Extreme Poverty Can Be Eradicated “Immediately”, Vatican Lecturer Says

A Tunisian woman and girl search a trash can for plastic to make money in Tunis on July 31, 2021. Global poverty can be eradicated immediately if the world makes it a priority, speakers said at a workshop in Tunis. Vatican. (CNS Photo / Ammar Awad, Reuters)

VATICAN CITY – Extreme deprivation could end “essentially immediately,” said Jeffrey D. Sachs, US economist and member of the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences.

“What we have now is poverty in the midst of plenty,” he said in the opening address of a two-day workshop at the papal academy.

It would only take about $ 1 trillion, or 1 percent of the world’s gross domestic product, or about 6 percent of the $ 15 trillion held by the richest 3,000 people today, to “End extreme deprivation” by immediately providing $ 1,000 a year to each of the world’s one billion poorest people, he said.

“It’s not an extremely complex challenge from an economic standpoint,” said Sachs, director of the Center for Sustainable Development at Columbia University. More difficult has been the ability to mobilize those necessary to make it happen.

Sachs was one of the many speakers invited to the Pontifical Academy to discuss the theme: “Science and ethics of happiness. Caritas, social friendship and the end of poverty.

The October 3-4 workshop was sponsored by Columbia University’s Science and Ethics for Happiness and Well-Being Initiative, and the Papal Academy made a small number of the lectures available on its YouTube channel at the end of October.

The Vatican announced on October 25 that Pope Francis was appointing Sachs to the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences, an advisory body.

Sachs said ending poverty is “more than economics” and the need to provide constant income; it is about ensuring access to services and opportunities to meet multiple basic human needs such as housing, nutrition, sanitation, drinking water, clothing, transport, electricity, connectivity, health care and education.

Poverty, he said, is not the passive result of wealth that does not reach everyone, but stems from “deliberate human action” which includes pervasive discrimination, violence, displacement. and the deprivation of traditional lands for indigenous peoples.

Policies to end poverty must first and foremost “stop the damage” and are “morally the most urgent of all, for it is deliberate impositions that have kept people”, groups and parties alive. society in poverty, he said.

Other policies should include “income transfers to households or basic social protections,” he said.

“There is nothing wrong with that. If people are hungry, help them eat. If people are in need because they don’t have the most basic income, help them, ”he said. This kind of grassroots charity is a tradition stretching back thousands of years and “shames us” for no longer “systematically and automatically” applying this age-old understanding.

“We do not lack financial means, technical means, or systems to end extreme poverty,” he declared. “It would take six months to a year” to eradicate it.

A serious longer term effort would require “a generation of investment in children to truly break through to irreversibility, to truly ensure that every child is growing up in a healthy way” with all of their most basic needs met. , he added. .

Dominican Sister Helen Alford, member of the Academy and vice-rector of the Pontifical University of Saint Thomas in Rome, said the beatitudes and economics – together – can help people live happily and ethically.

“We need economic wealth as the foundation of life” and the satisfaction of basic needs, said Sister Alford, an expert in economic ethics, management theory and corporate social responsibility.

The bliss of “poverty of mind” indicates a “sane” attitude to wealth, opposed to greed and greed, she said.

It requires the care of stewards – who are detached from greed and do not see themselves “as controlling owners,” she said.

“Living the first beatitude (” Blessed are the poor in spirit “) must help us to cultivate wealth appropriately, in a way that places the common good before the private good” and moves towards a world in which human beings are not controlled by “the weaknesses” found in human sin.

Stefano Zamagni, president of the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences and professor of economics at the University of Bologna, said the key was to reduce inequalities.

“You can reduce poverty by redistributing the rich to the poor, but inequalities could – as has been the case for the past 40 years – continue to increase,” he said. “Redistribution is necessary, but it is not enough.

Inequality today is not the result of a real scarcity of resources but is caused by an artificial scarcity generated by greed and greed, he said. Avarice is “a very terrible, dangerous social vice” because it generates this scarcity.

For this reason, “compassion and kindness are not enough. We must move towards justice, ”he said.

“Poverty today is a case of institutional failure,” he said, meaning that “the rules of the game” in economics and finance are wrong.

Saint John Paul II introduced this notion as “structures of sins” in that they are “institutions which force good people to produce unpleasant results”, that is, people can have bad results. good intentions, but they are “doomed to generate perverse results.” Zamagni said.

Justice could be seen as “predistribution” in which resources are spent up front on people, such as in education, he said.

Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople said in his address that “efforts to deal with destitution and social injustice are an expression of (the church’s) faith and service to the Lord which identifies with each person. , especially to those in need “.

“It is impossible for the Church to truly follow Christ or to make him present in the world if she does not place this absolute concern for the poor and the underprivileged at the very center of her moral, religious and spiritual life”, he said. -he declares.

Jesus’ command to love goes beyond helping others and requires addressing the causes of injustice and “the roots of their suffering,” he said. “Today we are able to influence history and change our destiny.”


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