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The daily ingenuity of the world’s poor

by | Aug 24, 2011 | Poverty: Analysis and Responses

Most of the world’s newspapers are running features on how to survive in a bad economy. But I have seen no articles on “How to survive on less than $2 a day”.

Yet over 2.7 billion people in the world live on $2 or less a day. How do they do it? How do they manage to put food on the table, keep a roof over their heads, plan for medical emergencies, and even save for retirement. How would you?

Every day  people around the world have no choice but to answer these questions. PORTFOLIOS OF THE POOR:HOW THE WORLD’S POOR LIVE ON $2 A DAY is the first book to describe how the poor find solutions. As such it is rooted in reality rather than theory.

Thestories in the book  are fascinating especially in how they reveal an economy not grasped by our formal financial institutions.

But for most Vincentians that is not the value of this technical book. For most it will be enough to know that our current emphasis on micro-finance and systemic change seems to be on the right track and that policy makers are being called to understand the informal economies that keep people afloat and learn how to best support these micro economies.

Microfinance does give people more access to funds through reliable, flexible means—and yet the majority must still turn to family, friends, neighbors or … moneylenders.

A book like this that starts with the reality of those living in poverty today  leads to some reflections for Vincentians…

  • What attempts do we make to understand the systems in which the bottom 2+ billion people live?
  • At a less theoretical level in our service of those who live in such conditions do we really understand these ways of coping… or assume their access to systems we take for granted?
  • What are the advantages and limitations of micro-finance and systemic change efforts.

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