Root causes are often Poverty


CBC quoted Statistics Canada that people living in poverty, 5 % of population, cost the Alberta Health Service 56% of its total budget. (May 8, the CBC National)  The figure is even worse in Ontario with 68% of the budget.  It’s a staggering statistics.  Poor people can not afford healthy life-style.  Often cheap food is more likely unhealthy and organic food more expensive.  It is stressful and unhappy to be poor too.  No wonder they get sick more often than the middle-class.  It saves tax payer’s money if poor people have a little bit more money.  Increase minimum wage and social assistance.  There is a popular misconception about better minimum wage and  better social assistance.  Many people think those costs as waste of tax money. They aren’t.

Once I tried to help a priest from Ethiopia to obtain a visa to work among the refugees in Toronto.  The application was rejected because the wage the local Ethiopian Orthodox Church could offer was not good enough; but it was better than social assistance.  The Immigration did not realize that contradiction.  Another thing they didn’t understand was the remuneration practice of Ethiopian Church.  Often priests are supported by gifts-in-kind. That’s nothing new.  Canadian churches had the same system.  Fact is: social assistance is below the Canadian Immigration thinks adequate for living.

I learnt the same lesson about the cost of poverty when I was working on hunger issues in Africa during the 1980’s.  The cause of hunger was not really famine induced by natural disasters nor food shortage.  Hunger is caused not by shortage of available food, but by food not accessible to the poor.  Without money they  have no access to food neither can they produce food.  I ate well in Africa; I had money.  Ironically, during the famine of the eighties, Ethiopia exported more food items to Europe: beef, coffee, and sugar,  more than what they received in foreign aid.  How it was possible?  Commercial farms had better land and credit, while poor farmers had none of those.  So the rich can overcome  natural calamity.  Cash is cheaper way to resolve hunger than more imported food.

It’s the same with the cost of health care.  You want to save tax money on health care?  Concentrate on making poor people not so poor.  Why didn’t I think of that?

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