Mike the Psych's Blog

What if psychologists ruled the world? In real life?


Regions of the UK becoming “poor men” of Europe.

Kindadukish's Blog - I am not a number, I am a free man (The Prisoner)

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Parts of Britain are now poorer than Poland, Lithuania and Hungary, official figures reveal. People in the Welsh Valleys and Cornwall – Britain’s two poorest areas – scrape by on less than £14,300 a year on average. Because Britain is so expensive, this leaves families in these areas worse off than those vast swathes of Eastern Europe, according to an EU study.

In much of the UK, people’s incomes are well below the EU average – in some areas by as much as a third. In the map (above) Britain’s poorest regions are highlighted, showing how far below the European average incomes have fallen. The Cornish, for example, are 36 per cent less well-off than the EU norm. Families in Slovenia meanwhile are just 16 per cent poorer – and in Portugal 23 per cent.

In Lincolnshire and Durham, the next two poorest areas in Britain, people live on less than £16,500…

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How to end poverty?

Otrazhenie

Poverty

I was always wondering about the most effective way to help move billions of people from the rut of poverty to prosperity. More philanthropy from the wealthy nations of the West? As J.W. Smith points it, with the record of corruption within impoverished countries, people will question giving them money as such ‘donations’ rarely ‘reach the target’. Building industries instead? While that approach seems to provide better results (see few examples described by Ray Avery in his book ‘Rabel with a cause‘), it still did not provide a silver bullet solution, as it does not address the roots of poverty and prosperity.

Poverty
From Christian Bowe

In their book ‘Why nations fail?‘, that examines the origin of poverty and prosperity, Daron Acemoglu and James Robinson conclusively show that it is man-made political and economic institutions that underlie economic success (or the lack of it). Therefore only the development of inclusive…

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Christian Aid…………to give or not to give?

I’ve long shared this view about giving money to African despots. See http://tinyurl.com/6kbekkk

Kindadukish's Blog - I am not a number, I am a free man (The Prisoner)

Yesterday an envelope was pushed through my letter box asking me to donate to Christian Aid and the work it was doing in Africa. It exhorts me to donate £5 which will be enough to pay for a community farmer in Zimbabwe to attend a training workshop.

It then occurred to me that Zimbabwe was once known as the “bread basket” of Africa, so rich was it in natural resources and farmland. But then when Rhodesia gained independence and became Zimbabwe things began to go down hill.

lossless-page1-220px-Robert_mugabe.tiff

Robert Mugabe the president of the country has presided over a long term economic decline and in particular the “land grab” from white farmers has contributed significantly to this decline. Also the abuse of human rights has become high profile in the country.

Corruption in Zimbabwe has become endemic within its political, private and civil sectors. Zimbabwe ranks joint 163rd out of 176 countries in…

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South Africa’s World Cup anniversary

Last June I posted about the outcomes that might be expected for South Africa or any country that hosted a large international competition like the World Cup or the Olympics.

The evidence from economists was that people would be happier – but only for about a year after the event and psychiatrists were concerned that there would be a post-event depression.

Immediately after the World Cup in South Africa it was thought that the government would break even on its investment in airports, motorways, and high speed rail links but not as many visitors arrived as were expected and budgeted for. Nevertheless the improved infrastructure will probably have long-term benefits, as long as it is well-maintained.

It was generally agreed that there had been a show of unity, pride and patriotism at the time and the crime rates improved – a decrease in murders and robberies – despite South Africa’s reputation as one of the world’s capitals in murder and rape.

Now a year later questions are being asked. According to the Times there is a big debate in South Africa about what the benefits really were and who actually benefitted. There is a belief that there has been a transformation in the way the country is perceived and although only 2/3 of the visitors expected actually arrived they had a positive experience. That has resulted in an increase in tourists from the USA of nearly 20%.

South Africa has said it is not going to bid for the 2020 Olympic games but wants to: “focus on the delivery of basic services to all South Africans”. And that’s the crux of the argument for a country with a 25% unemployment rate and with half its population living below the poverty line. Recent demonstrations about lack of clean water, toilets and electricity (so-called “service delivery protests”) were met with deadly force when an unarmed protestor was shot dead (the police responsible are now awaiting trial as it was caught on camera).

One writer described the World Cup as “the greatest hoax played on the African continent since the World Bank promised development” and another critic condemned the £9 billion spent as a crime against poor South Africans. £1 billion of that was spent on the new stadia that FIFA insisted on rather than improving existing grounds. Attendance at football matches has reportedly increased by 8% but the ticket prices have been doubled to help pay the World Cup bills.

So has anyone come out of it better off? Well FIFA made a tax-free profit of almost $700 million.


Aid to African despots – why?

