“…In A World with So Much Wealth why is There So Much Poverty..”
“The end of poverty?” Is a title of a film produced in 2008 by Philippe Diaz, an activist and also a filmmaker. The film was selected for international critic’s week award at the 2008 Cannes Festival. This film explains why poverty is so widespread by examining the history and impact of economic inequality between the North and the South. North is representing the rich countries, whereas South is representing the poor or developing countries.
According to this film – which involves prominent scholars as interviewees such as: Amartya Sen, William Easterly, Joseph Stiglitz, Susan George, Clifford Cobb and many more – the global poverty can be traced back to the era of colonization and is the unavoidable consequence of the new face of colonization: free market system and policy. World Bank (WB) and International Monetary Fund (IMF) are among the international actors which promote and force the implementation of market liberalization as pre-requisite of the debts they give to poor countries. If the WB and IMF argue that market liberalization is a solution of poverty, this film contends that this policy even deepen the poverty and increase inequality.
With its strong narration, link to the history of colonization in 15th century, several facts they provided, views of prominent scholars, and also views of ordinary people (mostly the poor in developing countries), this film will surprise you in many parts such as: modern slavery that we are still practicing today, how the North exploit the South for their own wealthy, and most importantly on how something that is believed to be a solution of poverty (free market) is actually the cause of poverty itself. Overall, this film will force us to re-think our perception on poverty and all the works that we have been done so far.
There are several key critiques presented in this film; (1) Poverty began with military conquest, colonization, and slavery, (2) Exploitation of the South by the North and the issue of natural resources trap, and (3) Market liberalization exacerbates global poverty and inequality. Overall, this film contends that poverty is caused by the socioeconomic system – or often called structuralist; to differentiate it with individualistic and fatalistic poverty (Feagin 1975, as cited by Hunt 1996: 294).
Collier (2007: 38) contends that in addition to conflict as a trap in the context of poverty, a much more paradoxical trap has been the discovery of valuable natural resources. The surplus from natural resources exports significantly reduces growth, and overtime, countries with large natural end up poorer.
An example from Papua (a province in Indonesia) which is the wealthiest province with its gold mining owned by Freeport McMoran Inc, a US-based company but also listed as the poorest province and the lowest Human Development Index (Sofilda et al 2013: 52). In 1996, Freeport MacMoran, by its own account responsible for about 70% of Papua’s Gross Domestic Product (Leith 2003: 78).
If poverty is more structural rather than individual phenomenon. Can we really end poverty within our current economic system? Can Governments and NGOs solve the problem of poverty if they still work inside the system, often offer uncomprehensive-individual solutions, and even working under the supervision of the WB as a donor? Think again…!! **
Written by: Agung Wasono, March 2016
Collier, P (2007) “The Bottom Billion: Why the Poorest Countries Are Failing and What Can Be Done About It”, Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Diaz, P (2008), The end of poverty?, available at: follow this link (accessed 10 March 2016).
Hunt, Matthew O (1996), The Individual, Society, or Both? A Comparison of Black, Latino, and White Beliefs about the Causes of Poverty, Social Forces, Vol. 75, No. 1, pp: 293-322, available at: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2580766 (accessed 13 March 2016).
Leith, D (2003), The Politics of Power: Freeport in Soehato’s Indonesia, Honolulu: University of Hawai’i Press.
Sofilda, E., Muhammad, Z, H., and Arip, S, S (2013), Human Development and Poverty in Papua Province (An Analysis of Simultaneous Approach on Panel Data Regression), OIDA International Journal of Sustainable Development, Vol 06, No. 6, pp: 51- 60.