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Muusa Kostilainen
Student (journalism, international relations, languages, graphic design) (Tampere, Finland)

Reducing extreme poverty around the world, giving information and promoting human rights is important. I think Dalai Lama was right when he said: "Today, more than ever before, life must be characterized by a sense of Universal responsibility, not only nation to nation and human to human, but also human to other forms of life." I'm a thinker, yes, but also it's important to feel. Why in the earth do you always ask, "what do you think", instead of "how do you feel about it"? I also would like to live my life the way Bahá'u'lláh encouraged us to do "Let your vision be world-embracing, rather than confined to your own self."


Are we poor?

Published 19th April 2010 - 12 comments - 3107 views -

A month ago an important Finnish business person Björn Wahlroos put forward an idea of stopping development aid to make our own economy more balanced. He refers to the specialists who have said that development aid only makes the poverty even bigger, and that this kind of aid would only enhance corruption and make developing countries more dependent of the industrialized countries.

In 1970 The OECD countries decided to aim to 0,7 % of GDP as development aid per year.

By now only five of these 22 countries have made it there: our neighboring country Sweden, two other nordic countries: Norway and Denmark, and Luxemburg and The Netherlands. The others are trying to get to the aim by year 2015 except for United States and Switzerland.

Almost 40 % of the finnish people think that Finland should give at least 0,7 % of GDP as a development aid. Half of the finnish people think we should keep it in 0,55 %. (Source: Yle Uutiset)

This year Finland gives 966 millions euros as a development aid. To keep the promise Finland has given, we should give 70 millions euros more per year. In addition Finland has promised to give the poorest countries around 110 millions euros during 2010-2012 for things that have to do with climate change.

There are in Finland a lot of people who say that we should first take care of our own people.

There are poor people in Finland too.

Poverty. It means so many things. Can it even be compared?
Who can say that he is poor? And to whom compare?

Are you poor if you feel that you're poor? Are you poor if you don't gain as much money as most of the people in your country?

In Finland you're poor if you gain less than 1000 euros a month, they say. Yes. And that's maybe true, because everything is very expensive here.
I think there are a lot of poor people in Finland if we're to believe what I just said. Having been a student quite a lot of years now, and having had so much less than that amount of money per month, I have many times thought that those who think they're poor and get at least 1000 euros a month, don't know what they're saying. They don't even know what it is to be poor, do they? And even if I get that much money per month, I'm considered to be poor. OK, I'm not rich, I know. And I've been working hard.

People who haven't been in the same situation than the poorest ones, or have forgotten what it is like to count every euro, don't see or believe that the real poverty exists even in here. Then how could they have any empathy if they can't even imagine what it's like? Being poor means something else to them, for example, not being able to buy new shoes.


Then in some countries there are a lot of problems that we don't encounter here. And it's not only about having money or not having money, but it's more about things like health, water, education and so on, things that may seem to be normal and evident for us.

Now, how to make the attitudes change so that people would think that giving more development aid is a good idea?

Some people say that we shouldn't give money to other countries, because we have enough problems of our own. I know it's not the same situation if you live in Finland with less than 1 euro per day than if you lived in some other country where everything is so much cheaper. Maybe in some countries you can buy something  with 1 euro, here you're lucky if you can find something to buy with 1 euro. In some countries the rent is not as high as here in Finland and also so many other things don't cost as much. And then again it really depends of your living costs (the rent can be here very high). Even in Finland it's a lot different if you compare the rent in Helsinki (or Tampere) to smaller towns.

And then I have been wondering, is it the same thing to be poor when you get 1000 euros when you're working and when you're not working? Maybe it is... Let me explain. If you can get this money without doing anything and you're said you can not work otherwise you'll loose this money. So it's not possible to gain more, because if you go and work, there's a chance you don't make your living. This is a situation for some people in our welfare system. Then there are people also in this welfare system who have to work to get that money, and they don't have the free time the other one does. Is this  fair? The other one can't work to get more money, and the other one doesn't have any time to do anything else than working.

There are those who are too lazy to do anything and get the money without working, and then there are those who're trying to do everything that they can to cope with their lives, but still they don't get more money than those who don't do anything. You can call this a welfare state, but I wonder if this is a right thing.  And then there are those who don't get anything no matter what.
So I'd like to ask, can we compare the poverty from a country to another or even inside one country? And how to measure it?

