IN FULFILMENT OF THE REQUIREMENT FOR THE AWARD OF HIGHER NATIONAL DIPLOMA (HND)IN PUBLIC ADMINISTRATION
1.1 Background to the Study
Poverty is a global phenomenon which affects continents, nations, and peoples differently. It afflicts people in various depths and levels, at different times and phases of existence and development. As a matter of fact, there is no nation or people that can be said to be absolutely free from poverty. What is markedly different is the intensity, depth or prevalence of this malaise. Nations in Sub-Sahara Africa, South Asia and Latin America reflect the highest level of poverty, and consequently the lowest level of socio-economic development. These regions equally have an attendant higher level of social insecurity, violence, unrest, crime, poor capacity utilization and generally unacceptable low standard of living. As it has been mentioned above, poverty manifests itself in different and various dimensions, and hence is susceptible to varying definitions and understanding. The Central Bank of Nigeria (1999) views poverty as “a state where an individual is not able to cater adequately for his or her basic needs of food, clothing and shelter, is unable to meet social and economic obligations, lacks gainful employment, skills, assets and self esteem and has limited access to social and economic infrastructure such as education, health, portable water and sanitation; and consequently, has limited chance of advancing his or her welfare to the limit of his /her potentialities”. Whereas this definition of poverty is deductive, the World Bank (2000) on the other hand utilized inductive approach to uncover various dimensions of poverty such as well-being, psychological, basic infrastructure, illness and assets. One of such definitions is “the lack of what is necessary for material well-being… especially food, but also housing, land, and other assets. In other words, poverty is the lack of multiple resources that leads to hunger and physical deprivation”. Another of such definitions is “the lack of voice, power, and independence that subjects them to exploitation. Their poverty leaves them vulnerable to rudeness, humiliation, and inhumane treatment by both private and public agents of state and the hierarchy of society from whom they seek help”.
Nigeria, ranked among the 25 poorest countries in the world, started its independent nationhood with a poverty level of hereby 15% of its population in 1960, and is today struggling to bring it down from about 70% of its current teeming population of about 140 million people (2006 estimates). Of the number of the poverty stricken people, about 73% is concentrated in the rural areas where illiteracy prevalence is high, portable water and health facilities are rarely available, road and electricity infrastructures are either unavailable ill-managed, or under utilized. The World Bank and United Nations Development Programme (UNDP)’s 2000 Human Development Index (HDI) of 0.461 aptly indicates the deplorable state of the nation’s level of poverty and low human development. This is in spite of the fact the country is richly endowed with all kinds of water, agricultural and mineral resources. In fact Nigeria’s proportion of the poor has doubled over the last two decades, during which time the country received well over $300 billion in oil and gas revenue. Paradoxically, Nigeria’s level of revenue and endowment are in opposite direction with her poverty level. For instance, according to World Bank, and UNDP (2001) Statistics, Nigeria which impressively ranked 6th and 7th in petroleum export and petroleum production respectively, is ranked 194th in Gross National Product (GDP) per capita and is unenviably classified as the 25th poorest nation in the world.
However, the above scenario has not come into being as a result of nonchalant attitude and non recognition of the problem at hand. It has also not come by as a result of lack of response to the yearning of the teeming poor people to be liberated from their rather deplorable and frustrating state of near-despair.
No Nigerian Government, be it military or civilian, has come without introducing and leaving behind one form of poverty alleviation or reduction programme meant to reduce the level of poverty, give hope and succor to the poor and, or move towards some sort of wealth creation. Strategies, policies and plans have been articulated; programmes and projects have been formulated and executed over the years. For instance, at independence in 1960, poverty eradication efforts in Nigeria centered on education, while Operation Feed the Nation (OFN), the Green Revolution, Peoples Bank of Nigeria (PBN), Community Banks (Now micro-finance banks), Directorate of Foods Roads and Rural Infrastructure (DFFRI), Family Economic Advancement Programme (FEAP), Better Life for Rural Women, Family Support Programme (FSP) and National Poverty Eradication Programme (NAPEP) Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) National Economic Empowerment and Development Strategy (NEEDS) have all existed at one point or the other during the period under review. These programmes have been implemented mostly through a top-bottom approach, originating from the central government and implemented through state offices down to the local level. The implication has been that at every point in the implementation of these policies, state governments across the nation are executing a uniform programme, though at different paces with recognition of state peculiarities.
