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Amartya Sen speaks at IDB on dimensions of poverty

Nobel Prize winning economist Amartya Sen today compared the experiences of India and other countries of Asia with Latin America in fighting poverty, and described the lessons that can be learned.

Sen, a professor at Harvard University and a master at Trinity College at Cambridge University, spoke at IDB headquarters in Washington, D.C., on the multiple dimensions of poverty, a subject he has developed for decades.

Considered one of the most influential and innovative academics in his analysis of poverty and social welfare, Sen has emphasized that poverty is more than an economic condition, in which the basic necessities of life are lacking, such as food, housing, and clothing. Poverty in his view is also the absence of capacity or opportunities to change this situation.

Other elements frequently missing from the life of the poor are good health and longevity; adequate education; access to land; credit and other productive resources; ability to avoid and confront drastic drops in income; family and community support; justice; elimination of discrimination, abuse, and violence; and a voice in institutions and access to opportunity.

IDB President Enrique V. Iglesias, in remarks welcoming Sen, said the Bank has pursued the multidimensional approach in supporting the objectives of Latin America and the Caribbean to reduce poverty and promote social welfare.

A large number of loans and assistance by the IDB are dedicated to fighting the many faces of poverty in the region, he said.

More than 50 percent of the $5.2 billion in financing by the IDB in 2000 was dedicated to projects designed to reduce poverty and promote social equity. The main areas of activity for these loans were education; health; sanitation; urban development; environmental protection; microenterprise; infrastructure; productive sectors; and modernization of the state, Iglesias said.

The IDB was also active on other fronts, such as assistance to countries in drafting and implementing strategies that incorporate poverty reduction as one of its principal objectives; the analysis of the causes of poverty and support for gathering information, through its program of research and dissemination; the program to improve household surveys, and program evaluation.

Another aspect is the development of dialogues and consensus building through the programming process and through diverse political dialogues at the national and regional level.

Prof. Sen’s lecture took place in the framework of activities of the Network of Policymakers for Poverty Reduction and Social Protection, which is part of the Regional Policy Dialogue, an initiative of the Board of Executive Directors of the IDB.

The objective of this network, coordinated by Nora Lustig, principal advisor and chief of the IDB Poverty and Inequality Unit, is to offer a forum where the countries of Latin America can share experiences, learn the practices of other regions, and explore opportunities for cooperation in the areas of poverty and social protection.

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