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Poverty- A Mind Numbing Experience


Out of the loop and with poor internet access for the past few days, I was unable to update the blog. I was in India, one of the new industrialising countries. And this was an experience that is at once humbling and also inspiring.

Before I go into that, I was looking for a good photograph to illustrate what I wanted to say when I stumbled onto this photo taken by a Pullitzer Prize winning photographer Kevin Carter who committed sucide a year after taking this photo. You can read about him in the Wikipedia site. It is very sad. I would not say more except to read more about him on google search and see the views behind this photo.

On the streets of India, I saw poor people who makes the poor in other countries look good. I cannot begin to describe them. It beggers belief that the situation in India is actually much better than 10 years or more ago. When you see people who are so destitute like that, it makes planning for retirement seem so callous and unworthy.

According to Wikipedia, poverty has many reasons and there are a few categories. Extreme poverty is characterized by living on less than US$1 per day. East Asia in 1981 had nearly 60% living on US$1 or less a day. By 2001, it has fallen to less than 20%. So Deng Xiaoping's mantra of "No matter if it is a white cat or a black cat; as long as it can catch mice, it is a good cat." has catapulted China from the ranks of the have nots to the ranks of people who at least have some hope. Being able to recognize that something is broken and take the bitter medicine (or humble pie) is something that separates the great from the useless leader.

There are some hopeful signs of India and China overcoming this chain of poverty hanging around a large percentage of their population. China is a manufacturing powerhouse. India is the servicing and services powerhouse (accounting, call-centre, software development; The outsource centre of the world).

As long as their leaders maintain Deng Xiaoping's pragmatism in embracing the need for change and incorruptibility at the very top levels of governance in a country, there is no reason why India and China cannot become powerful and shining beacons for the rest of the countries that are mired in poverty.

I apologise for digressing from my usual topics, but I will be back to the usual in the next few articles.

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