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Sunday, May 19, 2024

Tackling Global Poverty

by Joanna Andrews

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About one billion people in the world live in extreme poverty, earning less than US$1.25 per day, according to World Bank statistics. Khalaf Ahmad Al Habtoor, Chairman of the Al Habtoor Group says that this is moral obscenity in the 21st century. He believes that world governments aren’t doing enough to tackle the issue, which is why, through his philanthropic foundation - The Khalaf Ahmad Al Habtoor Foundation - he has come up with a comprehensive proposal of his own aimed at alleviating global poverty. It calls on global governments to take an active role in stemming poverty by imposing a ‘global poverty tax’. Joanna Andrews brings you the details of his ambitious plan.

Khalaf Ahmad Al Habtoor may be a successful businessman, but he is also a father, a philanthropist and humanitarian. The Al Habtoor Group Chairman says he can’t just sit back and watch one seventh of the world suffer, which is why he has drafted up a proposal to help significantly reduce global poverty.

The United Nations predicts that the world’s population is expected to grow from around seven billion today to 11 billion people by 2050, placing an even bigger burden on global governments and the world’s ever-scarcer resources.

Al Habtoor’s Poverty Alleviation Plan, which he says needs a better name, aims to fast-track the alleviation of global poverty with the introduction of a poverty tax. If adopted, he firmly believes it will accelerate the Millennium Development’s goal of eradicating extreme poverty.

He praises efforts by the Millennium Goal on Poverty, which hopes to reduce by half the proportion of people living on less than US$1 per day and half those who suffer in hunger. However, Al Habtoor warns that in this conflictafflicted era, there is more pressure than ever to address the issue.

He says that ‘The Giving Pledge’ launched by Bill and Melinda Gates - a commitment by the world’s wealthiest individuals and families to dedicate the majority of their wealth to philanthropy - illustrates the willingness of at least 135 billionaires to ‘give back’ to those in desperate circumstances. “Their efforts should be congratulated and it’s possible that the total donations could be equivalent to the GDP of several medium-sized countries, but, nevertheless, in comparison to the need, such generosity represents a drop in the ocean. Lifting a billion human beings out of poverty must ultimately be the responsibility of governments.”

He adds, “It is strongly contended here that the entirely fresh approach is required so as to keep pace with population growth, burgeoning refugee populations, as well as the re-emergence of previously eradicated diseases and inflationary trends. Ensuring that no human being is left behind is a task of major proportions that should not be reliant on the fluctuating charitable propensities of individual governments or the philanthropic sentiments of wealthy individuals/charitable trusts/ corporations.”

“Children with swollen stomachs due to malnutrition, families sleeping under cardboard or corrugated iron and individuals dying from curable diseases because they are unable to afford medicines cannot wait and must be helped now.”

Al Habtoor proposes a global system of revenue-raising, or a ‘poverty tax’. This is a more ambitious idea than the one advocated in the US Senate by President Barack Obama in 2007, which failed to get off the ground.

Al Habtoor’s plan requires governments to pledge 2.5 per cent of their tax revenues - or an agreed percentage - annually to a new independent body to be founded in a neutral country, tasked solely with poverty-reduction that would be immune to political influence and subject to independent auditing. It might require that governments find new revenue streams so as not to negatively affect fiscal budgets.

Al Habtoor also notes that, according to Oxfam, at least US$18.5 trillion is deposited in tax havens. This figure represents a US$156 billion in lost revenue. Furthermore, the statistics don’t include major companies or corporations who find legal loopholes to dodge tax. With the gap between the haves and have-nots getting bigger, he believes this needs to be addressed. Kevin Rousell, who is Head of Oxfam’s International Essential Services Campaign, is quoted as saying that those trillions would be enough to end extremely poverty in the world twice over!

Al Habtoor concludes by saying, that as citizens of the world, we have not only moral obligations but religious ones too - no matter what our religious belief, “All the world’s greatest faiths exhort its believers to take care of the poor.”

WHAT’S YOUR VIEW? For the full proposal please go to We welcome your comments on Khalaf Al Habtoor’s Poverty Alleviation Proposal. Please email:

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