Barefoot – The other side of life: Living on Rs.26/a day


Can anyone really live on Rs. 26 a day, the income of the officially poor in rural India? Two youngsters try it out.

Late last year, two young men decided to live a month of their lives on the income of an average poor Indian. One of them, Tushar, the son of a police officer in Haryana, studied at the University of Pennsylvania and worked for three years as an investment banker in the US and Singapore. The other, Matt, migrated as a teenager to the States with his parents, and studied in MIT. Both decided at different points to return to India, joined the UID Project in Bengaluru, came to share a flat, and became close friends.

The idea suddenly struck them one day. Both had returned to India in the vague hope that they could be of use to their country. But they knew the people of this land so little. Tushar suggested one evening — “Let us try to understand an ‘average Indian’, by living on an ‘average income’.” His friend Matt was immediately captured by the idea. They began a journey which would change them forever.

To begin with, what was the average income of an Indian? They calculated that India’s Mean National Income was Rs. 4,500 a month, or Rs. 150 a day. Globally people spend about a third of their incomes on rent. Excluding rent, they decided to spend Rs. 100 each a day. They realised that this did not make them poor, only average. Seventy-five per cent Indians live on less than this average.

The young men moved into the tiny apartment of their domestic help, much to her bemusement. What changed for them was that they spent a large part of their day planning and organising their food. Eating out was out of the question; even dhabas were too expensive. Milk and yoghurt were expensive and therefore used sparingly, meat was out of bounds, as were processed food like bread. No ghee or butter, only a little refined oil. Both are passionate cooks with healthy appetites. They found soy nuggets a wonder food — affordable and high on proteins, and worked on many recipes. Parle G biscuits again were cheap: 25 paise for 27 calories! They innovated a dessert of fried banana on biscuits. It was their treat each day.

Restricted life

Living on Rs.100 made the circle of their life much smaller. They found that they could not afford to travel by bus more than five km in a day. If they needed to go further, they could only walk. They could afford electricity only five or six hours a day, therefore sparingly used lights and fans. They needed also to charge their mobiles and computers. One Lifebuoy soap cut into two. They passed by shops, gazing at things they could not buy. They could not afford the movies, and hoped they would not fall ill.

However, the bigger challenge remained. Could they live on Rs. 32, the official poverty line, which had become controversial after India’s Planning Commission informed the Supreme Court that this was the poverty line for cities (for villages it was even lower, at Rs. 26 per person per day)?

Harrowing experience

For this, they decided to go to Matt’s ancestral village Karucachal in Kerala, and live on Rs. 26. They ate parboiled rice, a tuber and banana and drank black tea: a balanced diet was impossible on the Rs. 18 a day which their briefly adopted ‘poverty’ permitted. They found themselves thinking of food the whole day. They walked long distances, and saved money even on soap to wash their clothes. They could not afford communication, by mobile and internet. It would have been a disaster if they fell ill. For the two 26-year-olds, the experience of ‘official poverty’ was harrowing.

Yet, when their experiment ended with Deepavali, they wrote to their friends: “Wish we could tell you that we are happy to have our ‘normal’ lives back. Wish we could say that our sumptuous celebratory feast two nights ago was as satisfying as we had been hoping for throughout our experiment. It probably was one of the best meals we’ve ever had, packed with massive amounts of love from our hosts. However, each bite was a sad reminder of the harsh reality that there are 400 million people in our country for whom such a meal will remain a dream for quite some time. That we can move on to our comfortable life, but they remain in the battlefield of survival — a life of tough choices and tall constraints. A life where freedom means little and hunger is plenty…

Plenty of questions

It disturbs us to spend money on most of the things that we now consider excesses. Do we really need that hair product or that branded cologne? Is dining out at expensive restaurants necessary for a happy weekend? At a larger level, do we deserve all the riches we have around us? Is it just plain luck that we were born into circumstances that allowed us to build a life of comfort? What makes the other half any less deserving of many of these material possessions, (which many of us consider essential) or, more importantly, tools for self-development (education) or self-preservation (healthcare)?

We don’t know the answers to these questions. But we do know the feeling of guilt that is with us now. Guilt that is compounded by the love and generosity we got from people who live on the other side, despite their tough lives. We may have treated them as strangers all our lives, but they surely didn’t treat us as that way…”

So what did these two friends learn from their brief encounter with poverty? That hunger can make you angry. That a food law which guarantees adequate nutrition to all is essential. That poverty does not allow you to realise even modest dreams. And above all — in Matt’s words — that empathy is essential for democracy.

