Solve poverty by simply giving out money


There are all sorts of things very poor people living in poor countries don’t have. They lack secondary-school educations, usually, and good medical care. They lack steady work and life insurance, bank accounts and competent legal representation, adequate fertilizer for their crops, adequate protein in their diets, reliable electricity, clean water, indoor plumbing, low-interest loans, incubators for their premature babies, vaccinations and good schools for their children. But the central thing they lack is money. That is what makes them, by definition, poor: International aid organizations define the “very poor” as those who live on less than a dollar a day. Despite this, the global fight that governments and nongovernmental organizations have waged against poverty in the developing world has focused almost entirely on changing the conditions in which the poor live, through dams and bridges and other massive infrastructure projects to bring commerce and electricity to the countryside, or the construction and staffing of schools and clinics, or subsidizing fertilizer and medicine, or giving away mosquito nets or cheap portable water filters. In the last decade, however, the governments of the nations where most of the world’s poorest actually live have begun to turn to an idea that seems radical in its simplicity: Solve poverty and spur development by simply giving out money.

more from Drake Bennett at The Boston Globe here.