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Professors address poverty

Katlyn Smith | Monday, November 19, 2007

Saint Mary’s professors examined the impact of globalization on poverty through four angles Friday at the College.

Mathematics professor Fozia Qazi moderated the panel, titled “Overcoming global poverty: Is globalization the problem or the solution?” The discussion ended International Week at the College.

Jerry McElroy, professor of business administration and economies, focused on trade and migration.

McElroy said the speed of the Internet and the cross-border movement of goods and capital have contributed to globalization, although the World Bank has not researched a clear convergence.

Globalization, he said, means workers increasingly emigrate from rural regions.

“As a result of these labor movements, the overall productivity diminishes in underdeveloped countries, especially Latin America,” McElroy said.

The influx of Mexican laborers to the U.S. translates into low Mexican wages, McElroy said. In the U.S., however, the increasing supply of laborers, productivity and demand preserve high wages.

“We are seeing this persistent wage inequality on a global scale,” McElroy said.

Political science department chair Marc Belanger said he recently witnessed the effect of globalization when he took a group of students to Honduras.

Belanger described the capital city Tegucigalpa as an “urban nightmare” and said unchecked growth has led to urban violence and overcrowding.

To reduce labor movements, “we must rethink agricultural policy to benefit the world’s poor,” Belanger said.

Agriculture provides a more viable option for the poor and an alternative to dislocation, Belanger said. Economically, middle and small-scale agriculture also have a greater effect on GNP and poverty. However, “the credit and infrastructure is not present for small producers to get their goods to market,” Belanger said.

He said the World Bank must advocate investment in public goods, such as electric and water grids to provide easier transport of goods. He also said the World Bank must look at the poor through a more humane and environmental viewpoint.

Belanger discussed the role of the Heifer Project, which is an international non-profit organization committed to relieving global hunger and poverty, and its strides in aiding financially dependent families around the world.

Although not a rapid process, “the emphasis on an economic asset to produce income provides a sustainable, stable future for the poor,” Belanger said.

Edith Miguda, a history professor at the College, expanded on Belanger’s ideas of globalization and its importance in lesser developed countries, especially on women.

“Globalization is a word one hears in even the remotest African villages,” she said.

In Tanzania, for example, Russian aircrafts take Lake Victorian fish to U.S. markets. Not only does that create an environmental hazard, Miguda said, but it forces women to search for remaining scraps for their children and destitute households.

Women make use of global opportunities in female-run trade shops that feature goods from China, U.S. and London, Miguda said.

“The UN must facilitate and support women’s initiatives to minimize the negative social effect of globalization,” she said.

In 2000, announcing its role in a new global era, the United Nations declared globalization must provide benefits for all, Miguda said.

Sociology professor Mary Ann Kanieski spoke about the effect of globalization on family life.

“The current form of globalization perceives the family as a personal, optional responsibility, not a basic right,” she said. “The career takes precedence over the family.”

Kanieski also discussed labor movements and the separation of families over large distances. Few family protections and increased employment of mothers have impoverished family life, she said.