Private and public poverty

the post-war consensus on poverty alleviation was shattered by a truculent critique of the welfare state from the combative conservative right in us in the early '80s. Apart from the rising costs of welfare which impoverished the treasuries of governments, the liberal left had also to stomach the fact that the notion of equity had remained an illusion. The prodigious growth achieved by the countries of east Asia and the concurrent decline in poverty in these countries is clinching evidence against the equity-oriented economic policy of the developing countries.

The question is whether poverty alleviation should be left to the state or private charity be encouraged? In future, public policy will probably have to look for methods appropriate for specific segments of the population, instead of a single prescription for the entire country. The book under review misses on piecing together innovative ideas in poverty alleviation drawn from a variety of contexts. All the contributors have briefly reviewed the sources of information on poverty, the measures used for estimating it, trends in poverty, its determinants and public policy on poverty alleviation in each country. The result is a bland global review that reads more like a source book than a comparative view of public policy questions.

Strangely, the book entirely ignores the role played by private foundations and charity organisations in the removal of poverty. This is odd in a context where the role of the state is declining or complements the efforts of the private sector. International comparisons of the achievements and limitations of the state and the private sector would have been more relevant.