July 13, 2005
Poverty reduction is now, and quite properly should remain, the primary objective of the World Bank. But, when the World Bank dreams of a world free of poverty—what should it be dreaming? I argue in this essay that the dream should be a bold one, that treats citizens of all nations equally in defining poverty, and that sets a high standard for what eliminating poverty will mean for human well-being. I propose a new standard for global income poverty for the World Bank's use. This poverty line is the weighted average of the poverty lines declared by its shareholders, where the declared poverty line is no lower than the country uses for its own citizens. I show this will imply a poverty line of around U.S.$15 a day in current purchasing power adjusted currency units—about ten times higher than the existing standard.
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