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Tackling global poverty: Do the poor get a voice?

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Researching poverty has always been a tricky, controversial affair. There is no consensus among policymakers, nor economists, on how to count the poor, nor on what really helps the poor.

Are so many people poor only because we have a system that is inherently biased against them and diverts available resources away from them? Is there a magic bullet to resolve the structural issues that condemn millions to poverty? Who speaks for the poor? Do the poor have a voice in debates about global poverty?

These questions are not new.

The political debate on why so many of the poor remain poor, how they got there, as well as how best to help them is likely to continue despite this year’s Nobel Memorial Prize for Economic Sciences to Abhijit Banerjee, his wife and colleague Esther Duflo and Michael Kremer for their experimental approach to alleviating global poverty.

Banerjee and Duflo teach at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Kramer is at Harvard University. In 2003, Banerjee founded the Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab, better known as J-PAL, along with Esther Duflo and Sendhil Mullainathan, and their work has been hugely influential.

But as we all know, neither research nor policy by themselves can eradicate poverty. The best policies mean little if the implementation on the ground is poor.

Banerjee, Duflo and Kremer got the Nobel for their work on randomised control trials (RCT), which has its origins in medical science, but which is now used for public policies on a range of issues, including poverty eradication, better learning outcomes and health and education,........

© The Asian Age