G550Charities often say they get more contributions from working class ie poorer sections of the community than the middle or upper classes. (OK, there are exceptions like Microsoft founder and philanthropist Bill Gates.)

And now that seems to apply to the UK as well. We’re in the s**t economically yet we strive to take the lead on overseas development. No wonder it’s causing a stink when we can’t afford to fund hospitals, schools or care for the elderly in our own country.

And some countries eg India, don’t even want our help let alone need it. India, like other BRIC countries (Brazil, Russia and China), is booming and can afford to have a large army, run a space programme, and be a nuclear power. That it doesn’t spend its money on improving basic living conditions for the 25% of its population living below the poverty line merely reflects badly on a country that claims to be the world’s largest democracy.

A lot of people refuse to give money to charities in Africa because they wonder how much aid actually gets through with all the corruption and inefficiency (and Bob Geldof can shove his “ignore the corruption thing”. Why should we? I don’t begrudge him the plaudits he got for Band Aid but since then he’s enjoyed the high life on the back of it – well it wasn’t his crap music was it – and no-one likes to feel they’ve been ripped off).

Stories of NGO staff riding around in expensive 4 wheel-drive vehicles, dictators buying top of the range bullet proof Mercs eg Zimbabwe (68% of population living below poverty line), Malawi which bought 39 S-class Mercedes (53%), and Swaziland which bought a fleet of BMWs for the King’s wives plus a £1/4M Maybach 62 for him (69%), don’t help.

And the latest news is that we gave Uganda £70M in aid and the President went out and spent £30M on a top of the range private jet – a Gulfstream G550. So is it any wonder that I don’t want to contribute to paying for some despot’s Mercedes or gold-plated Kalshnikovs.

Providing vaccination, largely courtesy of Bill Gates, is definitely better than giving money. Providing countries with the technology and skills to feed themselves would be even better and birth control to reduce the number of hungry mouths needing to be fed would help enormously.  

Jonathan Clayton’s commentary in The Times today (05/07/11) is spot on. He writes about Kenya being listed as one of the countries supposedly facing the worst food crisis of the century.

This he reminds us is the destination of choice for the rich and the royal with its capital Nairobi booming and full of 5 star restaurants.

And a country which makes millions exporting fresh flowers, which need a lot of water, and vegetables to the UK.

In short a country that can afford to feed its poor but doesn’t want to.  And why would you if the UN – paid for by western taxpayers –  and other aid workers and charities do it for you?

In this case it isn’t necessarily dictators and despots but lack of political will and pure commercial considerations, albeit influenced by tribal loyalties.

Updated 4 November 2011: November’s Management Today magazine lists the worst countries for corruption.

Here they are in order of their Trust Index Scores

  1. Somalia
  2. Afghanistan & Myanmar
  3. Iraq
  4. Sudan, Turkmenistan & Uzbekistan
  5. Chad
  6. Burundi
  7. Angola & Equatorial Guinea
  8. DR of Congo, Guinea, Kyrgystan, & Venezuela
  9. Cambodia, Central African Republic, Comoros, Congo-Brazaville, Guinea-Bissau, Kenya, Laos, Papua New Guinea, Russia, Tajikistan
Source: Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index 2010:


Stress and poverty definitely not good for you 

Researchers at Ohio State University have been looking at stress and health for 30 years and can show that being chronically stressed wears down your immune system and makes you  more likely to become ill and disease-prone.

They also found that children who had difficult childhoods eg through being abused or neglected, could develop hyperactive stress responses which could kick in later in life making them more vulnerable when subject to stress as adults.

And at the Pittsburgh Mind-Body Centre their research shows that early childhood experiences of stress or poverty influence the chances that we’ll develop chronic diseases as adults – whether or not we have a poor diet, don’t exercise, drink in excess, or smoke.

Cardiovascular disease is a case in point. If the family rented rather than owned a home, if the parents didn’t go to college or had less prestigious jobs, then the children’s own cardiovascular health was more likely to be compromised in adulthood – regardless of how successful they became and how much they had achieved on their own as adults.

Updated 16 November 2010: According to a study by the European Commission people who grow up in poverty have fewer chances to flourish at school, remain healthy, and avoid problems. As adults they face difficulty finding work and low and irregular income means they have meagre pensions putting 17% of elderly men and 22% of elderly women at risk.

A report in the Helsinki Times says that even in Finland, where there is high social mobility, children of families receiving income support are 2-2.5 times at risk of being on income support themselves – according to researchers at the National Institute for Health & Welfare.

They say that parents’ income levels count for about 15/20% of a child’s income levels because with free education in Finland an individual’s efforts carries more significance. Educational opportunities are seen as key to breaking the chain of cross-generational poverty, but even so one in eight Finns are now living below the poverty line according to EU and OECD standards.