Author of the given Essay is the student of Georgian Technical University Ana Giorgashvili. The Essay was prepared specifically for the contest on “Sustainable Development Goals and Georgia” organized by IDFI in cooperation with UNDP Georgia and with the financial support from the Government of Sweden.
When I am asked, “What, in your view, is the worst human rights problem in the world today?” I reply: “Absolute poverty”.
Sustainable development is a priority goal for the global community that joined forces to eliminate poverty. Poverty is the inability to participate in normal civil life, due to lack of necessary financial resources.
In Georgia, poverty is determined with several indicators: registered poverty and relative poverty. Registered poverty, which means population that receives social assistance from the state, shows a more accurate picture. In 2015, registered poverty was 10.1%, in 2014 – 11.6%, and 9,7% in 2012-2013. The rise of relative poverty in 2014 is due to the results of the population census.
Georgia’s subsistence minimum is one of the lowest among countries with similar income levels. Despite the recent increase, the subsistence minimum does not accurately reflect the reality, due to inflation and devaluation of the national currency.
In 2009-2011, Georgia had impressive reduction in poverty, and the pace accelerated in 2011-2013. There was a minor reduction in inequality, but despite all of this the poverty rate still remains high.
One of the main reasons why economic growth did not affect poverty rate could be stagnation in agriculture. In practice, agricultural output and its share in GDP decrease yearly.
Children born in poverty lack everything. Sometimes poverty continues throughout their whole life. Poverty in early childhood might cause mental and physical impairments. In 2011-2013, 4% of the population and 6% of children lived in absolute poverty. Relative poverty is higher in children, and has increased from 20% to 27% from 2011 to 2013.
We all agree that poverty is the number one problem, and in order to eliminate it, a considerable effort and right strategy are needed. What did Georgia do to solve the problem?
To ensure economic growth and poverty alleviation, in 2004 the Georgian government initiated a new program aimed at combating corruption and increasing the effectiveness of the public sector, which would create a better environment for business.
Four years later, the Georgian government adopted a program titled “United Georgia without Poverty”. The program aimed to create employment opportunities based on effective labor legislation. Social assistance was introduced in 2006, aiming to help the population’s poorest 10%. By April 2011, 145,665 families in Georgia received monthly financial assistance.
In 2008, the medical insurance program was created for families below poverty line. The same year the poverty was reduced to 23%. At the same time, however, employment went down, despite economic growth.
I think, it is necessary to use all the resources, take into account the experience of other countries, and eliminate the extreme poverty that persists in Georgia today. Among many mechanisms that help a state to alleviate poverty in the long term, I would like to focus on tourism. Tourism is an effective mechanism that creates opportunity for employment and economic activity for socially vulnerable population. In many developing or less developed countries a large share of income comes from tourism.
The World Tourist Organization studied how the poor in various countries might benefit from tourism. The organization outlined 7 directions, later called The Seven Mechanisms of Poverty Alleviation:
1. Employment of the poor in tourism enterprises.
2. Supply of goods and services to tourism enterprises by the poor or by enterprises employing the poor.
3. Direct sales of goods and services to visitors by the poor.
4. Establishment and running of tourism enterprises by the poor – e.g. micro, small and medium sized enterprises (MSMEs), or community based enterprises.
5. Tax or levy on tourism income or profits with proceeds benefiting the poor.
6. Voluntary giving/support by tourism enterprises and tourists.
7. Investment in infrastructure stimulated by tourism also benefiting the poor in the locality, directly or through support to other sectors.
Georgia is a country where regions and villages have unique folklore and potential to become attractive for tourism. It is important to use these mechanisms in our country. Even if this is done partially, more tourism will raise the region’s competitiveness, farmers and the poor will have opportunities for employment, they will be abe to sell their goods and create a better future.
It is a duty of all of us to create a future with less hungry children, and few people in poverty. We should create a country with strong rural communities, educated population and happy future.