Poverty should be development’s top priority [Archives:2005/855/Business & Economy]

June 30 2005

By Hamoud al-Hashimi
For the Yemen Times

Poverty is one of the gross violations of human rights. It is a manifestation of economic deterioration and a major challenge development efforts in the developing communities. poverty is defined as the severe shortage in resources so much that the lowest level of individuals' basic needs is not met.

A poor person is someone who depends on an income below the poverty line. Most relevant studies distinguish between two types of poverty: the first type is called temporary poverty which results from causes such as the nature of the existing political and economic systems where qualified people and highly skilled technicians are not employed because of the systems or because of a budget failure. Such people find themselves in a state of poverty because they don't work but they get out of their poverty as soon as they find a job with an income above poverty line.

The second type is the so-called chronic poverty. It is the commonest in the developing countries including Yemen. It is the result of a trait in the person him/herself or because of a general social characteristic such as illiteracy, low education rate, unskilled workforce, and even poor health. Individuals living in chronic poverty do not have the abilities and capacities to get jobs with sufficient income.

Having got a job, they remain in chronic poverty because the income is below the poverty line. Therefore, economic and social troubles plague Yemen, overwhelming the majority of the people with incurable cares. Yemen suffers a weak production infrastructure.

It lacks the elements necessary for growth and economic balance. Agricultural lands cover just 10% of the country's area. the real workforce doesn't exceed 21.9 % of the population. There are also the insufficient financial resources as well as the problem of overpopulation which has hampered Yemen's development and created a population crisis from which women particularly are suffering nowadays.

The 4.8% growth rate increased the population to 19.7 million in 2004, that is, 4 million more than the census of 1997. this number may be doubled in eight years. The fertility rate has risen to 7.1% which is a high percentage. This is due to early marriage, polygamy, and high birth rate.

All this has affected the society and women in particular. Women are the poorest class in Yemen, with less authority and independence although they shoulder many responsibilities. They represent over half of the population (50.4%) and perform on third of the labor most of which is unpaid. Illiteracy spreads among women reaching as high a percentage as 76.3%. women also suffer malnutrition and they are more vulnerable to economic malfunctions that take place in the community.

Statistics show that the population growth rate is 4.7%, inflation rate 75.8%, while the GDP growth rate 2.9%, unemployment reached, according to 1997 census, 9.3%, one third of this rate are women (38,664 women out of 324,618 unemployed persons in Yemen.) the poverty rate is said to be approximately 19%.

All this has impacted the Yemeni citizens especially women. If development is a social, economic, human, cultural phenomenon, it must then be a planned process aimed to affect changes in the social and economic structure of the community by mobilizing and employing all its capabilities to remove the forms of backwardness and create a fair human life for all society's members. This can be realized through the achievement of the following goals:

Achievement of a comprehensive civilized development for people; eradicating poverty; fair distributing of income; reforming economic structures; limiting economic dependence.

The above is the concept of development in a nutshell. It, however, must not neglect the role of women who are one of the country's economic pillars. The development process should help women get out of poverty and to lead their way towards a bright future unperturbed by the evils of poverty.

Many studies indicate that the negative impacts of poverty are not limited to misery and privation in which the poor live. They warn of the incurably indelible marks left on the mental and physical capabilities of the generation of the future as poverty affects much the children of the poor families.

Poverty does not only contradict the basic social and economic rights to which all individuals should have access. It also contradicts the political rights. Poverty means that an individuals cannot get a decent life and also means he/she cannot claim their political rights such as the freedom of expression and political participation because such individuals are in weak economic and social position. They do not have the time to think of their political rights because they are more concerned with their bread.

Poverty is not only a source of social and political tensions. It can be described as the most challenging obstacle to development in Yemen.