related, killing more than 300,000 people in the country annually.
    “Heavy drinking has a long tradition in Russia. This has led many commentators to argue that it is so deep-rooted as to be impossible to tackle,” writes Dr. Namvar Zohoori, lead author of Monitoring Health Conditions in the Russian Federation. “Roughly 70 percent of men and 45 percent of women drink alcohol,” he states in the report.
    Roughly 20 percent of men binge drink more than 100 grams (3.5 oz, or roughly seven mixed drinks) of alcohol per day.
    The problem is so pervasive that between 1991 and 2001 life expectancy among men fell from 63.5 years to 58.9 years. To put that in perspective, men in the US live to 75 on average. Estimates associate Alcohol with approximately one-third of all deaths in the country.
    Prior to this intervention, surprisingly little to nothing was being done in the public sector to address this crisis.

    Startling numbers from Russia:
    Over half deaths of people aged 15-54 are related to alcohol abuse
    20 percent of men binge drink more than 100 grams (3.5 oz, or roughly seven mixed drinks) of alcohol per day
    “The longstanding failure to integrate treatment for alcoholism into the primary care of TB patients suffering from both diseases represents a missed opportunity with serious clinical and public health implications,” says PIH’s Dr. Sonya Shin.
    In 2007, PIH’s Russia-based project, Партнеры во имя здоровья, began integrating alcohol treatment into 200 patients’ tuberculosis regimens. Since TB treatment requires between six and 24 months of daily doses of medication (depending on the severity of the case), the time and effort required to provide treatment is enough to also simultaneously address alcohol addiction.
    Because patients with aggressively contagious strains of TB are often quarantined for the first few months of treatment, PIH-Russia and Tomsk’s TB-focused clinicians created treatment communities within the hospital setting.
    “To our knowledge, this is the first study to examine the feasibility of delivering alcohol treatment as part of routine TB care and to assess this treatment model’s impact on both TB and alcohol outcomes,” says Dr. Shin. “If proven feasible and effective, this treatment model could be adapted for alcohol dependant TB patients.”
    In order to determine how best to confront TB infections induced or worsened by alcohol, clinicians tested to see if patients addicted to alcohol were more likely to complete an anti-TB drug regimen if they were also taking an opioid that reduces a patient’s craving for alcohol called naltrexone.

    Patients were given one of four randomized treatments:
    Oral naltrexone + Brief therapy during treatment + TB medication regime
    Brief counseling intervention + TB medication regime
    Naltrexone + Brief therapy and brief counseling during treatment + TB medication regime

    TB medication regime
    Under the watchful eye of nurses or clinicians responsible for supervising the administration of TB drugs, patients received naltrexone for six months in conjunction with directly observed therapy for tuberculosis.
    Although naltrexone is approved for the treatment of alcoholism in Russia, access to this medication is scarce and primarily used for heroin addiction.

    Staff take samples from TB patients regularly.
    “At the time of signing the consent form, none of the 200 patients knew which group they will be assigned,” says Viktoriya Livchits, PIH-Russia’s research coordinator. “A number of the patients had some experience being treated for alcoholism.”
    “In the end, all of the patients liked talking to their doctors and would recommend counseling interventions to other patients.”
    While researchers will continue working with the data for months before publishing, it is safe to say that the program was a success—both for the patients who received care and for the cadre of health care workers trained to simultaneously address TB and alcoholism.
    That is not to say the program did not run into a few glitches. Local physicians were initially worried about an increased work burden, while patients were hesitant to participate.
    In Russia, patients pay out-of-pocket for drug and alcohol addiction services and they are required to register with the government’s Narcology Services department upon entering rehab. Registration can result in difficulty seeking employment, employment loss, and restrictions in owning or driving a car.
    Men and women enrolled in this clinical trial were not registered with the government’s narcology department.
    “Suffering from alcoholism and chronic medical illness further contributes to a cycle of poverty, displacement and socioeconomic disempowerment that often makes recovery unattainable, even for the most motivated patients,” says Dr. Shin.
    “The decrease in overall alcohol consumption will improve TB outcomes and decrease HIV risk behavior,” continues Dr. Shin. “Ideally the patient is able to break his or her dependency on alcohol as well.”
    In the end, nearly all 200 participants saw the program through from beginning to end.
    “The study was challenging,” says Dr. Shin. “Nonetheless, our experiences implementing this care taught us the necessity of working within cultural contexts, delivering services as an integral component of treatment for other chronic medical conditions, employing community health workers, and accompanying our patients through each step of alcohol treatment.”

