Global poverty in decline, says World Bank report

A new report by the World Bank released Tuesday says that global poverty is in decline despite a world economic slump.

According to The New York Times, the report indicates that those living on less than $1.25 per day declined for the first time in every developing region, despite economists' predictions that that the global downturn impacted the very poor disproportionately.

The report signals the completion of on of the so-called Millenium Development Goals (MDGs) to cut extreme poverty by half – an achievement that was expected to be accomplished in 2015.

The news on Tuesday came amidst another UN announcement that the MDG of doubling the amount of people with access to clean water had also been achieved.

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The Hindu newspaper pointed out 1.94 billion people lived below the poverty line in 1981, yet by 2008 that number had dropped to 1.29 billion despite the increase in the world's population.

Yet, the report also shows that still over a billion people worldwide live in poverty.

 “This bunching up just above the extreme poverty line is indicative of the vulnerability facing a great many poor people in the world. And at the current rate of progress, around one billion people would still live in extreme poverty in 2015," says Mr Martin Ravallion, Director of World Bank Research Group, as quoted by the Hindu.

Critics were quick to point out that the World Bank statistics should be regarded with care as poverty is difficult to measure.

In Foreign Policy, Charles Kenny argued that the World Bank numbers are likely too pessimistic due, among other issues, to the difficulties in collecting survey data and measuring purchasing power in many places.

The Brookings Institution also said that the numbers should be taken with some suspicion as the reports numbers would have readers believe that North Korea and China have the same poverty rate and that in 1981 China would be considered poorer than any country in the world today – a point that the authors say is clearly false.

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