Julia Daly asked whether I wanted to move back in with her for the week, which brings me to one of my concerns. It’s a great idea to live for five days to raise awareness of extreme poverty but we shouldn’t forget that we are only eating on £1 a day. People in real need are actually living on that. I have a vague memory of Lady Olga Maitland (con) many years ago proclaiming, after feeding herself for a week on the money given out in benefits (eat liver – it’s very cheap), that it was quite possible to be very comfortable, even if you are on benefits, if you plan well and shop carefully. I am guessing that even at the time her careful shopping would have involved someone else doing all the research and going to a dozen different shops to get the very cheapest of each foodstuff.
I am sure I could have got better value if I had, as I noted yesterday, either the money or the time in my budget to get to the market in the centre of Sheffield but what I would have saved would have been more than lost in either bus fares or time. Similarly, I have bought 500g of dried chick peas which gives a decent amount of food for the money (78p) but require to be soaked overnight, boiled hard in a change of water for a short time then simmered for around an hour. If I were living on the edge of extreme poverty, the fuel to cook the chick peas, if bought, would be expensive and, if gathered as wood, would take a lot of time to collect. I’m also going to cook the full 500g at once but this requires me to own and be able to pay to run a fridge.
So, those 1.4 billion people living in extreme poverty have to find the money (or time) for fuel for cooking and warmth, find the money (or time) to travel to find or do work, find the money (or time) to obtain water for drinking, cooking and washing themselves and their clothes, find the money to clothe themselves and their children, at the very least. They might need to pay for health care, and want to pay for their children’s education. Obviously, on a pound a day they are unlikely to be able to achieve most of the above. Obviously, also, as we’ve already found, having more people working together to bring in money will mean that certain economies of scale can be achieved giving a small amount of flexibility. Extreme poverty encourages big families from a purely economic point of view but will not allow for education; everyone will have to work to keep everyone fed. And there is no chance of working your way out of poverty.
I worked out that currently my outgoings are around £20 per day, before we factor in buying food, buying toiletries and clothes (necessary for work) or any fun at all. I can cut that to around £12 per day by cutting out my charitable donations, all my comms (phone, mobile, broadband, TV licence, email domain etc) and my house & contents insurance. Having no car makes this easier. I can, indeed, get to £4 a day by not contributing to university expenses. Could I survive on £5 per day? Yes. But £1? Well of course I could. It wouldn't be in a house but on the streets. It would be the barest of survival. And around the world a fifth of all people are living on this extreme edge of despair.
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