Letters & Opinion

Preferential Treatment for the Poor!

By Deacon Peter Fevrier. Family & Life Secretariat, Old Battery Road, Vigie, Castries, Saint Lucia

THE poor should be treated with love and compassion, but are we doing all what we are supposed to do for the poor? As a people and an independent nation, are we assisting, loving and caring for the poor the way we should? These are questions are pertinent to our growth and development both in the physical as well as the spiritual sense.

What really is poverty anyway? Poverty is defined as the state or condition of having little or no money, goods, or means of support or the deficiency of necessary and desirable conditions, qualities, resources and facilities to live a dignified life.

The reality in today’s modern world as disclosed by the experts is that almost half the world’s population, meaning over three billion people live on less than US $2.50 a day and at least 80% of humanity lives on less than $10 a day. In addition to this, information it has been disclosed that the poorest 40 percent of the world’s population accounts for 5 percent of global income. The richest 20 percent accounts for three-quarters of world income. In other words, a minority of people control the major resources of the world.

How does the state of poverty affect the children? According to UNICEF 22,000 children die each day due to poverty. And they die quietly in some of the poorest villages on earth, far removed from the scrutiny and the conscience of the world. Around 27-28 percent of all children in developing countries are estimated to be underweight or stunted. The two regions that account for the bulk of the deficit are South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa. It has been said that less than one per cent of what the world spent every year on weapons was needed to put every child into school, but this may never happen. Infectious diseases continue to blight the lives of the poor across the world. An estimated 40 million people are living with HIV/AIDS, with three million deaths in 2004. Every year there are 350–500 million cases of malaria, with 1 million fatalities: Africa accounts for 90 percent of malarial deaths and African children account for over 80 percent of malaria victims worldwide and 1.8 million child deaths are reported each year as a result of diarrhoea as a result of water problems. Health Experts believe that close to half of all people in developing countries suffer at any given time from a health problem caused by water and sanitation deficits.

However, the Caribbean’s small island economies face formidable challenges in dealing with poverty and globalization, particularly in relation to the vital agricultural sector. Race, class and gender hierarchies of colonial domination have left a legacy of exclusion of the poor. Despite general improvements in living standards, poverty rates average 30 per cent of the Caribbean population. Social and human development indicators show that Barbados, Saint Lucia, Antigua-Barbuda and the Bahamas are doing better than Belize, Dominica, Grenada, Jamaica and Suriname. Plagued by political and economic problems, Haiti consistently scores lowest.

The causes of this economic hardship relates to the diminished human capital of the poor, including education levels which in some cases is significantly low. Accessible employment tends to be low-skilled and low-paid. There is evidence of intergenerational transfer of poverty, stigmatization and discrimination. Factors contributing to extreme poverty in Haiti include political corruption, brain drain, business monopolies, deforestation, decreased tourism and the economic embargo.In addition it must be said that the structural adjustment programmes, aimed at creating economic stability, has forced some Caribbean countries to lay off public employees and resulted in more severe poverty. Economic and institutional measures have failed to achieve their intended financial downward “trickle effect”.

The care of the poor is a branch of charity. In the narrow sense charity means any exercise of mercy towards one’s fellowman rooted in the love of God. While numerous classes of persons are fit objects for charity, the chief class is constituted by the poor. By the poor are meant persons who do not possess and cannot acquire the means of supporting life and are thus dependent on the assistance of others. The care of the poor is the duty of all the members of the Christian Body, so that by the works of each the welfare of the whole community may be promoted.

The main causes and sustaining factors of poverty in Saint Lucia has been identified as: The decline in earnings from the Banana Industry. Falling banana earnings have hurt the farming sector and small farmers in particular. But given the relationship of the Industry to Transport, and to other sectors, the decline has had a ripple effect on other areas of the economy, inducing poverty beyond the agricultural sector.The decline in wage competitiveness of St. Lucia in the area of export-oriented light manufacturing and assembly operations. Light manufacturing, that had made an important contribution to the economy and to the diversification process, has suffered as a result of developments elsewhere in the international global economy.

If we are a God-fearing people, we have to learn how to share all of our gifts for those who have endless resources look to some family in need and share your wealth. The most effective way that we can transform our society is to deal with our state of poverty.

Let us always remember scripture in all of our trials and sufferings. Deuteronomy 15:11.”For there will never cease to be poor people in the land; that is why I am commanding you, ‘You must willingly open your hand to your afflicted and poor brother in your land.” Zephaniah 3:12.”I will also leave in the midst of thee an afflicted and poor people, and they shall trust in the name of the Lord.” Matthew 26:11.”The poor you will always have with you, but you will not always have me.” Matthew 8:20.Jesus told him, “Foxes have dens and birds of the sky have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay His head.”

Matthew 25:42-45.”For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’ “They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?'” “He will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.'”

James 2:15-17″If a brother or sister is without clothes and lacks daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, keep warm, and eat well,” but you don’t give them what the body needs, what good is it? In the same way faith, if it doesn’t have works, is dead by itself.

God Bless You!

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