Poverty: a definition
- The most widely accepted definition of "poor" is a person who lives on less than $2 a day, while extreme poverty is classified as living on less than $1 a day (these quantities were set by the World Bank1). However, the real definition (as is felt by humans) is a lot more complex than that.
- The United Nations defines poverty as
“Fundamentally, poverty is a denial of choices and opportunities, a violation of human dignity. It means lack of basic capacity to participate effectively in society. It means not having enough to feed and cloth a family, not having a school or clinic to go to, not having the land on which to grow one’s food or a job to earn one’s living, not having access to credit. It means insecurity, powerlessness and exclusion of individuals, households and communities. It means susceptibility to violence, and it often implies living on marginal or fragile environments, without access to clean water or sanitation”
(UN Statement, June 1998 - signed by the heads of all UN agencies)2
- For other definitions about the different types of poverty that exist, click here
Colombia is by no means the only country facing poverty:
Of course, many countries are in severely harsher situations than Colombia, as depicted below in the map below3:
But Colombia does face about 28-50% of its population living below the international poverty line ($2).
A more up to date list of what percentage of each country is below the poverty line is available here, through the CIA World Factbook.
But it still does have a problem:
With countries like Zambia, that have an estimated 86% of their population living below the poverty line, it is a wonder that I should choose to focus on a country that has less than 1/3 of this problem. According to the CIA World Factbook list, the 2008 figure for Colombia's population living in poverty was 46.8%. Yet this is the same country that ranks 29th on the GDP Purchasing Power Parity list. Colombia's economy grew steadily from 2002 to 2007 under President Uribe's promarket policies and only recently contracted, in 2009, due to the economic crisis(4). How is it that a country with a considerable amount of wealth still has such a large percentage of its population living in poverty? What factors contribute to the perpetuation of this problem?