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Saturday, 18 August 2007

Eradicating Poverty in Rural Area

by: Ahmad Syah Ejaz B. Hj Ismail

Poverty is often been associated with hunger, deprivation, and lack of basic necessities, illiteracy and such pertaining to mankind inferior accomplishment. Ones must understand the nature of poverty before engaging in holly war eradicating such problems.

First and foremost, poverty is a disease within human mind and physical nature. Poverty exists in every part of the world even in rich countries. But the frequency of avid/ mass poverty is regularly associated with the third world countries. For the Capitalist, poverty existed due to lack of Capital and no educational society. But towards the Marxian, poverty is the effects of manipulations and exploitations by the bourgeoisies.

We had been fighting poverty since the evolutions of mankind, but the war against poverty is never been fought so ideologically and avidly within these 100 years just to demonstrate which ideology is better (Socialism, Fascism, or Capitalism). The only ideology that still survives until this day is Capitalism even though great economic thinker (Joseph Schumpeter) doubts the survivability of Capitalism, and most economists prefer Socialism (John K. Galbraith, John M. Keynes).

I will only stress on the methods that can be used and how to manipulate Capitalism to fight poverty. I cannot touch on the issues of Socialism, and Marxism economic belief on my topics for these articles. I believe the milieu or circumstances to engage poverty is differ in various states. One state may differ in their climate change (Where such a characteristic does contribute in fighting poverty), political structure, and geographical locations.

Upon examining the cases of poverty in the third world, it is no doubt to say that most of the poor masses are living in the rural area. It is the common place where they will lack of everything from basic necessities, education opportunity and communication to the outside world. This kind of society will develop a habit or what John Kenneth Galbraith once coined as accommodation to poverty. This kind of accommodation is inculcated within particular society due to their isolations with the outside world for quite some times. Homogenous society will be created and peoples in such a society will be feeling complacent of what they owned and managed to grab each day.

If the factor of amalgamations of the outside world exists, then such accommodations to level of ownership will be compared to others and people will try to improve their standard of living through hardship and ingenuity. Such an environment is termed as relative poverty.

Come back to our discussion on the issues of isolations. There are debatable on the importance of colonialism by the Spaniard, English and Portuguese in the 16th Century. Some people debated that if our colonial masters didn’t colonise certain part of the world, the issues of poverty nowadays will be more far worse. By colonising certain land, the colonial masters brought with them educations, religion beliefs, capital and most of all methods to trade.

By trading with multifarious and diverse enterprises, wealth is created. On the issues of rural area, there is no trade and thus there is no economic push to eradicate poverty. It is attest by urban areas, even though poverty and poor people still exist, but there are no problems such as famine and deprivations. In rural area, even slight problems of climate change such as drought is enough for parents to sell their daughters for prostitutions. It will be worsen if such peasants work not on their own land, but to their landlord where their land masters will get whatever is cultivated on their land during hard seasons and leave them with nothing.

Methods used to fight poverty by given a piece of land to work for by the government in charge just to eradicate poverty is proved worthless. Even though in India where there is vast lands that can be allocated by the needed family, still it holds the record for the most poor nations in the world. By giving land per se is not enough. What were needed by the farmers are methods to cultivate, capital to invest and means to trade.

In Malaysian experience in fighting poverty, government had invest in bridging the gap between rural areas and urban cities by constructing roads, and providing public transport services to rural areas where such services will not bring profits but means for the farmers to trade in the cities. In the first years of proving such services, farmers brought everything with them on the bus, be it ducks, chicken, smelly vegetables to trade in the cities where most money flows in.

Looking in the current perspectives, rural areas should always be connected by the comfortable highways that will provide upper hand in terms of time for the farmers to trade their short-span products with the open market. But with the increasing awareness of opening up market, new problems will inflict upon our farmers. That is why, it is vital for the farmers to reject and try to escape from such an accommodations to be a farmer for the rest of ones life.

Borrowing what John Kenneth Galbraith had stressed on, that poverty cannot be fought within a generations, by via inter-generations. In the third world country, the role of the government to provide opportunity for the poor masses is indispensable. Government is the only body that have the capital to educate, conduit technical expertise through series of lectures for the farmers. And the second generations of these peasants shouldn’t be accommodate by believing that they should follow the footsteps of their father by too being a farmer.

