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Thursday, September 23, 2010

The Worldwide War on Poverty

The United Nations has concluded its summit devoted to assessing progress on the Millennium Development Goals. President Obama made the case for the US that the world needs to promote development in poor countries and do whatever we can to promote democracy and get rid of corruption. 
"The purpose of development -- and what's needed most right now -- is creating the conditions where assistance is no longer needed," said Obama. "So we will seek partners who want to build their own capacity to provide for their people."
There can be little argument with this approach in general terms, but figuring out exactly what it means is the hard part. For example, the World Bank estimates that 37 percent of people in developing countries live on less than $2/day (i.e., less than $730/year). Half of those people live in either China or India so, despite the widely hailed economic gains in those two countries, they both have a long way to go to help lower the overall world poverty level. And, of course, in none of the discussions that I could find did anyone mention that even if everyone alive today were lifted out of poverty, we don't know that we could keep the additional 2 billion expected to be added between now and the middle of this century out of poverty. That discussion will require another summit.

1 comment:

  1. This "world wide war on poverty" seems to me to be more like an occasional token conversation between a few political leaders about what they do not really care to change. People as a species are not incapable of solving problems. If the necessity is there, people can adjust to it. The problem here is that the necessity is disconnected from this systems ability to do work. What is the incentive for the rich man to give to the poor? How would giving up wealth benefit the people in power besides maybe hushing the angry masses for a bit? The idea that anyone believes the wealthy and greedy are going to fix world poverty is ignorant, counterintuitive, and well, plainly comical.