Banks should lead the war on poverty


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M.S. Swaminathan, Chairman, M.S. Swaminathan Research Foundation, addressing the BANCON 2011 conference in Chennai on November 6, 2011.
The HinduM.S. Swaminathan, Chairman, M.S. Swaminathan Research Foundation, addressing the BANCON 2011 conference in Chennai on November 6, 2011.

The banking community played an important part in enabling the Green Revolution. It should play such a role in ushering in the era of freedom from hunger.

At BANCON (annual bankers’ conference) 2011 in Chennai, financial institutions explored avenues for greater participation in agriculture and rural development. There are a few areas in need of additional attention and investment.

Green Revolution technologies are scale-neutral but not resource-neutral. Inputs are needed for output; therefore market-purchased inputs become important in providing soil and plant healthcare for higher yields. Social scientists point out that small and marginal farmers will be excluded from the benefits of the Green Revolution since they would not have the financial resource to buy inputs. The Government of India initiated a Small and Marginal Farmers Programme specially to provide credit and other inputs. After bank nationalisation, provision of credit to small and marginal farmers got priority. Without this, the wheat revolution would not have covered all farmers. The smaller the farm, the greater is the need for marketable surplus, so that the family will have cash income to meet their needs.

The emerging phase in agriculture will be based on integrating the principles of ecology and equity in technology development and dissemination. This is the path to an ever-green revolution leading to sustained increase in productivity without associated environmental harm. In recent years, the government has stepped up credit for agriculture. However, the burden of indebtedness is still high in rural India, and the rural masses are exploited in the credit market. Much of the credit intended for farmers goes through indirect channels, and not directly to them.

Problems in the supply of credit to rural families include inadequate supply of formal credit on the whole, imperfect and fragmented rural credit markets, and unequal distribution of credit, particularly with respect to region, class, caste and gender. In spite of the dominant role played by women in both farming, they are denied credit as they lack land titles. Only a small percentage of Kisan Credit Cards goes to them. Consequently, the major source of credit to rural households, particularly income-poor working households, continues to be the informal sector. Many of the farmer suicides, particularly in the drought-prone areas, are attributed to lack of access to formal credit at reasonable interest rates.

If farmers have to take their lives, then there is something wrong in our economic and social structure. Unfortunately, this issue is being dealt with in statistical terms and not from the point of view of the real state of farming.

Financial inclusion

Apart from the initiatives taken by banks, some of which are commendable, the most important instrument to reach the unreached in terms of access to credit is microcredit. A number of non-banking finance companies have entered the rural microcredit market. Many microcredit agencies have been charging interest rates not very dissimilar to those charged by moneylenders. Borrowing then becomes more to meet pressing consumption needs, rather than for farming or small-scale enterprises. There are examples of micro-enterprises organised by women’s Self-Help Groups with the help of microcredit. Production-oriented SHGs become sustainable if they have backward linkages with technology and credit and forward linkages with the market. The rationale for microcredit is to strengthen the livelihood security of the economically underprivileged sections, and its impact should be measured in terms of reduction achieved in poverty and hunger. Formal financial institutions should provide funds to non-banking finance companies only on the basis of a well-defined code of conduct that will help promote a win-win situation for the lending institution and the SHGs operating market-driven micro-enterprises.

The pervasive nature of malnutrition in India is evident from national and international surveys. International price volatility is high, both due to a continuous rise in petroleum prices, and unfavourable weather conditions. For the poor, including small and marginal farmers, food inflation increases their vulnerability to hunger. India’s food inflation is now over 12 per cent. The Reserve Bank of India has raised interest rates 13 times in 19 months. They are up from 4.75 per cent in March 2010 to 8.5 per cent in October 2011. The inflation rate has been steady since March 2010, despite RBI interventions. A fresh approach is needed, going beyond merely altering interest rates to contain inflation. In measures to contain food inflation, a disaggregated approach is needed. Look at a few commodities:

• Vegetables: Prices have gone up by 63.95 per cent in the last six months. The National Horticulture Mission with an outlay of about Rs. 20,000 crore, meant to increase production of vegetables and fruits, puts emphasis on commercial vegetables, including for export, rather than on malnutrition. For every nutritional malady there is a horticultural remedy. The nutrition and food inflation containment dimensions in the Horticulture Mission should be mainstreamed. Mapping the hot-spots with reference to the gap between demand and supply and planning the production and distribution strategy will help check inflation.