    Tuberculosis Complex Drug Resistance Pattern and Identification of Species Causing Tuberculosis in the West and Centre Regions of Cameroon


    Data on the levels of resistance of Mycobacterium tuberculosis complex (MTBC) strains to first line anti-tuberculosis drugs in Cameroon, and on the species of MTBC circulating in the country are obsolete. The picture about 10 years after the last studies, and 6 years after the re-organisation of the National Tuberculosis (TB) Control Programme (NTBCP) is not known.

    The study was conducted from February to July 2009 in the Centre and West regions of Cameroon. A total of 756 suspected patients were studied. MTBC species were detected by the standard Ziehl-Neelsen staining method. Bacterial susceptibility to the first line drugs [isoniazid (INH), rifampicin (RIF), ethambutol (EMB) and streptomycin (SM)] were performed on cultures using the indirect proportion method. MTBC species were identified by standard biochemical and culture methods.

    Of the 756 suspected patients, 154 (20.37%) were positive by smear microscopy. Of these, 20.77% were HIV patients. The growth of Mycobacterium was observed with the sputa from 149 (96.75%) subjects. All the isolates were identified as either M. tuberculosis or M. africanum. Among these, 16 (10.73%) were resistant to at least one drug (13.3% for the West region and 8.1% for the Centre). The initial resistance rates were 7.35% for the Centre region and 11.29% for the West region, while the acquired resistance rates were 16.66% (1/6) for the Centre region and 23.07% (3/13) for the West. Within the two regions, the highest total resistance to one drug was obtained with INH and SM (2.68% each). Multidrug-resistance (MDR) was observed only in the West region at a rate of 6.67%. No resistance was recorded for EMB.

    M. tuberculosis and M. africanum remain the MTBC species causing pulmonary TB in the West and Centre regions of Cameroon. Following the re-organisation of the NTBCP, resistance to all first line anti-TB drugs has declined significantly (p < 0.05 for West; and p < 0.01 for Centre) in comparison to previous studies. However, the general rates of anti-TB drug resistance remain high in the country, underscoring the need for greater enforcement of control strategies.

    TUBERCULOSIS: Four-year badger tuberculosis vaccination plan for UK

    20 Apr 2011 The National Trust in the UK has announced it will begin a vaccination programme of badgers in an attempt to control bovine tuberculosis in the UK.

    Four-year badger tuberculosis vaccination plan for UK
    A spokesman for the trust, which owns several farms in hot-spot areas, said the four-year programme aimed to demonstrate an alternative to badger culling as way of tackling bovine TB in cattle. The vaccinations will begin in May with 18 tenant farmers involved. The programme will last until 2015 and will cover an area of 20 square kilometres on the trust’s Killerton estate in Devon.
    The administration of the vaccine to the badgers will be carried out by trained and licensed experts from the Food and Environment Research Agency at a cost of £80,000 a year.
    Badgers will be caught in live traps, without being harmed, injected with the vaccine and then marked so that they are not given the vaccine twice during a trapping operation.
    Mark Harold, director for the National Trust’s south west region said that he recognised cattle-to-cattle transmission of bovine TB, as well as badgers infecting cattle, needed to be tackled. “In many areas of the UK there are clearly practical problems in implementing an effective cull of badgers to reduce bovine TB in cattle. In these instances, vaccination of badgers would appear to be the most effective ways of controlling the wildlife reservoir of the disease,” said Mr Harold.
    With the advent of oral vaccines, this approach could be significantly cheaper too.
    A spokesman for the trust, which owns several farms in hot-spot areas, said the four-year programme aimed to demonstrate an alternative to badger culling as way of tackling bovine TB in cattle. The vaccinations will begin in May with 18 tenant farmers involved. The programme will last until 2015 and will cover an area of 20 square kilometres on the trust’s Killerton estate in Devon.
    The administration of the vaccine to the badgers will be carried out by trained and licensed experts from the Food and Environment Research Agency at a cost of £80,000 a year.
    Badgers will be caught in live traps, without being harmed, injected with the vaccine and then marked so that they are not given the vaccine twice during a trapping operation.
    Mark Harold, director for the National Trust’s south west region said that he recognised cattle-to-cattle transmission of bovine TB, as well as badgers infecting cattle, needed to be tackled. “In many areas of the UK there are clearly practical problems in implementing an effective cull of badgers to reduce bovine TB in cattle. In these instances, vaccination of badgers would appear to be the most effective ways of controlling the wildlife reservoir of the disease,” said Mr Harold.
    With the advent of oral vaccines, this approach could be significantly cheaper too.