Agricultural is an obsolete industry in the modern world but remains important. Once considered the primary industry of a country, it should be changed as the third industry that can contribute to GNP after manufacturing and services. The reasons why I point that fact is that one acre of agricultural land can only accommodate one farmer for short-span of time, but for manufacturing and services industries, one acre of land can be a bread-winner for hundreds of worker.

Second generations of FELDA, should seek new economic activities rather than being complacent as the second generations who works in palm field. They should take the opportunity to go beyond being a farmer and venture into professional fields such as business and professional services. If they choose to remain as being the second generations involves in agricultural industries, that will only ensuring the government funds is consume by the same family (as was proved that in agricultural industry government funds is needed to ensure that it perpetuate by subsidising and government monopoly).

As what had approved, it is futile and fools errand for government to keep on subsidising the agricultural industry just for the sake on ensuring there is certain level of aggregate demands so that the products of domestics farmers is marketable. As much as it diminishes state funds, it will only bring bad results as such giving money on a plateau for the farmers.

To fight poverty, the acculturation of poor and inferior thinking must be stopped. In changing the nature of accommodation to poverty, the poor masses must take risk. Risk is something the poor couldn’t afford, and if such risk is taken bluntly, there will be no food on the plate at the end of the day. Retiring on such norms, our peasants will only reside on what they have and manage to get just for daily purposes.

In a closed society where poverty is considered norms and accommodations, there should be outer party coming in setting up new enterprises or new innovations for agricultural. Just for the sake of breaking the accommodations, and if such a labour succeed, then the new state of awareness among the peasants will be created. Changes will slowly occur due to the neighbourhood effects and relative poverty factors. Among the accommodate peasants, there will be new individuals or groups that will realize on the paying up of being progressive.

Again borrowing of what John Kenneth Galbraith had mentioned, economic development consists in enlarging the opportunity for those that are motivated to escape the equilibrium and culture of poverty. One of the most cherishes classical idea in fighting poverty in rural areas in by using capital to change the accommodation or the equilibrium that existed within the poor community. But this is the anti-thesis to the policy implemented by the Soviets during Lenin New Economic Policy at the early of the 21st Century. Such funds investment in technical expertise in bringing up the level of quality among the rural peasants is proved worthless.

What is the vital factor in determining the succession of eradicating poverty framing the concept of war on poverty is human capital itself. There is much debate in Malaysia about the future of second FELDA generation, assuming that the only way in ensuring FELDA success is by creating a well off development infrastructure in FELDA settlement itself. This idea is only true to an extent of the well being of the FELDA settlers only and not perpetuating the succession of the second generation of FELDA. What is conceivable ensuring the flow of human well being is encouraging the second generation to take part in the economic opportunity in urban areas. Whereas the gap left by the second generation of the FELDA in their former settlement should be filled with low paid workers from neighbouring countries.

I know that not all of my readers will support of such an idea, but in the context of fighting accommodation, human needs to be occupied with new idea and concept of wealth making. FELDA or such an agricultural industry should be seen as only stepping stone in eradicating poverty among the avid poor family and they should seek new beginning when the time permits. A good country in implementing poverty policy is the one which also includes it neighbouring country as one of the benefactor of such a scheme.

Human tends to keep on moving to the direction where there is a better opportunity for them in terms of standard of living and poverty fighting. If they remain to where they are, it will only worsen the poverty situation by being in accommodation. Students of graduated university from the third world should be encouraged to try applying their knowledge where better opportunity arises. I believed such a statement will only incite fear among the statesman that such an idea will encourage brain drain. But at the end of the day, what matters most is mankind future by attesting the crème of the crème for human ingenuity.

One of the most important actors in the third world country in fighting poverty is the government. Basically there is no private companies to provide social welfare as what is happening in the develop country. Government policies, methods and utilization of public funds are vital in keeping the flow of the purchasing power among the needier. Linkage between urban areas and rural areas must be built so there will be a clash of civilization among the two regions.

Reference: The Nature of Mass Poverty, John Kenneth Galbraith, Harvard University Press 1979.

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