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On air: Extreme World - rich and poor

Ben James Ben James | 17:07 UK time, Wednesday, 1 December 2010

This topic was discussed on World Have Your Say on 01 December 2010. Listen to the programme.

When you live in extreme poverty, it probably doesn't immediately matter to you how that poverty is measured.

As part of the BBC's Extreme World series, we're looking at the extremes of rich and poor around the world.

Various league tables are published - take the latest UN Human Development Index which combines data on schooling, life expectancy and per capita income to rank countries, 1 to 169.

The top 3 countries are Norway, Australia and New Zealand; Zimbabwe is at the bottom, with Congo DRC and Niger just above.

The average annual income in Zimbabwe by this measure is $176.20; in Norway, it's 334 times higher at $58,809 - or, seen another way, the average Norwegian earns the average Zimbabwean's annual income every day (roughly).

But is the way in which world institutions measure extremes of poverty relevant to experiences on the ground?

Do the indicators tell the real story? Is it also about measures of happiness, or tolerance, or security?

And whichever indicator you use, is it also about the wealth gap between the poorest and the richest?

Does the existence of people hundreds of times richer than you mean your own sense of poverty is made all the worse?

And for all the measurement of the raw level of poverty, should we also somehow measure how possible or probable it is to get out of poverty?

Ros will be presenting WHYS from Sierra Leone again on the radio at 1800GMT - it's 158th on the UN list, life expectancy is 48, annual income $809 and adults have had an average of 2.9 years of schooling in their life.

These are some of the questions we're asking:

* How would you define extreme poverty and extreme wealth? 

* If you're at the extreme end of the spectrum in your country, what is life like for you?

How do you get on in life if you're extremely poor? How easy is it to change your life?

We're going to speak to guests in Sierra Leone and around the world, with rich and poor talking to each other - and we also want to hear from you.

We're also on BBC World News TV at 1530GMT.



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