Tuesday, 10 December 2013

The end of poverty

Posted on April 25, 2012 by stephennicholl In the days of the Soviet Union party apparatchiks would be dispatched to make announcements on increasing factory production rates or ever improving grain harvests. Such good news stories were vital in maintaining the illusion that the system of government that existed was working and delivering ever improving conditions for the masses, even if individually people’s perceptions were to the contrary. During questions to the First and Deputy First Minister this week their very own apparatchik, Jonathan Bell, was delegated to deliver a “good news” story. By changing the way in which we measure child poverty in Northern Ireland the administration has decided that less children live in families that are poor. Because we measured relative poverty in the past by comparing our income to that in the UK we were relatively poor, but if we only compare ourselves too ourselves then because we all have less money then less of us are relatively poor. It is the reverse of the scenario where if there were 10 millionaires in the room, 9 worth £2 million and 1 worth £1 million then the one worth £1 million is relatively poor. Simply by changing the way you calculate poverty you can’t assume that you have actually achieved anything. If the issue is that we must have a better understanding of poverty then a simplistic analysis of income levels is inadequate. The OFMDFM has not taken account of the higher costs in Northern Ireland and has no real understanding of how to identify a baseline level of poverty measurement which allows for effective intervention to address the issue. We now find ourselves in the ridiculous situation where if regional pay levels are introduced reducing pay in Northern Ireland then the knock on effect will be a further reduction in poverty levels as measured by OFMDFM. Having the power to manipulate figures to your advantage is not a sign of responsible government. Ensuring children have enough food, heat, light, good health and an acceptable quality of life is.

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