Look at her record

January 16, 2013

The United Nations Development Programme’s executive board is less than impressed by progress in reducing poverty:

Former prime minister Helen Clark has been hit with a devastating critique of her United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in an official report saying much of its annual US$5.7 billion (NZ$6.8 billion) budget is only remotely connected to ending global poverty.

The densely worded report by the UNDP’s executive board – Clark’s bosses since she became secretary-general in April 2009 – amounts to a stinging performance review.

US media reports say she is leading a counter-attack claiming the study misses the point behind its work.

But the report paints a striking picture of a confused organisation seemingly unable to bring significant change to the world’s 1.3 billion poor people despite spending US$8.5 billion on fighting poverty between 2004 and 2011. . .

Is there any surprise in that, look at Ms Clark’s record on reducing poverty when she was Prime Minister of New Zealand.

That was a much easier job than tackling it on a global scale.

Yet what did she achieve in what was generally a good economic environment globally and domestically?

Her government introduced measures which gave assistance for people in greed rather than need, Welfare for Families which turned middle and upper income families into beneficiaries is a very expensive example of that.

It threw money at problems rather than seeking solutions.

It increased the burden of government, adding to public sector numbers without increasing productivity, and masked recession in the export sector with a consumption boom fuelled by borrowing and spending based on higher taxes.

The number of people unemployed and on very low incomes has increased since the global financial crisis. But there was already a solid foundation of poor who were not helped by Ms Clark’s government through nine years of much better economic times than we’ve had in the four years since she left.

In her defence however,  the executive summary says the report covers the period from 2,000, and Ms Clark has only been secretary general since 2009 and she was set an impossible task.

There are many causes of poverty and among those for the poorest are political and social factors against which an agency like the UN is powerless regardless of how much money it throws at the programme.


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