How much to save the world's poor?

Last post I raised concerns about world poverty in the light of the world’s population reaching 7 billion people. But how big is the need, and how much would it take to bring some relief for those who most desperately need it?

Short and long term help

In the long run, a lot of different changes need to be made to lift more than a billion people out of poverty and exploitation – we’ll look at some of them in future posts. But most of those actions take time, and help is needed now. It has been estimated that about $US50 billion per year is required to eliminate poverty worldwide.

Putting this in perspective

$50 billion sounds like a lot of money, but it isn’t so much when we compare it to these expenditures:

  • Americans spend more on gambling then groceries, more than $100 billion each year. Halving gambling in the US could solve world poverty in one blow. In 2008/9, Australians spent $A19 billion on gambling, which equals almost $1000 per head, making Aussies the world’s heaviest gamblers.
  • The cost of alcohol abuse in the US is about $300 billion each year, six times the amount needed to address poverty.
  • Americans spend $700 billion per year on sport and entertainment – 14 times the amount need to address poverty. Worldwide, the annual expenditure on entertainment and media is estimated to be $US1,900 billion.
  • Global military exenditure is estimated to be $1,600 billion per year – even a small reduction could fund poverty elimination.

Sources: Conspiracy of Hope, Sydney Morning Herald, Global Issues , The Economic Times.

In 2009, the world spending on aid was about $US120 billion, more than enough if it was properly directed and poverty was the only issue. Unfortunately, the poor are still with us.

What can you and I do?

Most christians give to world aid programs, but is it enough?

Philosopher Peter Singer has written about eliminating world poverty in his 2009 book, The Life You Can Save. He has suggested a scale of personal giving to world poverty of 1-5% of income, with the percentage starting low for lower incomes and rising with higher incomes. He invites people to pledge to give this amount.

It is clear that most christians in the western world could afford to meet this challenge with only a small sacrifice. Some would give this amount and more already. Others give this much and more to their churches or to missionary organisations. Each one of us is responsible to God how much we give and where we direct our giving – and also how much we spend on non-essentials for ourselves.

Will you join with me in praying for God to show us if we should increase our giving to the poor to meet Peter’s suggested scale, while still supporting christian activities?

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