Shifting patterns of poverty demand aid rethink

Number of poor people living in middle-income countries surges

New global development goals are needed to address a surge in the number of poor people living in middle-income countries and renew efforts to eradicate chronic poverty, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation said in a December report.

In a collection of essays from leading development experts, the report says the world must look beyond economic growth which, although critical, is not by itself sufficient to lift 1.2 billion people out of poverty.

“Extreme poverty is not just about living on less than $1.25 a day,” said Erik Solheim chair of the OECD Development Assistance Committee. “Poverty is also about vulnerability, humiliation, discrimination, exclusion and inequity.”

New patterns of economic growth have given rise to a “bottom billion”, or one billion poor people living below the breadline in middle-income countries, notes Andy Sumner, co-director of King’s College London’s International Development Institute.

Half live in the fast-growing economies of India and China, underscoring how rising prosperity can fail to reach significant pockets of the population, yet lead to a reduction in aid flows.

“The poor do not just live in the poorest countries,” noted Sumner, adding that “nothing magically happens” when a state is reclassified as a middle-income country. “Nevertheless, many donors treat countries differently when this happens.”

Decisions on what should follow the millennium development goals, which expire in 2015, should reflect the need for aid and policy to focus not only on the poorest states, but also work to reduce income inequalities in richer nations.

“We need to look at the new and changing geography of poverty,” said Sumner.