Posts Tagged ‘poverty’

A sign of the times

March 12, 2014
admission charge for entering a church, a bar of soap

admission charge for entering a church, a bar of soap

Admission charge for entering a church, a bar of soap, not a symbol that those who enter are unclean, but as a contribution to a local food bank.

Food banks are the fastest growing sector of the economy in the UK, a clear sign of the failure of the evil ConDem government. Hit the poor and elderly, the vulnerable and disabled, help the rich get richer and take a softy softly approach to tax dodgers.

snouts in the trough

snouts in the trough

When Members of Parliament debated poverty and food banks, the chamber of the House of Commons was almost empty, when it came to discussing their own salaries, it was full to overflowing. Business as usual, pigs with their snouts in the trough.

It is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than a rich man to enter heaven.

    Matthew 19:23-25: And Jesus said to His disciples, “Truly I say to you, it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. “Again I say to you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.” When the disciples heard this, they were very astonished and said, “Then who can be saved?”

    Mark 10:24-26: The disciples were amazed at His words. But Jesus answered again and said to them, “Children, how hard it is to enter the kingdom of God! “It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.” They were even more astonished and said to Him, “Then who can be saved?”

Top Story in War On The Working Poor (Thursday 13 March 2013).

April Fool’s Day: Clocks set back to Dickensian times

April 1, 2013
David Cameron

David Cameron

ConDem cuts

ConDem cuts

A little late night political philosophy: it’s not enough to fight Tories so Labour get in as Tory-lite, we have to rewrite the agenda. — Mark Thomas

I want to wake up & discover that Tories’ decision to destroy welfare state & impoverish millions is elaborate April Fool. — Laurie Penny

When the social contract is broken, the people must revolt. — John Locke

Today is April Fool’s Day, or All Fools Day, the day when the hated and reviled ConDem Government set the clocks back to the 19th Century and ushered in a world familiar to Charles Dickens, a world of child labour, poverty, the workhouse and the Poor Laws.

It is day when the rich were given tax cuts and to pay for it the poor saw their benefits cut.

People who are at death’s door are told they are fit for work and have their Disability Benefits taken away.

It was the day Parliamentarians saw an increased their expenses by 25%.

It was the day when the poor were told they have to pay a Bedroom Tax, £14 a week for the first spare bedroom, £25 a week for more than one spare bedroom.

When the Window Tax was brought in, people bricked up their windows. What do we do now, brick up our bedrooms?

Councils are now levying Council Tax on the poor. A measure voted through by councillors who when not in bed with developers, are voting to increase their own allowances, after all, it is hard work working on behalf of developers, screwing local businesses and the local community.

Ian Duncan Smith, a man who has not done an honest day’s work in his life, who sponges off his wealthy wife, says these measures are to help the poor out of poverty.

Note: A petition has been launched calling for Iain Duncan Smith to survive on £53 a week. Please sign and pass to others.

Not content with impoverishing millions, today is also the day the ConDem Government privatise the NHS.

And if this was not enough, Legal Aid is also to be cut.

The best spineless Ed Miliband can offer, apart from infantile public schoolboy sound bites, is Tory Lite.

The only opposition in Parliament is Caroline Lucas and a handful of decent back benchers.

Ignorance and greed

March 13, 2011
Demonstrations in Dhaka these days, supporting Yunus

Demonstrations in Dhaka these days, supporting Yunus

I was teaching in one of the universities while the country was suffering from a severe famine. People were dying of hunger, and I felt very helpless. As an economist, I had no tool in my tool box to fix that kind of situation.

I went to the bank and proposed that they lend money to the poor people. The bankers almost fell over.
They explained to me that the bank cannot lend money to the poor.

Mohammad Yunus, the 2006 Nobel Peace Laureate, is one of the persons I most admire in today’s world. That’s why I choose him to be one of my CHARACTER OF THE WEEK in this blog.

