The late Dr. Cheddi Jagan, whose life and works are celebrated by members and supporters of the People’s Progressive Party in the month of March, had been a strong advocate for the poor and the underprivileged. His ideas on poverty reduction and a new global human order has been embraced by the global community and continue to have relevance, especially in the context of growing poverty and inequity in the distribution of the fruits of human labour.
Despite increases in production and productivity due to scientific and technological advances, the gap in living standards between the rich and the poor continues to get wider and wider with each passing year.
Consider the following facts:
- Almost half of the world’s population, over three billion people, live on less than US$2 per day.
- The GDP (Gross Domestic Product) of the 41 Heavily Indebted Poor Countries (567 million people) is less than the wealth of the world’s seven richest people combined.
- Nearly a billion people entered the 21st century unable to read a book or sign their names.
- Less than one per cent of what the world spends every year on the military is enough to send every child into school.
- Over a billion children live in poverty (1 in 2 children in the world).
These are disturbing facts that must be of concern to policy makers. It is important that we get down to the root causes of poverty.
As Dr. Jagan correctly observed, the causes of poverty are structural in nature and resulted largely from structural adjustment policies prescribed by international financial institutions and unfair trading policies in which developing countries are required to open their economies to compete with the more powerful industrialized powers. This is why the call for a new global human order has such a wide appeal and resonates with progressive humanity the world over.