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Finance & Development
A quarterly magazine of the IMF
December 2000, Volume 37, Number 4

From the editor

Like some malignant disease, poverty saps the vitality of countries around the world, affects the health of large elements of their populations, and casts a cloud over their prospects for economic growth. Also, like a disease, poverty is caused by economic, social, and political processes that can be identified and tackled, given the means and the resources. Some recent research studies improve our ability to identify the root causes of poverty and the measures we might take to fight them. At the same time, there is a much greater awareness today of the impact of poverty on economic growth and a more cohesive international effort to tackle the scourge of poverty through improved education, infrastructure development, and more focused investment. This issue of Finance & Development takes a special look at the topic of "How We Can Help the Poor" and examines a number of fresh approaches to poverty and the coordinated international effort that is addressing the problem.

With our increased understanding of the causes of poverty and how to fight it, Nora Lustig and Nicholas Stern point out, real progress is now possible. Dani Rodrik of Harvard University addresses the active continuing debate on whether governments should pursue growth first or focus on poverty reduction. He concludes that this "hollow debate" only diverts attention from what should be the real question of what works and in what circumstances. Masood Ahmed and Hugh Bredenkamp discuss the new, broader approach being taken by international organizations, including the IMF. Other articles discuss the powerlessness and voicelessness of the poor and the mechanisms for giving them a voice in policy, ways to combat rural poverty, debt relief, and the distinct problems facing Africa.

New capital framework proposals developed by the Basel Committee on Banking Supervision will have implications for both developed and developing countries. In this issue's Financial Focus, Cem Karacadag and Michael W. Taylor review the significant issues that these proposals raise for countries and bank supervisors.

Ian S. McDonald