I think I am like a lot of people who cringe every time I feel that people are just getting handouts; regardless if those handouts are actually deserved, the act itself is demeaning, especially in an area of the world which is supposed to be rich. Alas, it seems that I am in a minority in this feeling as it has not only become the norm, but government, parliament, and society regularly just dish out money as the panacea to all poverty ills. Not many of those giving stop for a while and consider that it probably is best if they at least got the people receiving the largess could at least be made to feel that they earned it.
Yes, I know that to the poor, ego might take a backseat to the normal drudge of existence, but the government and parliament have become so blazÃ©, even blatantly so, in their “giving”.
Two headlines made me cringe in today’s papers; the first is the intention of MPs to open “supermarkets for the poor” in which subsidised foodstuff will be sold and the second is MPs again want to give the Ministry of Social Development BD5 million ($13.2m) to help it cover paying the extra 3,000 needy families whom were added to its rolls of the poor over the last two years, although the minister only asked for BD3.5m ($9.25m), I guess they want to demonstrate their generosity.
The reasons for my cringing in the first instance is that there are proven methods in which the poor are assisted in various societies around the world, one of those methods is a food stamps program in which the needy are given stamps or cards which they can use in any market to help them buy their foods. The vendors then redeem those stamps with a government agency. That program obviously is not free of criticism, but the fact remains that it negates the need for the establishment of “poor shops” which could very well be abused (as could the stamps program, I know) and also allows for the provision of unified prices for foodstuffs which are subsidised only to those deserving that subsidy. I have no idea why our MPs and the Ministry of Social Development ignored this tried and tested method of helping those in need.
The other instance of course is the seemingly willy-nilly way in which parliament is handling the national budget. Here, a party asks for a specific studied budget for one of its programs and we find that for inexplicable practical reasons the parliament – whose one of its main roles is the protection of public funds – gives out additional 30% for no reason whatsoever! What guardianship of public funds is this?
Further, in the report referred above, no one seems to have asked the very important question of why in this age of economic boom do we have 3,000 families descending into poverty?
Maybe I should send them a link to explain to them in simple terms what their agenda should be to combat poverty:
The simple transfer of funds, even if it is to the victims of poverty, will not eradicate or reduce poverty. It will merely alleviate the symptoms of poverty in the short run. It is not a durable solution. Poverty as a social problem calls for a social solution. That solution is the clear, conscious and deliberate removal of the big five factors of poverty.