Full Disclosure
September 29, 2006

Your role in poverty alleviation

Part 1

Have you ever stopped to think that the term poverty, which we have used as a part of our regular vocabulary and grown so accustomed to hearing, may very well be ill defined? Isn’t it possible, that the definition of poverty may really have nothing to do with finance, economics or even money? Instead, can’t it be true that poverty may be no more than a mental state, a state of the mind very much independent of how much your pocket is holding at any one time? I stand corrected, but poverty goes way beyond its present conceptualization of how much you have or do not have. So would I then be wrong to say that you can have a lot of money yet still be poor?{{more}}

If this argument is taken to its logical conclusions, we will be able to then understand that the route out of poverty does not mean more money in our pockets. Poverty alleviation should be founded on the development of a consciousness among our people that we can in turn use to better ourselves. This justifies the old adage that we must “teach how to fish and not only give a fish”. Therefore, in 2006, the question must be asked, are we as a people really approaching issues of poverty alleviation in the way we should?

It appears that today, we are living in an extremely selfish environment of “haves” and “have nots”. It also appears that we are increasingly becoming concerned only about the building of one’s self and no more. Whilst this may lead to the financial upgrade of ones self, the exploitative machinery, which must be set in action for purely personal gratification, is tantamount to a refined form of slavery. We sit and speak about unemployment from time to time, but how many persons with an income of over six thousand dollars monthly have at least one full time employee of any sort, or assist an underprivileged child in attending school, or may even want to develop a business to assist two or three young ladies in the village who left school and are unemployed. Yet we entertain the gossip, and it is sure to make headlines when an underprivileged teenage girl gets pregnant. Poverty alleviation really begins where goodwill is permanently resident. Those are the thoughts expressing the ideal direction that we should be heading, but we must begin from our present state.

If one has to measure the poverty existing in the world today, we may say that there is moderate, relative or absolute to extreme poverty. Although the most severe poverty is in the developing world, there is evidence of poverty in every region. In order to justifiably address poverty alleviation and your role, it is important that we define poverty, and identify those who live within that definition. Poverty is regularly defined as a lack of basic requirements to sustain a physically healthy existence – sufficient food and shelter to make possible the physically efficient functioning of the body. By the standard of this definition, the poor may at times be classified as the unemployed, underemployed, the sick and disabled, members of very large families and single parent families who have little means of financial support.

For those of us who thought that poverty alleviation is solely the responsibility of the Government, it is time to accept that, as a citizen of this nation, the duty belongs not just to parliamentarians, but also to every one of us. As the leaders of our own lives, the burden of our neighbors’ well-being should rest on all of our shoulders as a collective. Whilst we as a people have unique experiences as it relates to degrees of poverty, our varying paths chosen in life may dictate how great or small a role we have to play in poverty alleviation. Please note that your role, be it great or small is a

crucial and imperative element in this battle against poverty.

Our impoverishment as a people predates slavery, and is properly posited as an offshoot of the first signs of colonization, as early as the times of the Amerindians. The irony is that in the immediate post-emancipation period our people began an everlasting attempt to unlock a transplanted people who by now were settled in the Caribbean, but who also sadly were the sum formation of an impoverished uprooted and displaced African and East Indian people, many of whom were chained to the poverty of their past. So it may be safe to conclude that we inherited poverty. Other causes of poverty in our nation include, procrastination of our youths, competition instead of cooperation among our people, lack of an eagerness for education and social skills, and individuals’ beliefs, actions and choices.

Poverty reduction and elimination continues to be one of two main priorities of the governing Unity Labor Party as stated clearly in its Manifesto for the 2001 and 2005 General Elections. Education being the other main priority was coupled as a solution to poverty reduction. The focus of the government thus far along with its policies has proven to significantly reduce poverty. We need to now foster that consciousness that would keep our minds afloat.

As we have recently celebrated World Literacy Day, let us remember that learning is a lifelong process. Obtaining an education is part of our role in the process, which seeks to reduce the poverty levels in our communities and nation.

The effects of poverty are far too great a burden for any one family to bear. One effect which continues to affect our economy is the loss of an educated population due to outward migration. The outward migration of which I make reference is that which occurs both from rural to urban areas, and from St. Vincent and the Grenadines to some times seemingly greener pastures. Can we continue to be depressed as a result? As a nation, we have started our urgent and timely journey towards alleviating poverty. The road ahead that leads to freedom from poverty will require the entire Vincentian population to put our hands to the plow. The role of “corporate St. Vincent” in this matrix is yet to be realized. Nevertheless, we may have been born into poverty, but we do have the resilience as a people to stem the tide, and to pass on a legacy of well-being to the many generations of Vincentians to come.