Cross River State as one of the 36 states in the Nigerian federation, and one of the six states in the South-South geo-political zone has not been insulated from the various efforts at poverty reduction before, during and after the period under review. Though successive governments in the state have tried to address the issue of poverty as captured above, the effect of the policies and programmes on reducing poverty among the populace has been that of mixed feelings. The questions bothering a great number of the citizens are:
- If so much efforts have been made towards reducing poverty, why is poverty on the increase?
- What is the effect of the increasing poverty rate on the economy of the state, and the nation.
- Are there, (or are there not) better ways or strategies of implementing poverty reduction programmes to make them more effective?
1.2 Theoretical Background/Framework
Recent literature on poverty, and its reduction uniformly acknowledges different theories of poverty, but the literature has classified these theories in multiple ways (for example, Blank, 2003; Goldsmith and Blakely, 1992; Jennings and Kushnick, 1999; Rodgers, 2000; Shiller, 1989; and Slaw, 1996).
Virtually all authors distinguish between theories that root the cause of poverty in individual deficiencies (conservative) and theories that lay the cause on broader social phenomena (liberal or progressive). Ryan (1976) addresses this dichotomy in terms of “blaming the victim”. Goldsmith and Blakely, for example distinguish “poverty as pathology” from “poverty as incident or accident”, and “poverty as structure”. On his part, Schiller, (1989) expounds a theory of poverty based on “flawed characters, restricted opportunity, and Big Brother”. Jennings (1999) reviews a number of variants on these individual society conceptions, giving emphasis to racial and political dynamics. But for Rank (2004), he takes a clear theoretical stance, “the focus on individual as the cause of poverty is misplaced and misdirected”. He contends that structural failings of the economic, political and social system are the cause instead. The various theories of the causes of poverty are divergent, and each of these results in, and determines the type of intervention strategy and policies. As, Schiller (1989) puts it, “which view of poverty we ultimately embrace will have a direct bearing on the public policies we pursue”. Arising from the preceding analysis of theoretical postulations, five explicit theories on the causes of poverty emerge and strategies for combating it (poverty) based on these theories also emerge. This research will be situated within this framework. The first theoretical stance is the one that looks at poverty as being caused by individual deficiencies. This theory is a large and multifaceted set of explanations that focus on individual as responsible for their poverty situation. This theory, which is typical of politically conservative theoreticians (like Weber) blames the poor people for creating their own problems, and argue that with harder work and better choices, the poor could have avoided (and now can remedy) their problems. Still other variations of this theory ascribe poverty to lack of genetic qualities such as intelligence, and aptitude, that are not easily reversed.
It is noted that the belief that poverty stems from individual deficiencies is old. Even religious doctrine that equated wealth with the favour of God was central to the protestant reformation (Weber, 2001); and blind, crippled, or deformed people were believed to be punished by God for their or their parents’ sins.
Ironically, neo-classical economics reinforces individualistic sources of poverty. The core premise of this dominant paradigm for the study of the conditions leading to poverty is that individuals seek to maximize their own well being by making choices, and investments, and that (assuming they have perfect information), they seek to maximize their well being. These theories argue that when some people choose short term and low payoff returns, economic theory holds the individual largely responsible for their individual choices – for example, to forgo college or university education or other training that will lead to better paying jobs in the future. This and similar arguments that cast the poor as a “moral hazard” also hold that “the problem of poverty continues to fester not because we are failing to do enough, but because we are doing too much that is counterproductive (Gwartney and McCaleb, 1985)”. Their economic model would solve poverty by assuring that the penalty of poverty was great enough that none would choose it.
Again, a less widely critiqued version of the individualistic theory of poverty comes from the American values of individualism – the so-called Horatio Alger myth that any individual can succeed by skills and hard work, and that motivation and persistence are all that are required to achieve success, (Asen, 2002). While scientifically it is routine to dismiss the individual deficiency theory as an apology for social inequality (Fischer, 1996), it is easy to see how it is embraced in poverty reduction policies which tend to suggests that penalties and incentives can change behaviour.
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