It has always been an illusive game of promises for the political leadership to promise the fight against poverty as priority number one when in fact they mean the eradication of their own poverty. In their campaigns they even allocate blame for the poverty conditions to their predecessors. Sadly, hapless citizens are hoodwinked by the political rhetoric and accept to turn innocent citizens into enemies.

Like many words, it is unfortunate the word poverty has been over used to a point of losing meaning in recent years. It has simply become a political tool for winning votes during an election. It is not only politicians who are to blame but also some philanthropic organizations. However politicians are the worst for promising citizens the fight against poverty when in fact they mean their own poverty reduction.

The example is when a politician amasses worth immediately after getting voted into a political position. It is common knowledge that government uses subsidized farm inputs bought with tax money for political patronage. Governments attempts to use delivery of social equity projects for political mileage. When this happens, the donor communities become surrogates as some of social equity projects are donor funded.

While the goal of reducing poverty has gained international commitment, it is imperative to realize that the causes of poverty differ from one country to another. Therefore it is not correct for one country to compare its expenditure pattern to another. It is like saying a goat has four legs therefore every four legged animal is a goat. It is not a general rule that poverty solutions that works for one country will work for another country.

Reducing poverty requires specific country approaches. It is not true that the effects of the Framework Convention of the Control of Tobacco will have similar repercussions to all poor developing states. This is because poverty situations vary depending upon many factors such as age, gender, family, occupation, region, ethnic groups and social strata etc. This means, it is not possible to talk about poverty reduction without making reference to the particular social grouping.

It is well known that there are a number of factors that aggravate poverty conditions in a country such as fickle economies characterized by poor tax revenue collection, low productivity, and poor governance
poor social equity networks often captured by political patronage/marginalization, inefficient service delivery such as power utility, telephone, security and bureaucracy, limited access to economic opportunities based on political affiliation, ethnicity, gender and policy failures.

The moral lesson is to match the cause of poverty with solution. It is not the amount of aid inflows that matter but making sure the cause of poverty is identified. Unless the causes are known and solutions found, it is impossible for poverty in Africa to disappear. What is required is national consensus across the political divide on the perceived causes of poverty…

For instance if poverty is caused by lack of social equity, the possible solution is empowerment of local authorities. Similarly, if poverty is caused by inefficient delivery of social services, major efforts should be directed towards the improvement of local government capabilities. If poverty is caused by a pro-rich bias in the budgeting system, there should be need to elect servant leaders.

There is no established nexus between economic growth and poverty reduction. Economic development is key and lock as this includes employment, production, education, health, infrastructure and trade including free market economies and competitive rivalries.

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ZIMENE MUMAKONDA

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