• Pulses: Budget 2011 provided funds to establish 60,000 Pulses Villages. If the programme is implemented holistically, price rise can be halted. Banks can help establish Pulses Seed Villages to provide seeds, as Indian Overseas Bank did over 10 years ago in Tamil Nadu.

• Potato and onion: In a report on managing the prices of perishable commodities submitted to Indira Gandhi in 1982, a detailed strategy for the management of output and prices in the case of crops such as onion and potato was dealt with. The approach suggested was similar to what was done in the case of milk by Dr. V. Kurien and the National Diary Development Board, where the emphasis was on post-harvest infrastructure and management. Unfortunately, the National Horticulture Board has not been able to play a similar role. It is time we developed a mechanism that can ensure remunerative prices.

• Milk: Nearly 80 per cent of the price of milk is accounted for by the cost of feed and fodder. We are exporting concentrates like the soyabean meal while we have nearly one billion farm animals to feed. Often, common grazing grounds are diverted for other uses. Seeds of good fodder varieties are not available. In areas where there are large numbers of dairy cattle, SHGs can organise fodder and feed banks with support from banks.

• Rice, wheat and nutri-cereals: Prices of these staples have remained relatively stable largely because of procurement and public distribution policies. This has a lesson for other crops: food inflation can be contained if a disaggregated commodity-centred approach based on a clear understanding of the causes for price rise is adopted.

Over 60 per cent of India’s population is engaged in agriculture. Our greatest challenge is the technological upgradation of small-farm operations to improve small-farm productivity, profitability and sustainability. There is a growing gap between scientific know-how and field-level do-how. Indian Overseas Bank is helping to organise Farm Schools in the fields of outstanding farm women and men to bring those from other areas to stay for a few days with the farmer-achievers, helping multiply successes. Members of the banking family could take up such activities under their corporate social responsibility programme.

There is a need for greater credit and insurance literacy among farm families. Financial institutions interested in increasing their lending for food security could locate a staff member in Krishi Vigyan Kendras. I initiated the KVK pathway of knowledge and skill empowerment in 1974 with the first one located at Puducherry. Now there are over 500 KVKs operated by the Indian Council of Agricultural Research, agricultural universities and non-government institutions that can provide locations for financial institutions to launch a credit and insurance literacy movement.

If agriculture goes wrong, nothing else will have a chance to go right in India. With a National Food Security Bill on the anvil, we must redouble our efforts to increase farm production on an environmentally sustainable basis. The banking community played an important part in enabling the Green Revolution. It should now play such a role in ushering in the era of freedom from hunger.

(Professor M.S. Swaminathan is a Member of Parliament, Rajya Sabha, and the Chairman of the M.S. Swaminathan Research Foundation, Chennai.)

Rural Poverty Report 2011

The “Rural Poverty Report 2011” was released by International Fund for Agriculture Development (IFAD) sometime back. This compendium is a comprehensive and current assessment of rural poverty across the globe that addresses the importance of managing risk, need for transformation in agricultural markets, creating opportunities in the rural-non-farm economy among other pertinent issues and challenges. 

Chapter 5 of the report in particular takes note of the relevance of Sustainable Agricultural Intensification. It says that improved inputs remain critical for increasing productivity as do supportive polices and investment in agricultural research. However, today’s circumstances require an approach that better preserves the natural resource base and increases resilience of farming systems to climatic changes. It speaks of a growing number of sustainable intensification practices using an agro-ecological perspective with more selective recourse to external inputs. It defines three features – a systemic approach, context adaptation and linking farmers’ plus scientific knowledge as the key to the emerging agenda.

Interestingly, the cover of the Rural Poverty Report 2011 selects a fine adaption from the East Coast Region, Madagascar, portraying farmers who have harvested rice through System of Rice intensification (SRI) – what IFAD spells out as a set of practices that can substantially increase yields, while using less irrigation water and seeds – a system that has been adopted widely and benefits of which have been documented in over 40 countries in Asia, Africa and Latin America. The IFAD Rural
Poverty Report can be accessed & downloaded from

Planning Commission ropes in McDonald’s to eradicate poverty

New Delhi. Heralding a new era in public-private partnership, Planning Commission has decided to partner with fast-food restaurant chain McDonald’s in an attempt to remove poverty from India. McDonalds will soon give employment to a poor Indian and pay him one McAloo Tikki™ in kind, which costs at least 20 rupees even during Happy Hours, thus meeting the threshold set by the Planning Commission to identify urban poor.

