Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Reaction paper on Poverty Reduction

“…Development means increasing the capacity of people to influence their future. It thus involves being, as well as doing. It means that projects and programs not only need to accomplish physical and concrete changes, but need to do so in such a way that people have a greater capacity to choose and respond to these changes…,” as Coralie Bryant and Louise White define the word “development” in the book Managing Development in the Third World. This is the definition that I see related to the articles. Development is empowerment of the people not just through economic development wherein resources should be monitored if it had reached the disenfranchised, but also through social development so that they have the capacity to choose, and plan for them. Through involvement in the community, this will help boast their self-esteem and self worth because they will think that although they are poor, they could still help. They would have a sense of purpose. And lastly is the good quality of governance, transparent wherein the poor are allowed to interact with society and their voice are being heard. This empowerment will affect their future.
In a world where the rich continues to gain more wealth and the disfranchised, deprived of the rights and needs, continues to suffer as a victim of unequal distribution of wealth and power, it is nice to know that certain agencies are concerned in the reduction of poverty in the world. According to the article Fighting Poverty in Asia and the Pacific, almost 900 million are poor in the whole world and most of them are from Asia and the Pacific.
But, first of all, how do we say that a person is poor? How is poverty measured?
Before, the Asian Development Bank (ADB) studies on poverty relied on the income level, wherein those who endure on less than $1 a day suffer from extreme poverty but now they had redefined the meaning of poverty to generate a greater intervention in the lives of the disenfranchised. Now, poverty is measured in terms of the degree of access to the basic needs given like education, health care, nutrition, water and sanitation as well as employment and wages. It also implies that with the new definition, poverty is also measured on the deprivation from opportunities that a person is entitled.
As I see the development planning on the poverty reduction strategy, I noticed that ADB used the critical planning theory According to this theory, first, “the planners redefine the problem” (Benveniste, 1989) by reconstructing and broadening the definition of poverty. The revised definition helped to identify the needs and clears the aspect on which the poor are deprived of. If income level would only be the basis maybe economic growth would only be given and focused which is not enough. But with the revised definition, in the three pillars – aside from sustainable economic growth; social development and macroeconomic management and good governance were focused as well. Under economic growth, I learned that higher female employment decreases the population growth rate because they have now divided attentions and are now focused on their career. They see pregnancy as a barrier to their work. So, like in the developed countries, the more the educated the women, the more focused on the career and employment, the lesser in population growth rate, the lesser children to feed, the more convenient. I agree with what ADB concluded, “growth can reduce poverty by generating employment and incomes and labor intensive growth can reduce it even faster. Moreover, in terms of economic development, ADB also used neo-classical theory.
Rostow’s Modernization theory says, “The first outcome of a pure or even modified neo-classical position is that there should be as little state intervention in the economy as possible.”(Benveniste, 1989). ADB subjects that the function of private sector be increased and the government should shift from owner to regulator. It does imply that the government should lessen its intervention. Secondly, “in an ideal neo-classical world, intervention should only occur in order to remove price distortions.” (Benveniste, 1989) ADB says that however, government should still monitor the social impacts of privatization to see and to check that the programs are properly implemented. There is still a little intervention by only in the assessment stage wherein it monitors if these private sector has helped the poor, if the services have reached the disenfranchised. Lastly, “in terms of international trade, neo-classicist advocate Free Trade in line with comparative advantage.” (Benveniste, 1989) ADB explained that effective regulatory framework is important to promote competition but the services are should be monitored if they are fully delivered to the poor.
Another aspect that I see in the economic aspect is the growth in regional and sub regional cooperation which President Gloria Arroyo focused in her recently State of the Nation Address (SONA 2006).
Second, I say that ADB used the critical planning theory because it is concerned with the “distribution of power in society and the extent to which planning reflects this distribution of power” (Benveniste, 1989). The other part of the twin pillars of pro-poor is social development. I agree that human capital should be developed because the poor has no asset but their selves alone. They should be empowered. It has to be developed through education. These people should be motivated to study and improve their selves’ continuously. This has been the focus of developed countries like Korea. I’ve learned from the book The Rise of Korean Economy by Byung-Nak Song about the Confucian ethic which stresses continues self improvement through formal and informal education, training, discipline, and research and development. I had proven that this has been one of the values or norms of the Koreans when I had a Korean tutee who was already 29 years old but still wants a tutor. He was already 4 years here in the Philippines and I could say that he speaks English well but the only problem is the accent. According to him, he wants to improve his self so his salary would increase. Like him, Koreans have this mentality that’s why by improving the human and social capital, the country also improves. Social capital development is also needed through increasing their opportunities and participation in the community or society works so that power is also distributed to the poor. But this should be done in incremental steps. I consider the view on the poor on the advocacy planning theory, wherein they are incapable of planning for themselves (Benveniste, 1989) that’s why they should be oriented and also empowered. They should not be oppressed or intimidated. ADB suggests that antidiscrimination legislation, land reform, security of property, tenure rights, and accessible justice system. In Gender and Development, improving the status of women is important. Like what I’ve learned in the NGO in Sorsogon where I held my practicum, there should be Gender Awareness Program wherein the women are informed of their rights. This will lessen cases of abuses and battered wives. It is also a fact that women who have jobs have voice in the family compared to those without who are more prone to abuses. Poverty is also one of the reasons why husbands had short tempers and they can easily hit their wives and children because of certain problems like financial issues. Therefore, poor women should also be given job opportunities.
Lastly, in critical planning theory the planner works as “political actors in close partnership with those political and economic organizations that represent the interest of the disfranchised” (Benveniste, 1989), ADB says that good quality of governance is crucial to the poverty reduction. There should also be equitable distribution of resources and monitoring and assessments if the services are delivered to the poor. When it comes to project implemented there should be evaluation and follow up. It should be a cycle – construction of policy, program or project – implementation – assessment and evaluation. The cycle goes on. If a policy doesn’t work, reconstruct, implement and then evaluate again.
A triumph in poverty reduction depends on the country’s administration and policy implementation. Laws and policies implemented in the national level should be implemented more strictly in the local level. Private sectors and NGO’s that are interested in the poverty reduction are also a great help. United efforts of countries to reduce poverty would never be in vain.
Some of these things, I had learned from my Development Studies 151, Policy Formulation and Project Development.

Other sources:
Benvenister, Guy (1989). Mastering the Politics of Planning: Crafting Credible Plans and Policies That Make a Difference. San Francisco: John Wiley & Sons pp.56-86
Coralie Bryant and Louise White(1982). Managing Development in the Third World. Boulder, Colorado: Westview Press.p15
Holmes, Ronald(1995). Development and Underdevelopment. Manila:De La Salle University Press. Pp19-27
Song, Byung-Nak(2003). The Rise of the Korean Economy. Oxford University Press.

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