If you look at recent figures on poverty from the World Bank, you might be surprised: Since 1981, the percentage of people living in extreme poverty – on less than $1.25 a day – has been cut in half. Since 1990, the Asia-Pacific region has seen a particularly large reduction in extreme poverty: from almost 55% to 16.8% in 2005 (see World Bank chart on right).
This has led a number of organizations and experts to declare the unthinkable – that by 2035 today's young generation could inhabit a world without extreme poverty.
The thought of this at first might seem unbelievable. Right now, we are accustomed to seeing the stock market going down. We're reading about hurricanes on the East Coast and famines in East Africa. Could there really be some good news hidden in this muddle?
I believe there is.
My kids, who are six and eight, will be in their mid 30s come 2035. It would be an exciting thing for them to see a world with no extreme poverty. I can go home at night and say, "By the time you're my age a lot of this stuff that I'm working on will have changed for the better. We will be working on other issues."
Dig deep enough into the newspaper, and you can see for yourself that the tide is turning in the war against extreme poverty. I noticed two articles recently in the Washington Post describing the growing Pakistani middle class and the other highlighting the growing Indian middle class. In the midst of all of this struggle and turmoil there are still these glimpses of hope.
Microfinance is just one of the weapons in the fight against poverty, but it is an important one. As we discussed in a recent blog post, the savings groups that organizations like ours create also serve as mechanisms for other anti-poverty measures, such as literacy programs and health clinics.
We at Five Talents are excited about the possibility of eliminating extreme poverty in our lifetimes, and we hope that you are, too. What an amazing gift that would be to the next generation on the Horn of Africa, in the mountains of Peru, and in the slums of India.
No more extreme poverty...
How does that sound to you?