Poverty & Reaper

What Russia is doing about poverty? What a question! 

Our Rusuk Blog writer Sergey

I really can’t tell you. This is a multi-facet thing. Right now, Russia is wasting away the heritage that it had acquired in the late 1990s – 2000s. That was the time, from November 1998 up to 2008, of fast economic growth, launched by Boris Yeltsin’s reforms – and, let’s not forget it, by early Vladimir Putin’s government policies, too. It was his government that in 2000 set out two goals: 

  • to double the size of the GDP in seven years;
  • to catch up with Portugal (as the poorest EU nation at the time) with their standard of living.

Nice, clear, achievable goals… Not like today, when for the sake of some ‘greatness’ as seen by the madman in the Kremlin, the country is being isolated and decaying fast, both economically and mentally. Yes, a sober and strong leader turned into some aging madman who is dreaming his thousand-year-old dreams, killing people in a hopeless effort to make those dreams come true…

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That time, the early 2000s, was the golden era of shopping malls, and vacations in Turkey, Egypt, and Europe; the time of the consumer loans boost. The time of foreign companies flooding into the country: IKEA, METRO, and Leroy Merlin, to name a few, plus lots of newly-build foreign car plants. People all over Russia have started to buy everything, from electric irons and LED TVs, to Fords and Toyotas. This was something that my country did against poverty, helping its citizens to achieve some prosperity, at least, compared to the Soviet and post-Soviet epochs. 

Then Russia (i.e. Vladimir Putin) started to change its economic policy, relying more and more on state-controlled approaches and measures for the sake of unlimited political control. That was the end of Russia’s glorious war on poverty. 

Such policy, even with the still high oil and gas prices, has been slowing down the economy inevitably, year by year. During the 2010s, Russia’s annual economic growth was around 1 percent. Since 2014 personal incomes have been decreasing each year, up to the present time, even according to the official stats. I can easily judge it by comparing car prices back in 2014 and now. Today, for the very same amount of money you can buy an 8-year-old car-like KIA or Skoda; in 2014 you could buy a new KIA with this money. The difference is 100 percent. This is a disaster. The prices have gone up with inflation, and the real per capita incomes have fallen. 

So now Russia can’t handle even itself when it comes to fighting poverty. We have more and more poor people now. The so-called Putin’s majority, both economic and political, is melting away. I call it the era of decline. Tomorrow, hopefully, this decline will turn into political upheaval of the woken-up Russians to bring a regime change. This is not America, this is us who can do it. 

Only after that we can get back to the national revival with a war on poverty as its key element in the economy. Like Alexey Navalny put it, in ‘a beautiful Russia of tomorrow’.

My country and poverty

Roger Bara

I’m not for one minute comparing poverty in the United Kingdom with poverty in Somalia or Yemen. Chalk and cheese.

Poverty has many faces in Britain, particularly post-pandemic; it can often mean not having a job, a real fear for the future, and the ghastliness of living one day at a time. It’s a situation from which every single person, who is tangled up in its net, wants to escape. So it should be a call to action, from those who can help. 

The figures in my country of birth are quite staggering. More than one in five of the U.K. population (22%) are in poverty; that equates to14.5 million people. Of these, 8.1 million are working-age adults, 4.3 million are children and 2.1 million are pensioners.

The government in the U.K. simply do not understand poverty. They are stuck in their cloistered bubble of privilege and sense of superiority, and, having never, ever, been wanting for anything, have no idea what it’s like not to be able to send your children on a school outing, or simply buy the child a new pair of shoes. It’s lamentable really.

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I’m not saying the government does nothing, I am saying its not working, and hasn’t worked since policies of austerity were introduced in 2010. That way of thinking has continued largely unabated, despite the tragic social consequences. Food banks have bourgeoned, homelessness has hugely increased, and even life expectancy is falling for certain groups. The bond between government and the U.K.’s poorest, which had been in evidence since 1945 has been systematically wiped out and swapped with a harsh and uncaring ethos.  

And the point is that all ordinary people pay the price for poverty.  There’s the increased cost on the health system and the justice system, both impacting negatively on the nation’s economy.

The U.K. is not dealing with poverty very well at all, and there’s no sign of any improvement in the foreseeable future.

My country and poverty

Photograph of Dean Lewis

Like all nations, the U.S. has a homeless problem but unlike some others, America has done little to solve the issue. In fact, at certain points it has become yet another political cudgel with MAGAS beating-up liberal California over its homeless.

Poverty is more than homelessness. The issue is easy to identify but solving it involves some inconvenience for those who are simply selfish. However, real progress has been made in recent years. 

Perhaps the biggest proponent of poverty in America is the United States Government. They are adamant that people (other people) can live on $7.25 an hour. Bullshit. Sorry, I try not to cuss writing these but that’s just plain stupid. 

The argument in defending this is that if you raise wages, employers will hire fewer people. Again: bullshit. This assumes that there are people in US jobs who simply stand around doing nothing at all. They are extra… expendable, and can be cut. Most companies are already efficient and have very few excess employees. I never, ever walk into a restaurant and see employees playing cards in the corner.

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Example: Walmart has been the poster-child for corporate greed in the U.S. The reputation is well deserved and was earned through years of effort on the corporation’s part. It was simply a terrible place to work. The pay was so low that the people working there qualified for public assistance. And Walmart was happy to help them in getting that assistance. 

This was described as public funding for private profits. Walmart underpaid their employees and directed them to apply for public assistance. The government would give these folks supplemental income so they could feed their children. So various governments around the U.S. were subsidizing the Walton Family by helping them hold the line on payroll.

The careful reader will notice I slipped into past tense in those last two paragraphs. That’s because Walmart has started paying their employees $12 per hour average for most public facing positions. Still a bit low but much better. Not only Walmart but most companies are starting employees at much higher pay. You can be forgiven for associating this change with Covid. Nope, this started well before the pandemic and the trend is only accelerating. 

There’s more good news: tiny Houses are not only a thing in Japan, the idea is starting to catch on the the U.S. too. In fact, manufactured homes are becoming main stream. Tesla, yeah that Tesla, is the latest to jump in. Search “Tesla Tiny House” on the Internet and you will discover the company is serious about building $15,000 homes. And they are far from alone.

Having traveled a little, I’ll close by reminding the reader that the definition of poverty varies from country to country. Homes without electricity and with dirt floors are unknown in the US but common in some places. The Government sets the poverty line for a family of four in the US at $27,479, a small fortune in parts of the world. I now understand the average American doesn’t even know what real poverty is.