Saturday, March 9, 2013

How can we help the poor?

Why do the poor remain poor? Are they trapped?
What is the most effective way to help them?
Why do many well-intentioned aid programs fail?

My son and I have started reading Poor Economics: a radical rethinking of the way to fight global poverty by two MIT economists.

It is very helpful and challenging. The emphasis is on finding strategies that have actually been proven to work, rather than programs Westerners think should work. The authors are also very compassionate pointing out how many of the mistakes and bad choices that the poor make are not that different to those of us in the affluent West make. For example, we often make choices (e.g. lack of exercise and poor diet) that are not in our best long term interests, even though we know what is the best thing to do.

The book emphasizes the complexity of the problem. Even simple ideas, such as getting families to use bed nets to reduce the chance of getting malaria from mosquitoes, can face significant cultural, psychological, and economic obstacles. To me, this underscores the effectiveness of holistic, indigenous led, and community based programs such as run by Compassion.

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