Salone News

The use of the word ‘Poverty’

6 November 2007 at 08:55 | 266 views

By Ahmed Ojulla Bangura.

The word ’poverty’ has been irrationally used by scholars and international financial bodies like the World Bank and IMF to categorise socio-economic shocks in many developing economies. The misuse of the word has implicitly encouraged corruption in most developing countries. For example, the Sierra Leone government over the past decade capitalised on World Bank/IMF labelling of Sierra Leone as one of the poorest countries in the world to misappropriate funds and proliferate and spread systemic corruption.

Ideally some countries are not poor in spite of decelerating economic situation. Categorising them as poor should take into consideration a sequence of events. For instance, countries such as Sierra Leone, Nigeria, Angola, DR Congo etc which are naturally endowed are not to be classed as poor in politically orchestrated economic situations but rather as ‘deprived’ countries.

This is evident in the fact that these countries are either exploited by their own systems and institutions or are victims of exploitation by external institutions, ‘club of industrialised states’ and colonial-bilateral countries. On the other hand economies that have no natural endowments but are subjected to foreign or institutionalised economic hazards could be defined as poor while those which are rich or capital rich such as developed countries but in economically bad situation due to either natural disaster or man-made misfortunes like avoidable wars can be called ‘situational’ poor people or ‘crisis poor’.

Apparently, the economy of Sierra Leone, like most African countries, has long since being subjected to exploitation of its vast natural resources (Gold, Bauxite, Iron Ore, Flora, Fauna, Marine and Diamonds etc) by corrupt systems of governance, military disruptions and external exploitation.

Among the resources, diamonds are the most worrying and so unfortunately ‘cursed’ that made the already ‘deprived poor Sierra Leoneans ‘systemically’ poor people. The natural resource exploitation has only made the political elites and their associates comfortable and majority of the citizenry deprived.

Remarkable economic gains from resource rich countries in Africa in particular have benefited those who “belong” and the “Do you know who I ams”. It is ironic to see citizens of resource blessed countries in Africa labelled as poor and trapped in either relative or absolute poverty.

In a very demoralising way, these economies have become AID dependent countries. Such a humiliating approach has undermined independence, incapacitated efforts to development and sustained a psychotic syndrome. It is not surprising to learn that most unpatriotic leaders see Western nations and former colonial dictators as agents of goodwill to sustain their socio-economic and political status quo.

We need to devise a more realistic way of categorising poverty in certain economies to inhibit African leaders in particular from going around begging for Aid in the midst of abundant resources.

These leaders have no excuse for the poverty trap in their countries. Their people are not for any reason poor but rather deprived of fair distribution of wealth. The international institutions should not collaborate with these leaders in potentially rich economies to loot the wealth of their nations and the cash deposited in Western banks. They should be told that their countries are naturally rich and that the citizenry must be unequivocally comfortable.

Therefore, the term ’poverty’ should not be generalised to all countries but rather redefined to depict the real characteristics of a country.