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   Portfolios of the Poor
Reviewed by Sudhirendar Sharma
06 Apr 2010

Poor know how to survive

Else, there would be no poor in the world. The fact that there are poor and that their number is consistently growing has been systematically diagnosed in Portfolios of the Poor. From household maid to young car washer and from ubiquitous rickshaw puller to malnourished watchman, there are any number of them around us who survive on less than $2 a day and constitute about 40 per cent of the world's poor. The authors contend that if you've never had to survive on an income so small, it is hard to imagine how they do.

Over a period of six years, the authors maintained annual financial diaries of some 300 households in villages and slums in India, South Africa and Bangladesh to unravel the financial complexities of the lives of the poor. The diaries reveal that most poor households do not live hand to mouth because they rarely consume every penny of what they earn, knowing well that they don't literally earn $2 every day.

The book brings out incredible financial wisdom of the poor. Not having enough money may not be bad, not able to manage whatever money they have is worse. The hard evidence collected through diaries dispels several common notions on poverty, mocking at policy planners who do not see poverty beyond the conventional cause-effect paradigm. No wonder, the anti-poverty strategies have rarely worked to alleviate poverty.

Through painstaking research, Daryl Collins, Jonathan Morduch and their co-authors Staurt Rutherford and Orlanda Ruthven provide fresh perspective on looking at poverty alongside new methods to fight it.

Portfolios of the Poor: How the World's Poor Live on $2 a Day
By Daryl Collins, Jonathan Morduch, Stuart Rutherford & Orlanda Ruthven, Permanent Black, 283 pages, Rs 325


 
 Other books reviewed by Dr Sudhirendar Sharma
Features > Book Shelf
 
Spoiling Tibet
Posting Date: 28 Feb 2014

A Journey in the Future of Water
Posting Date: 28 Feb 2014

Yamuna Manifesto
Posting Date: 28 Feb 2014

 
Corruption Watch

The bad news is that corruption has not only sustained but has grown in size and stature in the country. With scams being a regular feature, seventy per cent respondents in a survey have rightfully opined that corruption has continued to increase in India. One in every two interviewed admit having paid a bribe for availing public services during last one year. Transparency International's latest survey reveals that the political parties top the chart for the most corrupt public institutions, followed by police force and legislatures. No wonder, India continues to make new records on the global corruption arena!

The shocking revelation is that the health and education sectors haven't remained untouched by this phenomenon. With 5th and 6th positions respectively for these sectors on the public perception chart on corruption, corruption has crept insidiously into these sectors of hope for the masses. With bureaucracy being fourth in the list of corrupt institutions in the country, corruption seems to have been non-formally institutionalized with little hope if public services would ever be effective in the country. With economic growth having literally institutionalized corruption, are we now expecting corrupt to be socially responsible - a different CSR.

Poor. Who?

Not giving 'aid' to India is one thing but calling it 'rich' is quite another. If one in three of the world's malnourished children live in India, what does average daily income of $3 indicate? It perhaps means that there is a relative decline in poverty - people are 'less poor' than what they used to be in the past. But having crossed the World Bank arbitrary threshold of $2 a day does not absolve the 'developed' countries of their obligation to part with 0.7 per cent of their Gross National Income in development aid. Should this three-decade old figure not be revised?  

An interesting debate in UK's House of Commons delved on future of development assistance by the British Government. While prioritizing limited resources has been a concern, there has been no denying the fact that development aid must be guided towards tangible gains over a short period of time to start with. There are difficult choices for elected governments to make - should they invest in long-term primary education or in short-term university scholarships? Which of these will bring gains and trigger long-term transformation in the society. As politicians continue to be divided on the matter, poverty persists!!   

Lead View
People, Partition and the Pain
By Rina Mukherji
15 Aug 2013

Dr Jayanti Basu's book analyzes the complex feelings of hatred and longing for the homeland that have contributed to shaping the personalities of a generation of people who were forced to ..
Book Shelf

Yamuna Manifesto

A Journey in the Future of Water

Spoiling Tibet

On Western Terrorism
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