Saturday, 21 April 2012

The Food Bank and the Money Bank

If you don't have the money to pay for the essential things you need, then you are in poverty. This includes families not having the money to buy food to feed their families, pay to heat their homes, not having enough to purchase adequate warm clothing, or have to struggle to pay the rent to keep the home. You don't have to be unemployed to be under the poverty line, 60% of people in low incomes are living in poverty.

"One of the key features of poverty in the UK is that it exists alongside high economic prosperity in a wealthy country. This leads to large disparities in income and wealth, which in themselves have a negative impact on people living on low-incomes. Poorer countries, with fairer wealth distribution are healthier, and happier, than richer more unequal countries." (source)

In the UK at the moment, almost

13 million people are living in poverty, that's 1 in 5 of the population.

3.8 million children are living in poverty

2.2 million pensioners are living in poverty

In the rich UK a great deal of people are going hungry each day. Is it so surprising then to realise that one of the fastest expanding sectors in the UK at the moment is the rise of the food bank. Austerity measures, we're constantly told, mean we're all in it together, but for some people, who have struggled with austerity for years before it became the vogue synonym for squeezing the poor, the new measures of skimming back whatever little income they have, and increasing taxes like VAT, are having the effect of making a struggle for a meagre existence, an even grimmer imposition.

At the 2011 Food bank Conference, the Trussell Trust announced their 100th food bank. This year, they expect to be feeding 100,000 people from Food bank branches all over the UK. Click here to see a map of the UK and see how widespread the inability of the Government is towards feeding the poor in the UK.

The charity suggests that the credit crunch has led to an upsurge in the number of people needing emergency food and led to more than one new food bank being opened every week in 2011. (source)

The poverty situation in the UK is now so bad that Jobcentres are now directing the poor and hungry to charity run food banks. Benefit claimants are now being referred to food banks in order to feed their families by the Government.

Helen Longworth, Oxfam's head of UK poverty policy, said: "It's shocking that more and more people in the UK are being forced to go to food banks to be able to eat ... In this day and age, nobody should be forced to choose between paying a bill or feeding their family." (source)

Despite the fact that the UK is apparently broke, that we're all living through a lengthy period of austerity and being constantly told to tighten our belts, the Government has no money, the coffers are empty, George Osborne, the Chancellor of the UK, has just found another £10 billion to give to the IMF, this on top of the £30 Billion already promised.

£40 billion quid to the IMF, in a period of austerity, when families have to go, or are sent by the Government, to food banks to feed their families, is a disgrace in the modern UK.

The UK has a higher proportion of its population living in relative poverty than most other EU countries: of the 27 EU countries, only 6 have a higher rate than the UK. (source)

 The proportion of people living in relative low income in the UK is twice that of the Netherlands and one-and-a-half times that of France. (source)

So, the UK is broke, but Osborne happened to discover these extra £billions under the bed, or behind the sofa, so he decides, without parliament approval, to hand it over to the IMF, now what does the IMF do with all this money it accumulates from rich western countries like the UK?

The IMF loans money out to other countries, but sets conditions, which it terms conditionality, which basically means that the IMF will loan a country the money as long as the country does what it says.

The Fund knows very little about what public spending on programs like public health and education actually means, especially in African countries; they have no feel for the impact that their proposed national budget will have on people. The economic advice the IMF gives might not always take into consideration the difference between what spending means on paper and how it's felt by citizens.

The IMF sometimes advocates “austerity programmes,” cutting public spending and increasing taxes even when the economy is weak, in order to bring budgets closer to a balance, thus reducing budget deficits. (source)

It appears to me then, that the UK, at the moment going through a sustained period of austerity, or an "austerity programme", is handing out money to the IMF that it should be using to alleviate it's own period of austerity, and perhaps even help to lift it's own UK citizens out of poverty, at least enough for them to be able to feed themselves and their families without having to go, or be sent to, a charity run food bank. The UK Government though, seems to be taking the approach of "we have an austerity programme", let's fund the IMF so it can inflict "austerity programmes" on others.

I'm not an economist; I also don't have a thorough knowledge of the UK finances, or a deep understanding of the moral aptitude of the IMF. I do however, understand poverty, and see it around me every day of the week, and know that often this can be alleviated by a commonsense approach and purpose, and measures that need not cost a Government much in terms of finance or willpower. Personally, I think it shocking, that in the UK at this moment in time, so much poverty is so widespread and visible that everyone seems to see it, and despair about how little is being done about it, but the UK Government.

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