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Why No Applause for 138 Million Exiting Poverty?

July 28, 2013 in Economics

By Swaminathan S. Anklesaria Aiyar

Swaminathan S. Anklesaria Aiyar

When China reduced people in poverty by 220 million between 1978 and 2004, the world applauded this as the greatest poverty reduction in history. Amartya Sen, Joseph Stiglitz and all other poverty specialists cheered.

India has just reduced its number of poor from 407 million to 269 million, a fall of 138 million in seven years between 2004-05 and 2011-12. This is faster than China’s poverty reduction rate at a comparable stage of development, though for a much shorter period. Are the China-cheerers hailing India for doing even better?

No, many who hailed China are today rubbishing the Indian achievement as meaningless or statistically fudged. This includes the left, many NGOs and some TV anchors. The double standard is startling.

India has reduced its number of poor from 407 million to 269 million, a fall of 138 million, in seven years.”

The Tendulkar Committee determined India’s poverty definition. The Tendulkar poverty line in 2011-12 came to Rs 4,000 per rural and Rs 5,000 per urban family of five. Critics say this is ridiculously low. But it is roughly equal to the World Bank’s well-established poverty line of $1.25 per day in Purchasing Power Parity terms (which translates into around 50 cents/day in current dollars). This is used by over 100 countries, by the United Nations and many other international agencies. When the whole world uses this standard, why call it statistical fudge?

When China claimed to have lifted 220 million people out of poverty, guess what its poverty line was? Just $85 per year, or $0.24 per day! Whatever statistical adjustments you make for comparability, it was far lower than today’s Tendulkar line. Did today’s critics of the Tendulkar line castigate China for fudging? No, they sang China’s praises.

The World Bank actually has two lines — $1.25 denoting extreme poverty, and $2 denoting moderate poverty. India can also adopt two lines, the Tendulkar line for extreme poverty and a new Rangarajan line for moderate poverty, at around $2/day.

But this will in no way diminish the great achievement of slashing the number of those historically called poor — we can call them the “extreme poor”— by 138 million in seven years. Allowing for rising population in this period, the number saved from extreme poverty is even higher at 180 million.

Given our rising GDP and expectations, we can rename the Tendulkar line as our extreme poverty line. But …read more

Source: OP-EDS