A man who made a gigantic difference in this world by creating the microcredit, Yunus now have to face ignorance and greed.

Some alarming events have unfolded over the last days. This reached a climax on March 8th when the High Court of Bangladesh upheld the Central Bank’s decision to remove Professor Yunus from his post as Managing Director of the Grameen Bank, which he founded over three decades ago.

Poor people are a like bonsai tree, a little tree.

You pick the seed of the tallest tree in the forest and take the best seed out of it, and plant it in a flower pot. You get a tiny little tree, we call it a bonsai.

Nothing wrong with the seed, you’ve got the best seed possible.

Nothing wrong with the tree, because you actually picked the tallest tree in the forest.

But actually it grows this far… why? Because we put them in the flower pot. The base.

We need to change the base.

Next Tuesday the ultimate decision about Prof. Yunus’ position as Managing Director of Grameen Bank will be taken by the Supreme Court. If the verdict is negative, Prof. Yunus would have to leave Grameen Bank and probably also his house. Yunus Centre could be shut down in order to block international communication and Prof. Yunus might even be arrested if he continues fighting after the verdict.

The only weapon that we currently have and that the government doesn’t, is international awareness and presence in media and people’s heads!

Defending the integrity of Professor Yunus, and fighting for him to remain involved in the Grameen Bank and ensuring a smooth transition, is crucial in order to preserve the independence of this unique model which has helped lift over 8 million people out of poverty in Bangladesh.

Poverty is unnecessary.

Published by Paulo Coelho on his blog.

I heard this on the BBC World Service a few days ago. I am baffled. Why is there an attempt to remove Mohammad Yunus from the Grameen Bank? He has done a lot of good. Or is it that the rich and powerful in corrupt Bangladesh feel threatened when the poor are empowered?

Like Paulo Coelho, although I have never met Mohammad Yunus, he has a great deal of respect from me.

More information from Friends of Grameen.

- Muhammad Yunus and social enterprise
Creating a World Without Poverty

Shame on Santa Barbara

January 23, 2011
homeless in Santa Barbara

homeless in Santa Barbara

They’ll be sitting with their backs to half the people coming and going on the sidewalk. They’ll have half the potential contacts with the public. It might not be financially beneficial for them. — Marck Aguilar, Santa Barbara redevelopment agency

Santa Barbara in California has a sizeable homeless population. How then do they help them? Follow the example of the Church Urban Fund in the UK, provide seed money to help homeless and others less fortunate than ourselves to improve their self-esteem, empower them. Err, no. $50,000 is to be spent on reorientating park benches in the streets so those who sit there have less opportunity for eye contact with passers by and remove the backs of many of the benches so they are less comfortable to sit on.

This mean-spirited proposal has come out of the Santa Barbara businesses community. This is their Big Idea of how to deal with a homelessness problem, a problem that is to them, not to the people who lack a roof over their head.

Those opposed are not opposed on the grounds that this does nothing to help people who are homeless but because it may ‘flush’ them elsewhere!

Four homeless have already died on the streets of Santa Barbara this year, 32 died on the streets last year.

It does not do to have people on the streets, offending those who wish to go shopping.

The land on which Santa Barbara Zoo lies was donated by a wealthy heiress who when her husband died and having no children, converted her mansion into a home for the homeless during the Great Depression. Homeless people converged on her mansion because they heard that they would be fed and housed. She wanted Santa Barbara to carry on her tradition of helping the homeless. Her name has been wiped from the zoo and from the history of Santa Barbara.

Santa Barbara should be renamed Santa Barbaric. The people of Santa Barbaric should hang their heads in shame.

Santa Barbara seeks to turn the tables on the homeless
Tackling poverty together
Homeless at Christmas

Tackling poverty together

January 19, 2011

When people suffer from material poverty and deprivation they don’t just suffer the lack of a few things, they lack a sense of confidence, they lack a sense of having a stake in society around them. They feel that they’ve fallen off the edge and they’re dispensable. –- Rowan Williams, Archbishop of Canterbury

Charles Dickens exposed poverty in Victorian England. We may have the modern welfare state but poverty has not gone away. With the slash and burn of public services, the massive cuts in welfare and housing budgets, followed by local council cuts and rising unemployment, poverty can only get worse.