Who should we be helping and HOW? Of course we can start by helping the people who live near us, maybe just try and think: do I have something I could give to someone else who needs it more than me. This week (at least in Finland) is a week to think about consumption: do we really need all those things?

And let's not forget those who don't even have what we do.

If you're interested in the campaign against poverty, you can do more:
How to end poverty by 2015?

Category: Poverty | Tags:


  • Jodi Bush on 19th April 2010:

    It’s an important question - what is poor? I guess, as with everything else, poverty is relative.Another question is whether development funding is a zero sum gain - would money earmarked for international development otherwise go towards the poor in your own country? Not necessarily. Anyhow, very interesting

  • Giedre Steikunaite on 19th April 2010:

    Interesting questions you raise, Muusa. The answers are numerous, depending on where you ask them, when and what you are comparing yourself with.

    I think you touch an important point when you say that it’s not only about the money, as water, health, .. all play a serious role. If one’s wages only cover one of these things, say, housing, but don’t allow for having a necessary medical treatment, there’s something wrong there.

    The welfare system you are talking about in some cases becomes really stupid. If they create a system in which it’s financially more beneficial not to work, and those who do work still struggle to make ends meet and wait desperately for the pay day, again there’s something wrong there. It also means that the working people work for the lazies to be able to do nothing.

  • Iris Cecilia Gonzales on 19th April 2010:

    I think it’s very difficult to compare poverty from one country to another. The Philippines, for instance has very distinct problems compared to Africa but both are mired in deep poverty.

  • Clare Herbert on 19th April 2010:

    I think poverty is defined by an absence of certain key items, or the ability to provide yourself with such items. For example, a winter coat, a warm meal, a visit to the doctor etc. It shouldn’t be comparative, everyone should be able to meet a certain set of criteria. Just my two cents.

  • Muusa Kostilainen on 23rd April 2010:

    This is what OECD says in it’s economic survey of Finland:

    Finland has an unusual combination of elevated unemployment replacement rates and late referral to labour market activation, which contributes to high levels of inactivity and a large number of beneficiaries. This combination risks building up greater structural unemployment over time.

    More ambitious activation needs to be accompanied by lower replacement rates in the unemployment insurance and related schemes to support labour market participation, job search and employment. Institutional responsibilities in labour market policies should be simplified and made more transparent.,3343,en_2649_33733_44896465_1_1_1_1,00.html

  • Johan Knols on 23rd April 2010:

    Hello Muusa,

    Indeed a thought provoking topic.
    Is poor measured by money only or does well-being also play a role?
    One person might feel rich with $1000, whereas another person might feel poor with the same amount.
    I tend to stick to Clare’s remark. But what is the certain set of criteria? That is the $1000 question.

  • Clare Herbert on 23rd April 2010:

    Criteria for poverty: (If you can’t afford the following, I think you qualify as poor)

    At least one hot, nutritious meal per day
    Adequate water and food
    A safe, warm place to shelter
    A warm winter coat
    A visit to the doctor when you are sick (Access to good medical care)
    To be protected from preventable diseases, incl. HIV/AIDS
    A basic education
    Freedom from oppression
    The ability to earn a fair wage with dignity
    ...and I’m sure there are many more.
    What do you guys think? Anything to add?

  • Giedre Steikunaite on 23rd April 2010:

    Clare, I would add a small treat once in a while. Not advocating consumerism, it can be anything one feels like, either a birthday party for your child in a slum in Lagos (I saw this on BBC yesterday so it first comes to mind), or a cake with the day’s newspaper in a cafe, or anything really. Just a little joy added to everyday survival struggle.

  • Maria Kuecken on 23rd April 2010:

    In statistics, there are both absolute and relative measurements of poverty which I think get at a lot of the questions raised here.  The absolute would be more like a threshold income while the relative would take into account national poverty lines/inequality/basic needs on a country to country basis.  This allows for both a set of criteria that varies between countries and a more universal standard that can be used on a global level.  Of course, they’re not without problems either, but just thought I’d mention them!

  • Martina Petkova on 23rd April 2010:

    If we start to compare - of course we are poor! Back in the old days there was, now it is and it will be so in the future - inequality - societies are not the same, because they are on different stages of development.

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