Wealth and Poverty

revision cards for full course rs gcse on the topic of wealth and poverty.

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  • Created on: 25-04-10 16:47

causes of poverty

There are many different reasons why people in developing countries are poor. Most of these combine to increase poverty in a vicious circle. For example, lack of sanitation leads to the spread of disease which makes people too ill to work, increasing unemployment etc.

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causes of poverty

There are other factors which many see as major contributors. For example, Zambia, a country decimated by AIDS, pays off millions every year in foreign debt.In Zambia, between 1990 and 1993, debt repayments cost 34 times as much as the country was able to spend on primary school education – education spending fell by more than 80%.

Africa’s interest repayments cost four times as much as is spent on health care.

Unfair trade laws are also a big problem. Oxfam stated that these unfair rules lead to a loss of £500 billion every year for developing countries.

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roman catholic church

The Catholic Church regularly criticises those who value wealth above people. The Catechism says:

“True happiness is not found in riches or well-being, in human fame or power, or in any human achievement… God blesses those who come to the aid of the poor and rebukes those who turn away from them. Rich nations have a grave moral responsibility towards those which are unable to ensure the means of their development by themselves.”

Roman Catholic Catechism

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roman catholic church

The Church teaches that unfair laws and inequality has led to greater levels of poverty. The Church supported the Jubilee campaign to end the Developing World's debt. Pope John Paul II said:

"The Jubilee year was meant to restore equality among all of the children of Israel, offering new possibilities to families which had lost their property and even their personal freedom. On the other hand, the jubilee year was a reminder to the rich that a time would come when their Israelite slaves would once again become their equals and would be able to reclaim their rights. At the times prescribed by law, a jubilee year had to be proclaimed to assist those in need"

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They sell into slavery honest men who cannot pay their debts… .they trampled the poor, weak and helpless, and push the sick out of the way.” Amos 2:6-7

God wants people not to be greedy, and cancel debts when someone cannot pay. These quotes can apply to the international debt situation today…

“At the end of every seven years…… every creditor shall release what he has lent to his neighbour…” (i.e. cancel any debts). Deuteronomy 15:7-8

Jesus' first public statement echoed the words of the prophets when he claimed that he had come to 'preach good news to the poor' and 'release the oppressed'. This may include debt cancellation:

“The spirit of the Lord is upon me, he has sent me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed….” Luke 4:18-19

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"The fields of the poor may produce abundant food, but injustice sweeps it away." Proverbs 13:23

We often see developing countries as victims - of war, of the weather etc. However, the truth is that many developing countries produce 'abundant food' but unjust trade laws mean that they cannot sell their produce for a decent price. The Bible warned that it was wrong to cheat the poor out of money:

"Don't cheat when measuring length, weight, or quantity. Use honest scales and weights and measures."

Leviticus 19:35-36

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practical responses


Christian Aid

Amnesty International

Tear Fund

£500 billion is effectively stolen from poorer countries every year through unfair trade. CAFOD, Christian Aid and Tear Fund are all members of the Trade Justice Movement, and run their own campaigns to try to make international trade fairer.

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make poverty history

Make Poverty History

This was a campaign started in 2005, 20 years after Live Aid, largely because not enough had been done since Live Aid. It involved a second world-wide event, Live8, with concerts in 9 countries. The intention was not to raise money, but to raise awareness and put pressure on the G8. The campaign focussed on the fact that a child dies of poverty every 3 seconds.

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Poverty is caused by developing countries themselves

Some people believe that poverty is caused by bad government in developing countries. They argue that it is therefore nothing to do with Western governments, and that we have no responsibility to help people who are poor. This may be linked to ideas like Laissez-faire capitalism. This is the belief that governments should not get involved in wealth distribution, but should leave things to take their natural course.

Some people argue that it is wrong to give large amounts of aid to the developing world, and even argue agaist debt cancellation as an unnatural interference. They say it is better not to get involved, as each economy will find its natural equillibrium. The rich cannot take too much money from the poor, as they need poor people to work the land and produce goods etc. If the balance swings too much in one direction, it will make things change in a way that swings it back

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Poverty is caused by wealthier nations

Many people blame the wealthier nations for the debt problems of the developing world. Money was leant to corrupt governments that misused the money, and it wasn't spent on the people. It is therefore unfair to punish the people for this.

It is also claimed that unfair laws, made by the wealthier nations, have led to an increase in poverty. Trade restrictions make it harder for people in poorer countries to sell their goods. They are also exploited, rarely being given a fair price for their produce.

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There is probably some truth in both positions above. Wealthy countries can certainly do a lot to stop poverty, but the solution also needs to come from within the developing world. It is also important to note that other factors contribute to poverty. Natural disasters can vastly increase poverty. The spread of diseases, like AIDS, has had a massive impact on Africa.

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However, even here it can be claimed that natural disasters have increased because of pollution from developed countries. As a result, the wealthier countris have a responsibility to help reduce poverty.

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Many Protestant churches follow the biblical exhortation to give 10% of one's income back to God. The tithe goes to wherever a person receives his or her spiritual teaching.

Eastern Orthodox

The Orthodox Church emphasizes voluntary stewardship instead of a specific tithe amount.


Most Catholic churches suggest that parishioners contribute 10% of their income to charity, with 5% going to the local church and 5% going to the parishioner's charity of choice.

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The Bible teaches that everything that we own comes from God:

The earth is the Lord’s, and every thing in it, the world, and all who live in it. Psalm 24:1

Some Christians keep strictly to the 10% laid out in the Old Testament. However, Jesus was wary of people who were legalistic, and taught that all giving should be done with a joyful heart.

What sorrow awaits you Pharisees! For you are careful to tithe even the tiniest income from your herb gardens, but you ignore justice and the love of God. You should tithe, yes, but do not neglect the more important things. Luke 11:42

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