Thrust Back into Poverty
Dr. Josh Ruxin is an Assistant Clinical Professor of Public Health at the Mailman School of Public Health at Columbia University and Founder of Rwanda Works.
Dr. Ruxin's work focuses on comprehensive approaches to fighting poverty with emphasis on scaling up national health programs and investing in Rwanda’s private sector. He is based in Rwanda where he directs several initiatives including Rwanda Works and the Millennium Village Project.
Question: How has the economic downturn affected underdeveloped nations?
Josh Ruxin: What's most worrying about the global financial downturn is I think we've actually lost sight of the most vulnerable people in the downturn. Obviously, we've been extremely focused on what's happening in the States but at the very same time there are literally well over a hundred million people who have gone through teetering on the edge of getting out of poverty or being just out of poverty and being thrust back into poverty or even entering poverty. Figuring out how to help those people has not been something that we've been particularly agile about doing.
One of the reasons for this I think is that the issues that are involved are extremely complicated. Take Rwanda for example, Rwanda has seen its GTD growth halved in this year alone and it looks like it's going to continue to decline. Well why does it decline? It declines because they don't see the tourist dollars. Why aren't they seeing the tourist dollars? Well it's because of the losses here in the States.
There's an exact of that intro-connectedness even all the way into central Africa. In other countries, it's actually taken a toll in much different ways. So, throughout southeast Asia, our consumption has actually taken away tens of thousands and hundreds of thousands of factory jobs. People in those positions have simply fallen right back in to poverty. The question is, what do you do to help them. We're not just going to stockpile all sorts of garments here in the States or electronics in order to help the poor in southeast Asia, but we've got to do something about it.
One of the things that I think we can do about it is recognize that, at this time in the downturn, there are some things that we better environmentally and agriculturally which can generate jobs. So this is a great opportunity right now to invest in the rural poor. Because the rural poor were not as hard hit by the global downturn. They actually saw some new opportunities in it. With the global downturn, we still have the same number of people in the world growing every single day and yet productivity has been somewhat stagnate for agricultural supplies.
So by working with the rural poor we can actually create opportunities for them to generate greater incomes and help to literally feed the world, rather than just concentrating on some large industrial farmers. So I think there are some opportunities there but overall the story is that a lot of progress has been lost in a number of countries.
Recorded on: August 13, 2009
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