The rich get richer and the poor get poorer," says an old depression-era song and it still rings true today. It seems hard to believe in this world of computers, technology and information that there could also exist an age-old problem: poverty. And the irony of this proliferating problem is that poverty is increasing in the world amid abundance. The gap is widening between rich and poor.
Poverty is nothing new to the world. The Bible prophesies in Deuteronomy 15:11, "For the poor will never cease from the land." Jesus Christ repeats and confirms the prophecy in Matthew 26:11: "For you have the poor with you always." As long as the governments of this world exist, the alarming rapid growth of poverty poses a grave threat to the Western Hemisphere and the world. But why the sudden increase in the last part of this decade?
Global Financial Crisis
The financial crisis that began in Asia in 1997 has been a huge factor in the increase of poverty from Asia to Africa and to Latin America. James Speth, an administrator of the United Nations Development Program, reports on this trend in Foreign Affairs. In an article titled "The Plight of the Poor," he says "if current recessionary trends continue, the number of poor in East Asia will increase sharply in the next two years from 40 million to more than 100 million." He continues with the sobering statistic that "the number of Indonesians living on less than a $1 a day will jump from 13 million in 1997 to 34 million in 1999." The article adds that "among the 4.4 billion people in developing countries around the world, three-fifths live in communities lacking basic sanitation; one-third go without safe drinking water; one-quarter lack adequate housing; one-fifth are undernourished; and 1.3 billion live on less than a dollar a day."
People in Asia, Africa, Russia and Latin America have felt the ill effects of the global financial crisis as developing countries and emerging markets have seen a drastic downturn in growth. Add to that natural disasters such as Hurricane Mitch that struck Central America last October, and the recent crisis in Kosovo, and the number of people living in poverty balloons.
Due to Mitch, the United States has had to brace itself for a massive wave of illegal migration as close to 300,000 people have left their hurricane ravaged homelands in search of work and a better opportunity. The U.S. Information Agency reports that up to 600,000 adults in Central America may try to brave the 1,000 mile journey through Mexico to try to reach the United States this summer. Many children are left behind, alone, to fend for themselves and wander the streets trying to survive.
Another direct cause of increasing poverty is decades of graft and patronage politics in many countries. A prime example is Venezuela, which has had a democracy for more than 40 years. Half of that country's 23 million people live in poverty even though it has more oil reserves than any nation outside the Middle East.
What are the dangers to this technological world with the rapid growth of poverty? According to Mr. Speth, economic decline inevitably translates into political instability and unrest. Already we have seen much rioting and looting in East Asia. Brazil, another country affected by the financial crisis, has had to deal with massive unemployment and violence with government paralysis due to bureaucracy. The United States has had its hands full trying to deal with the effects of natural disasters at home and abroad. Its resources are also strained by trying to aid poor victims around the world, the latest being the hundreds of thousands displaced by the Kosovo crisis. Mr. Speth adds that the risk of a huge global underclass undermining international stability is quite real.
Needed: Justice and Judgment
Obviously, ever-increasing technology is not the answer to the problem of poverty, for despite the fact that we live in a world of expanding technology, poverty still exists. And giving aid to the needy isn't a sufficient solution, because such aid to poor countries is often just a drop in the bucket. The Bible prophesies a future government set up by the returning Jesus Christ that will rid the world of the causes of poverty. Isaiah 9:6 reads: "Of the increase of His government and peace there will be no end, upon the throne of David and over His kingdom, to order it and establish it with justice and judgment from that time forward, even forever."
Justice and judgment are both sadly lacking in this world. People are impoverished because of politics, corruption and greed. The eighth chapter of the book of Zechariah talks about a time when Christ will establish a poverty-free society where "the streets of the city shall be full of boys and girls playing in the streets(verse 5), and the seed shall be prosperous, the vine shall give its fruit, the ground shall give her increase, and the heavens shall give their dew" (verse 12). There are virtually billions in the world today that need that government set up so that they can be freed from the poverty that they suffer in their daily lives. Only when the kingdom of God is finally established will poverty come to an end. WNP