Monday, February 11, 2013

Pro Poor Strategies for Municipalities

Recently staff from the Hamilton Community Legal Clinic, where I hang out when not blogging, spoke at the Hamilton City Council’s General Issues Committee (GIC) regarding the establishment of a community economic development pilot project.  (You can read that report here )

Our argument was that the proposed pilot project should incorporate ‘pro poor’ economic strategies.

I must say that I didn’t know a lot about the concept of pro poor strategies but after some research I’ve come to believe municipalities ought to be considering this approach.

The term “pro poor growth” is generally thought to apply to developing or transitional economies.  But that is not the case, according to McMaster University’s Dr. Atif Kubursi.

Dr. Kubursi indicates that pro-poor policies are not restricted to third world or developing countries, but rather the entire development approach of the UN (adopted at the Economic and Social Commission) is a pro-poor, rights based development policy.

The traditional trickle-down approach that is typically put into place to address poverty reduction doesn’t work.

Wealth and income are more like glue they stick to the hands that first touch them,” notes Kubursi.

The renowned economics professor defines pro-poor growth as growth “that reduces absolute poverty and hunger while simultaneously slimming down existing inequalities in distribution.”

Craig Foye from our Clinic spoke to the fact that that countless research papers, government submissions, and community presentations have made the case that the rate and depth poverty in Hamilton remains relatively stagnant and takes a very high human toll on community members.  Hamilton is, of course, not unique in this regard.

 These matters also affect our economy, both directly through the absence of buying or tax-paying power, and indirectly through the high costs of services to deal with poverty (such as social services, health services, etc) and the effects of obvious and prevalent poverty on the quality of life and culture of our community for all,” Foye told the Committee.

Examples of economic development strategies that might be considered as applying a poverty reduction lens or defined as  “pro poor” would include: living wage strategies, micro loans, community economic development, and targeted business development (such as supermarkets in poor neighborhoods).

While the General Issues Committee did not endorse the Clinic’s recommendation it is hoped that in the future the community economic development strategy might include such “pro-poor” policies.

I wonder if other cities are pursuing pro-poor policies?

More on Dr Kubursi ideas on Pro-Poor Growth strategies can be found at  “Macro Economic Policies Promote Pro-Poor Growth Strategies: ESCWA’s Perspectives”, Dr. Atif Kubursi, Undersecretary General and Acting Secretary, United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia



No comments: