Fresh solutions for an old problem

01 Jun 2006


During the forum “Fighting Poverty, and Employment in the GAP Region”, held in Adıyaman from 12-13 May, one of the participants began his speech with an anectode:

New Horizons - “A certain teacher in a certain school always asked exactly the same questions in the final exams at the end of each year. Having discovered this, his students stopped paying attention in the class, only studied the answers to the usual questions and passed the class. But one year, although the kids gave the standard answers to the standard questions, they all failed the exam. Replying to his surprised students asking how this could happen, the teacher said, “the questions were the same, but the answers have changed!”

Similarly, poverty is one of the perpetual problems of Southeastern Anatolia (GAP region), but solutions to the issue seem to be changing... In the forum held in Adıyaman within the framework of the programme “ Socio-Economic Development of the GAP Region” which is being conducted by UNDP and GAP Regional Development Agency, the steps taken so far in fighting poverty were re-evaluated and attempts to bring new approaches to the old problem were adopted.

Minister of State and Deputy Prime Minister Abdüllatif Şener opened the forum where representatives of public and private sectors and of national and international organizations came together. Participants made framework statement presentations and group studies and evaluated the progress of the Development Programme, which is due for completion in August, 2006.

UNDP Representative in Turkey Jakob Simonsen stated in his opening speech that Turkey is a constantly developing middle-income country on her way to joining the EU, and with her young and dynamic entrepreneurs, has the largest economy in the entire region. However, Mr. Simonsen explained the presence of UNDP in Turkey despite this promising outlook, by the fact that the positive developments have not yet reached all corners of the country. Simonsen pointed out that gender discrimination and large income differences are also observed in other middle income countries, but thanks to the Government's increasing determination, these issues are now dealt with more depth.

Are cash transfers really a good solution?

Eduardo Zepeta, from UNDP's International Poverty Centre in Brasil elaborated on some global experiences in his speech and emphasized that growth and unemployment rates are not always directly proportional and in order to make them so, we need more pro-poor policies. Mr. Zepeta explained that a research conducted in 80 countries has revealed that in 70% of those countries, growth is not benefiting the poorer segments of the society. The ‘conditional cash transfer' system applied in some of the Latin American countries could enable a pro-poor growth to some extent, said Zepeta. In Mexico, for example, poor families are granted 40 dollars per month with the condition that they send their children to school. However, the studies conducted in that region reveal that cash transfers do not always provide family members with employment in short terms and children attending school do not necessarily improve their grades. Therefore, Zepeta argued, the conditions of cash transfers should be reviewed and bettered. He also said that public investments which would attract private investors, especially in infrastructure, are needed.

In the final session of the forum, participants were divided into working groups and prepared suggestions on fighting poverty and increasing employment in the region, to be submitted to the GAP Agency. GAP authorities announced that the suggestions will be collectively published in a report and would show the way to policies and projects to be applied in the GAP region in the near future.