Thursday, February 4, 2016

$3.10 Poverty Challenge: Julius’ Story

To begin my research about what it means to live on 10,800 shillings per day (the World Bank stated poverty line), I interviewed a boda-boda driver whose name is Julius. Julius drives a motorcycle taxi for a living and he is my trusted driver in Kampala when I need more than a quick jaunt. Julius’ story is common to the tens of thousands of boda-boda drivers all around Uganda and Kenya. He and his wife are no longer together and his children live with their mother. For the purpose of this story, we will view Julius as a single man, always keeping mind the financial responsibility he has for his children, which he takes very seriously.

To begin our interview, I naturally started with the issue of food. The minimum Ugandan or Kenyan breakfast is tea with sugar and three slices of bread covered with Blue Band (margarine). Julius indicated that it is far less expensive for him to purchase all of his meals than to prepare food himself and a quick estimation on my part reveals that he is correct. So, Julius pays 2,000 UGX for breakfast (bread and tea), 3,000 UGX for lunch (rice and beans), and 3,000 UGX for dinner (matoke or ugali and meat). In total, Julius spends 8,000 UGX on food, assuming no deviation, and has 2,800 shillings remaining at the end of the day.

Julius works six days each week. Sunday is the Lord’s Day and customers are few so he takes this day to rest. Assuming that Julius is very frugal and manages to save the remaining 2,800 shillings every day for six days, Julius should have 16,800 UGX for Sunday minus 8,000 for food which leaves 8,800 UGX. On Sunday Julius needs to purchase a sachet of soap (500) and a jerry can of water (200) for his laundry. He will use the laundry water along with an old piece of clothing to mop his room. He needs to service his boda-boda with an oil change every week (2,000) and prays no other service is needed. What remains at the end of the week is 6,100 UGX.

Keep in mind that, based on the budget and food purchases we itemized, Julius has had nothing to drink all week save morning tea, he did not tithe, he did not pay rent for his small room, and he did not give any money for the care of his children. He was not sick, did not buy any clothing, pay licensing fees for driving his boda, or get stopped by traffic police and have to pay for the officer’s tea. He did not buy a Bible, pay for electricity or candles and matches, water and soap for bathing, airtime for his phone, or any other thing. While these items were not itemized, I think you can easily see that 6,100 UGX is not enough for a 10% tithe on total income (64,800) let alone these or other normal expenses. And if Julius gets malaria and needs treatment, which he will eventually, he will need 11,000 for medicine, which isn’t there if Julius is to live on $3.10 per day.