Why Aid to the Poor Should Aim At Freeing Them from Poverty

What does it mean to be a Kenyan? And not just any other Kenyan but a poor Kenyan. What chance does a poor person have in life?  Born into poverty, hungry from birth, angry and confused. About 35.5% of Kenyan citizens live below the poverty line. If you are constantly struggling financially, you are not middle class, you are poor. The middle class is not a living condition, not a profession, it is the amount of disposable income, not the income you had before you paid your rent, mortgage, and other utility bills.

Poverty makes one gullible, it robs one of the free wills to make independent choices. It prompts one to make irrational and extreme decisions which may have not been the case if the circumstances were different.  Because of this gullibility, the poor are often used as scapegoats by greedy politicians and corporates to foster their sinister agenda. What if we abandon the habits of reducing the poor into scapegoats and we take our time to find out, which kind of help they need. What if we try to understand their lives, complexity and richness? Is there not an alternative way to approaching poverty without necessarily creating class differences?

The rich play to win, the poor play to survive. The rich amass more wealth by investing more, the poor on the other hand sees surplus as an opportunity for consumption rather than investing. It is not enough to mobilize funds for the poor, we need an economic mindset that emancipates the poor from the mindset that surplus is all about consumption.

We need to find better approaches to solving poverty. Taxing the rich isn’t a solution either, we cannot afford to penalize parts of the society for their efforts in the economic playfield. A tax system cannot be structured around the concept of wealth redistribution alone.

We ought to move from an end in itself to a means to an end. If you want to help a poor person, give him the means to be able to help himself next time without necessarily running to you. ‘Those who come with wheat, millet, corn are not helping us. Those who want to help us should give us plows, tractors, fertilizers, insecticides, watering cans, drills, and dams’  that is how Thomas Sankara defines food aid.  He who feeds you controls you, let’s give the poor their freedom by offering true aid.

Daisy Tum

Writer is an economics student at Kenyatta University | daisytum7991@gmail.com

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