“Since India is growing at a rate of at least 9 percent, we are hopeful of at least one McDonald’s outlet in each urban Indian city soon,” Montek Singh Ahluwalia, Deputy Chairman of Planning Commission said after undertaking some complex mathematical calculations, “Clearly McDonald’s would need more employees and we thought it was a perfect opportunity for us to join hands.”
If a person alive in India can afford this Tikki, and only this Tikki and nothing else for the whole day, he is not poor.
As per the agreement between the government and the fast-food restaurant chain, McDonald’s will be given a list people living below poverty line in the vicinity of an outlet, and the restaurant will then employ them gainfully for a salary of one McAloo Tikki™ a day. Since the market price of one such Tikki is at least 20 rupees, the employee would thus no longer remain poor in the eyes of the government.
Sources at McDonald’s confirmed the partnership and expressed confidence of employing all such urban poor at their outlets.
“Anyone not earning even 20 rupees a day is surely quite hungry. We can easily give such a person a job of cleaning the leftovers,” a McDonald’s official said, “We get a lot of urban rich at our outlets who order more than they can eat.”
The official clarified that US based McDonald’s would never get into such an arrangement with the US government as the poverty threshold in US was at least 30 US Dollars per day and non-cash benefits were not counted as income while measuring poverty.
“But India is not US; even the government here has clarified it many times recently,” the official pointed out.
McDonald’s could launch this employment scheme at their Colaba outlet in Mumbai next weekAn intensive manhunt to find a person earning below 20 rupees per day and alive in the area has been launched by the CBI for this purpose. No success was reported till reports last came in.

But the government has dismissed such issues as teething problems and hopes to kick off the partnership in other cities soon. Post this arrangement, government is hopeful of bringing down the number of urban poor to levels matched by those in developed countries, thus paving the way for India to become an economic superpower.


Shining & starving

Friday, August 26 2011
Under neoliberalism, income and regional disparities have got bloated to a point where the country’s rich and the poor live in two separate worlds.

[Frontline |], 26 August 2011


Under neoliberalism, income and regional disparities have got bloated to a point where the country’s rich and the poor live in two separate worlds.

A TAWDRY, low-minded elitism always comes naturally to our corporate media. Even so, one is astounded at the depths to which many newspapers stooped while celebrating the 20th anniversary of Manmohan Singh’s 1991 Budget, then as Finance Minister, which launched India on the economic policy course of liberalisation, privatisation and globalisation (LPG). A major national daily listed, without the slightest hint of irony, the five sectors that have seen “the biggest and most visible effects” of LPG: aviation, mobile telephony, cable television, outsourcing, and automobiles. This, when less than 5 per cent of Indians can fly, or own a car. (True, mobile phones have multiplied greatly, but it is no sign of progress that India has at least twice as many cellphones as toilets.)

Many other papers revelled in India’s globally acknowledged status as an “emerging economy”, whose gross domestic product (GDP) has risen over two decades of neoliberalism from the 12th rank in the world to the 10th in absolute terms, and from the ninth to the fourth rank in purchasing-power parity. But few bothered to remind readers that in per capita terms and Human Development Index ranking, India still belongs to the bottom quarter of the world’s nations.

No newspaper talked of the huge human toll claimed by the growth process, including the suicide of 200,000 farmers over 12 years (an unprecedented tragedy in history), the uprooting and marginalisation of millions of vulnerable people, including Adivasis, and rising unemployment and informalisation of work, which is causing great human misery and insecurity. There was, of course, complete silence on neoliberalism’s links with sleaze, cronyism and crime – including “regulatory capture” in sectors such as power, petroleum, insurance and telecom. These have been on full, ugly display in the Harshad Mehta- engineered stock market scams and the Enron scandal of the 1990s, the great telecom scams and public-sector sell-offs (Videsh Sanchar Nigam Limited or VSNL, Centaur Hotel, Modern Bakeries, and Balco) of the 2000s, and the more recent 2G spectrum, Lavasa, Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO)-Antrix, and the Krishna-Godavari gas pricing scandals.

