Young impoverished girl with cat.

In de gevechtslinie van de armoedegrens

WASHINGTON, DC – Ik was gedurende geruime tijd - eerst als hoogleraar en daarna als de belangrijkste economische adviseur van de Indiase regering - een gretig gebruiker van de data over mondiale armoede van de Wereldbank, waarmee ik trends in kaart bracht en patronen tussen landen analyseerde. Ik vroeg mij bijna constant af hoe deze getallen berekend werden. Toen werd ik drie jaar geleden hoofdeconoom van de Wereldbank. Dit voelde alsof ik te gast was in mijn favoriete restaurant en bij het bestellen opeens gevraagd werd om me naar de keuken te begeven en daar mijn eigen eten te klaar te maken.

Het is voor de Wereldbank een hele uitdaging om in het vak van het meten van armoede te zitten. Als de armoede afneemt beschuldigen critici ons ervan dat we ons succes proberen te etaleren. Als de armoede groeit zeggen ze dat we ons er alleen maar van verzekeren dat de zaak blijft lopen. En als de armoede gelijk blijft beschuldigen ze ons ervan de twee voorgaande aanklachten te willen ontlopen.

Gelukkig is de kennis dat voor je welke uitkomst dan ook bekritiseerd zal worden ergens bevrijdend. Toch was ik me toen ons team op het punt stond de mondiale armoedegrens van dit jaar vast te stellen (en daarmee de verspreiding van armoede) zeer bewust van de waarschuwing van Angus Deaton, Nobelprijswinnaar Economie 2015; ‘Ik weet niet of het wel zo verstandig is van de Wereldbank om zich zo aan dit project engageren.’

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