The figures are shocking.

Unemployment benefits were when introduced, 20% of average earnings. Sufficient to get by on, but not to live the life of Riley. They remained at this level all through the Thatcher years. Under New Labour, Unemployment Benefit fell in real terms, now only half of what is was.

It is not only Unemployment Benefits, the value of State Pension has also fallen. Compared with Europe, British Pensions fall well down the league tables.

Inflation is a poor indication of how people in poverty are faring. Money is spent disproportionately on food and fuel. Food and fuel prices have risen at a disproportionately faster rate than inflation. For households in fuel poverty winter can mean a choice of heat or eat.

Those on benefits are hit with a double whammy. The real value of benefits has halved, household expenditure has risen much faster than inflation.

– 13.2 million in the UK live in poverty of which 3.8 million are children
– 5.8 million have household income 1/3 below the poverty line
– poverty shortens lives and creates disadvantage
– it is getting worse

3.8 million children in poverty. That is 1 in 3 children are in poverty, one of the highest rates of child poverty in the industrialised world!

Poverty is complex and it is not just about money. Whilst poverty may be rooted in lack of money, it effects the quality of life. People feel disenfranchised, marginalised, no longer able to function or participate in society, their self worth falls. They become angry, addicted to drugs and alcohol. Families suffer, diet suffers, education suffers, families become dysfunctional. Many parents lack basic parenting skills. Children suffer at school, not just bullying, but they lack the ability to communicate, lack basic social skills. Often do not know their own name, do not know how to use a knife and fork, let alone possess table manners.

In the wealthiest area of London, a man will now have a life expectancy of 88 years. A few miles away in one of the capital’s poorer wards, male life expectancy is 71 years. [Fair Society, Healthy Lives Report, February 2010]

In the richest 10% of neighbourhoods, 59.8% of under-21s went to university, compared to 31.9% in the poorest 10% of neighbourhoods. [Office for National Statistics, 2010]

Children from deprived backgrounds are nearly a year behind their peers in language skills by the age of five. [Sutton Trust Report, Feb 2010]

Children living in disadvantaged families are over three times as likely to suffer from mental health problems as those in well-off families. [End Child Poverty, 2008]

A father’s income determines his son’s to a greater extent in Britain than in any other wealthy nation, with half of high earners’ ‘economic advantage’ being transmitted to their children. [Organisation for Economic Co-Operation and Development, 2010]

In London homeless people are sleeping in rubbish bins to keep warm!

What is to be done? Jesus reached out to the poor, he associated with riff raff. He said (Matthew 25, 35, 36 & 40):

I was hungry and you gave me something to eat,
I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink,
I was a stranger and you invited me in,
I needed clothes and you clothed me,
I was sick and you looked after me,
I was in prison and you came to visit me

I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.

Faith in the City showed the extent of poverty and deprivation in our inner cities. It was a wake up call. ‘That Marxist report’ as Margaret Thatcher called it led to the establishment of the Church Urban Fund.

Big Government works top down. This apart from providing the basic safety net of the Welfare State (which is being dismantled) does not work. We have to work bottom up. We have to work directly with those effected. We have to empower them.

Give a man fish and I am feeding him all his life. Show him how to fish and he can feed himself.

Church Urban Fund works with local activists, with locally-based church groups. It goes where others dare not tread. It provides seed funding to get local initiatives kick started.

Source Café is a Church Urban Fund funded project in Aldershot. Aldershot by any measure is a deprived area. The town centre is derelict, housing association estates are more like what you would expect in the Third World, unsafe to walk at night and not much safer in the daytime. Kids hang around, drift into violence, thieving, drug dealing, gang culture. Drug dealing is rife in the schools.