It is only appropriate to draw up a 20-year balance sheet of what the LPG package has delivered. The primary, if not the sole, virtue claimed on behalf of neoliberal policies is that they have produced high GDP growth. However, the connection between economic policy and GDP growth is not straightforward, but mediated through many factors such as high investment and savings rates, larger foreign investment flows, improved infrastructure, and better export opportunities. The 1980s also saw high growth in India, though there was no neoliberal domestic regime then.

India’s recent growth cannot be primarily attributed to the unleashing of the “animal spirits” of entrepreneurs, which were supposedly locked up under the earlier “licence-permit raj”. This pejorative description always grossly exaggerated the degree of regulation exercised by the state. Our businessmen long ago mastered the art of bypassing or subverting regulations. Now there is active collusion between business and politics.

Recent policies have facilitated GDP growth, but this growth is of poor quality and extremely uneven. It is skewed in favour of services, which now account for over 50 per cent of national income. Agriculture, on which three-fifths of the people depend for livelihood, has declined in size to under 20 per cent of GDP and is in the grip of both an economic and an ecological crisis. Industry has grown far too slowly to be able to absorb surplus labour from agriculture.

High GDP growth has largely benefited the top 10 to 15 per cent of India’s population, depressed employment, and failed to raise the incomes of the majority, let alone substantially reduce income poverty. According to the most optimistic official estimate (that of the Tendulkar committee) rural poverty fell from 50.1 per cent in 1993-94 to 41.8 per cent in 2004-05. In urban areas, poverty declined from 32.6 per cent to 25.7 per cent over the same period. Many capable economists have questioned these numbers on methodological grounds as far too low.

However, even assuming that the figures are correct, the decline in poverty was at best modest. This means that nearly 400 million Indians continue to live at or below an animal level of subsistence, consuming fewer calories than needed to keep body and soul together. It is simply unacceptable that at the end of the two highest growth decades in recent history, India still has the largest number of dirt-poor people anywhere in the world – as it did in 1991.

These numbers hide non-income forms of poverty and deprivation, including dispossession from land and other natural resources, extensive ecological destruction, widespread and severe malnutrition, social bondage, unhealthy dependence on powerful exploiters, gender-related poverty, compulsion to drink unsafe water and live in unhygienic conditions, and so on. One-half of India’s children are malnourished and two-fifths of its adults have an abnormally low body-mass index. Such deprivation undermines the ability of people to develop their elementary human potential. Life with dignity and acquisition of the capabilities that demarcate human beings from other species remain impossible for hundreds of millions of Indians. Their number has grown over two decades as the natural base of the economy, on which the poorest people depend, has got degraded and common property resources have been increasingly privatised. This represents a huge social waste.

Under neoliberalism, inequalities of income and wealth and regional disparities have got grotesquely bloated to a point where two Indias have emerged: an enormous cesspool of poverty, stagnation, social backwardness and acute deprivation, which covers much of the country’s heartland; and islands of high growth, and moderate and rising social indices in parts of southern and western India. Because there is withdrawal of public investment, no correctives are being applied, especially to regional imbalances. India has some of the world’s lowest rates of personal income and corporate taxation. Instead of significantly rising, the share of direct taxes in GDP has recently decreased.

Social Darwinism

Obscenely high disparities are socially undesirable in themselves. They also aggravate inequalities in social opportunity, putting the already disadvantaged at a further disadvantage. In India, inequalities strongly cascade at each stage of life: if you are poor, you have progressively less access than the rich to nutrition, health care, education, employment, and other social services. Yet, no political party is demanding an ‘incomes policy’.

Neoliberalism is distorting our social and political discourse in various ways. It has created a new secular religion – GDPism, or worship of rapid GDP growth as an end in itself, regardless of its social, economic, political and environmental costs. It is often misnamed “reform”, a term used even by its critics though reform means making things better.

Under neoliberalism’s sway, the “greed creed” is growing rampantly. The elite is embracing the ideology of social Darwinism, or the survival of (only) the fittest. It has great antipathy towards any notion of human solidarity and the idea of justice and equality of rights and entitlements. It wants a militarised “iron-fist” state to protect itself against the poor.

