United Nations Development Programme
The Eradication of Poverty
Republic of Costa Rica
Evan Calderón, Forest Hills Northern High School
Poverty has existed since the most basic economies of bartering. Since then, however, poverty and the issue surrounding it has expanded and become a much more complicated issue as many more factors in today’s society account for what is considered poor. In modern society, poverty can simply be describing a lack of basic necessities such as income, education, shelter, healthcare, and more. Today, the World Bank’s definition of poverty is chosen as a result of a study of over 30 countries’ individual poverty lines and molding that into a common standard unit while taking into consideration the Consumer Price Index, which in the end amounts to 31 US dollars per month, or roughly a dollar a day.
Costa Rica is no stranger to the idea of poverty nor the eradication of the issue. In 1982, around 48% of households in the nation were affected by poverty. Through the work of activists and policy changes, Costa Rica was able to cut down on the figure and bring it down to under 16% in 1994. As of 2018, more than 22,000 people have been lifted out of extreme poverty and over 115,000 people have been lifted out of multidimensional poverty.
The first step in tackling poverty is defining what poverty is. The World Bank’s definition of the international poverty line is lacking and arbitrary for most countries. For example, in Costa Rica, around 20% of the population falls under the national poverty line while only 2% of the population falls under the international poverty line. This can be changed by following the lead of Costa Rica and transitioning to the Multidimensional Poverty Index (MPI) developed by the Oxford Poverty and Human Development Initiative. This index shows poverty not solely based on income, but rather looks at a myriad of factors from healthcare to education. Costa Rica has used many methods to reduce poverty, but the most effective one has been using a progressive tax system, public expenditures which resulted in an investment in a world-class universal health care system and very progressive social protection measures. All of these have combined to drastically reduce the national poverty rate.
Costa Rica acknowledges that there is no one size fits all policy that will solve poverty. However, countries similar to Costa Rica can take up initiatives that have worked for Costa Rica, such as those listed above. Moreover, progressive actions should be taken in these situations, such as social spending, progressive taxation, and more labor rights, as they have all been proven to reduce income inequality in the past. Lastly, it has been proven that there is not enough correlation to say that economic growth reduces poverty and is a fallacy to follow the examples of India and Brazil. Costa Rica looks forward to working with all nations to come up with a cohesive solution to tackle this pervasive issue.
- Evan Calderon