Source Café provides a safe environment for kids to hang out. Source Café was established, with the help of Jo Emmett, to provide a safe pace for 14 to 24 year olds. It has progressed beyond a café, to provide anger management, a young mum’s club, after school club. Young people work as volunteers, which helps their people skills and builds self esteem and confidence.

Source Café gets on-going funding, help and support from local churches.

The vision of Church Urban Fund is to see every church, every Christian working with the disadvantaged.

The Budget Deficit is being used as an excuse for slash and burn of public services – closure of libraries, firing of lollipop ladies, scrapping of Bookstart, sell off of our woods and forests, slashing welfare. Historically the Budget Deficit is not huge, yes, it should be reduced,, but at a rate the economy can afford. Were tax-dodgers like Sir Philip Green, Vodafone, Boots etc to pay their taxes there would be no Budget Deficit.

It is not just that the poor are getting poorer or that the number in poverty is on the increase, the gap between rich and poor is widening, the rich are getting richer.

The rich laugh all the way to their offshore banks. The Sunday Times Rich List 2010 has seen a £77 billion increase in wealth for British super rich in one year! That is Britain’s Super Rich have seen wealth rise by one third in one year! And for the likes of Sir Philip Green (or should that be Greed?) do not even pay tax! The rise is easily the largest annual increase in the 22 years that the survey has been carried out!

The IMF has said that if you wish to reduce the risk of financial instability then reduce inequality.

Corporate tax dodgers are now so worried that they are engaging PR consultants to slosh around some greenwash, but no amount of greenwash can hid the fact that they dodge their taxes and it is the poor who pay the price.

Meet n Chat takes place every 1st and 3rd Wednesday of the month at St Peter’s Parish Centre, with occasional speakers. On the 3rd Wednesday of the New Year they hosted a talk by Hilary Elliott, Head of Church Relations from the Church Urban Fund.

St Peter’s contributes to the Soul Café, partly through donation, but mainly through volunteer helpers.

Also see

London 2011: Homeless men forced to sleep in bins

The Dispossessed: The homeless who slide down rubbish chute to their beds

Homeless at Christmas

National Audit Office to investigate UK tax deals with multinationals

Want to avoid financial crises? Then reduce inequality, says the IMF

Sunday Times Rich List 2010: Britain’s richest see wealth rise by one third

Why cuts are the wrong cure

Consultancies Gear Up For Corporate Reputation Fight

Muhammad Yunus and social enterprise

November 7, 2010
Muhammad Yunus and Paulo Coelho

Muhammad Yunus and Paulo Coelho

I’m encouraging young people to become social business entrepreneurs and contribute to the world, rather than just making money. Making money is no fun. Contributing to and changing the world is a lot more fun.

Poor people are a like bonsai tree, a little tree. You pick the seed of the tallest tree in the forest and take the best seed out of it, and plant it in a flower pot. You get a tiny little tree, we call it a bonsai. Nothing wrong with the seed, you’ve got the best seed possible. Nothing wrong with the tree, because you actually picked the tallest tree in the forest. But actually it grows this far … why? Because we put them in the flower pot. The base. Society is the base. And society is so stingy it doesn’t give the poor people the space to grow.

So I say, change the base! If you change the base, anybody will be as tall as anybody else! My belief is poverty is not caused by poor people. Poverty is caused by the system. Poverty is caused by the policies that we pursue.

People can change their own lives, provided they have the right kind of institutional support. They’re not asking for charity, charity is no solution to poverty. Poverty is the creation of opportunities like everybody else has, not the poor people, so bring them to the poor people, so that they can change their lives.

We have created a society that does not allow opportunities for people to take care of themselves because we have denied them those opportunities.

I was teaching in one of the universities while the country was suffering from a severe famine. People were dying of hunger, and I felt very helpless. As an economist, I had no tool in my tool box to fix that kind of situation.