Neoliberalism is undermining social cohesion. It is also marginalising and disenfranchising the poor from participating in social life. It is only when they wage arduous battles to defend livelihoods and civic and political rights that they get heard. In contrast, the rich are becoming more aggressive in extending their privileges and demanding and getting generous tax breaks and state protection. Their political influence has never been greater. India increasingly resembles the United States’ Gilded Age when Robber Baron capitalism prevailed and imposed a heavy toll on society.

At this rate, India will soon become structurally incapable of developing a shared sense of nationhood. An untutored sense of community, which is not drilled into children through chauvinistic textbooks that describe India as the greatest civilisation ever, can arise only from relative equality of life chances and basic parity in entitlements amongst people.

A notion of common citizenship and shared destiny, which goes beyond participation in electoral processes, cannot develop in a divided society where the chasms are widening under neoliberalism’s ruthlessly inequality-enhancing influence. No wonder all manner of narrow and parochial identity politics, as well as superstition and obscurantism, are thriving in India today. We are paying an exorbitant price for neoliberalism – including enormous waste of precious human potential, people’s suffering, rising gender inequalities, growth of irrational faith, and a weakening of human solidarity and the foundations of political democracy.

Neoliberalism is also imposing huge ecological costs on India through the rapid melting of the Himalayan glaciers, loss of prime natural forests, degradation of land through reckless mining and the overuse of chemicals in agriculture, extensive air and water pollution, poisoning of all our major rivers, overuse of groundwater, loss of priceless biodiversity, and rising greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.

Driven by a luxury consumption boom under neoliberal policies, India’s emissions are growing twice as fast as the rest of the world’s, aggravating and accelerating climate change. India is now the world’s fourth biggest GHG emitter. Indians, already vulnerable to climate change because of geographical and social factors and lack of resources for adaptation, will become its worst victim. Continuing along the neoliberal course means shooting ourselves in the foot.

How do biodiversity and poverty relate? An explorative study

This study indicates that two intervals exist: biodiversity is being lost while human well-being is improved and poverty is initially reduced, and secondly, biodiversity loss is reaching a critical value whereby production drops and human well-being and poverty are both affected negatively. The first interval appears in non-vulnerable ecosystems, the second one in ‘brittle’ ecosystems where poverty is often concentrated.

The End of Poverty

The aphorism “The poor are always with us” dates back to the New Testament, but while the phrase is still sadly apt in the 21st century, few seem to be able to explain why poverty is so widespread. Activist filmmaker Philippe Diaz examines the history and impact of economic inequality in the third world in the documentary The End of Poverty?, and makes the compelling argument that it’s not an accident or simple bad luck that has created a growing underclass around the world. Diaz traces the growth of global poverty back to colonization in the 15th century, and features interviews with a number of economists, sociologists, and historians who explain how poverty is the clear consequence of free-market economic policies that allow powerful nations to exploit poorer countries for their assets and keep money in the hands of the wealthy rather than distributing it more equitably to the people who have helped them gain their fortunes. Diaz also explores how wealthy nations (especially the United States) seize a disproportionate share of the world’s natural resources, and how this imbalance is having a dire impact on the environment as well as the economy. The End of Poverty? was an official selection at the 2008 Cannes Film Festival.

Global poverty did not just happen. It began with military conquest, slavery and colonization that resulted in the seizure of land, minerals and forced labor. Today, the problem persists because of unfair debt, trade and tax policies — in other words, wealthy countries taking advantage of poor, developing countries. Renowned actor and activist, Martin Sheen, narrates THE END OF POVERTY?, a feature-length documentary directed by award-winning director, Philippe Diaz, which explains how today’s financial crisis is a direct consequence of these unchallenged policies that have lasted centuries. Consider that 20% of the planet’s population uses 80% of its resources and consumes 30% more than the planet can regenerate. At this rate, to maintain our lifestyle means more and more people will sink below the poverty line. Filmed in the slums of Africa and the barrios of Latin America, THE END OF POVERTY? features expert insights from: Nobel prize winners in Economics, Amartya Sen and Joseph Stiglitz; acclaimed authors Susan George, Eric Toussaint, John Perkins, Chalmers Johnson; university professors William Easterly and Michael Watts; government ministers such as Bolivia’s Vice President Alvaro Garcia Linera and the leaders of social movements in Brazil, Venezuela, Kenya and Tanzania. It is produced by Cinema Libre Studio in collaboration with the Robert Schalkenbach Foundation. Can we really end poverty within our current economic system? Think again.