I went to the bank and proposed that they lend money to the poor people. The bankers almost fell over.

They explained to me that the bank cannot lend money to poor people because these people are not creditworthy.

Poverty is unnecessary.

– Muhammad Yunus

Poverty is not natural any more than climate change is natural, or that globalisation is set in stone. All are man made, therefore all can be changed by man. All it takes is will and a paradigm shift in our way of thinking.

The poor are not poor because they are not hard working or lack innovative skills. Try living on a dollar a day or try existing in war-ravaged Iraq, or try living in the West on the meagre handouts from the state for those who are disabled or unemployed.

In the UK the government has today announced that those who are unemployed for more than a year will have to work for nothing. This follows hard on the heals of savage cuts in welfare payments of £7 billion (but it is ok for Vodafone to be let off a £6 billion tax bill). It had earlier been announced that unemployed for more than a year will have their housing payments cut by 10% leading to widespread eviction and homelessness.

It not lack of skills that make people poor, it is the state grinding them down and lack of access to resources. Actions by the UK government are not based on actually asking people want they want, what help they need, it is designed to punish and demonise and denigrate those who are worse off than the rest of us.

Synchronicity: Last week I had a meeting with Prof Adel Sharif at Surrey University. Two names cropped up in our conversation on social enterprise, Muhammad Yunus and Paulo Coelho. On my way home I checked my messages and found a message from Paulo Coelho to say that he and Muhammad Yunus were jointly presenting at a conference on social enterprise, then a few days later I find he has posted on his blog Muhammad Yunus as his character of the week! [see Communication with the Soul of the World]

Also see

Creating a World Without Poverty

Grateful Vodafone executives say a big thank you to Chancellor George Osborne

Ministers defend plan to force jobless to do work

The fisherman and the businessman

September 18, 2010
cartoon tuna

cartoon tuna

There was once a businessman who was sitting by the beach in a small Brazilian village.

As he sat, he saw a Brazilian fisherman rowing a small boat towards the shore having caught quite few big fish.

The businessman was impressed and asked the fisherman, “How long does it take you to catch so many fish?”

The fisherman replied, “Oh, just a short while.”

“Then why don’t you stay longer at sea and catch even more?” The businessman was astonished.

“This is enough to feed my whole family,” the fisherman said.
The businessman then asked, “So, what do you do for the rest of the day?”

The fisherman replied, “Well, I usually wake up early in the morning, go out to sea and catch a few fish, then go back and play with my kids. In the afternoon, I take a nap with my wife, and evening comes, I join my buddies in the village for a drink — we play guitar, sing and dance throughout the night.”

The businessman offered a suggestion to the fisherman.

“I am a PhD in business management. I could help you to become a more successful person. From now on, you should spend more time at sea and try to catch as many fish as possible. When you have saved enough money, you could buy a bigger boat and catch even more fish. Soon you will be able to afford to buy more boats, set up your own company, your own production plant for canned food and distribution network. By then, you will have moved out of this village and to Sao Paulo, where you can set up HQ to manage your other branches.”

The fisherman continues, “And after that?”

The businessman laughs heartily, “After that, you can live like a king in your own house, and when the time is right, you can go public and float your shares in the Stock Exchange, and you will be rich.”

The fisherman asks, “And after that?”

The businessman says, “After that, you can finally retire, you can move to a house by the fishing village, wake up early in the morning, catch a few fish, then return home to play with kids, have a nice afternoon nap with your wife, and when evening comes, you can join your buddies for a drink, play the guitar, sing and dance throughout the night!”

The fisherman was puzzled, “Isn’t that what I am doing now?”

Classic Brazilian story, posted by Paulo Coelho on his blog.

Sadly this is what the World Bank does the world over. It convinces self-sufficient subsistence farmers to grow cash crops not food. Only problem is they do not control either the market for their crops or the price of inputs and they descend into abject poverty.


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