22 September 2008

Hope & Prosperity ~ Paul Collier on Accelerating African Economic Convergence

Oxford economist Paul Collier, author of The Bottom Billion -- (reviewed in the NYTimes column The Least Among Us by Harvard historian Niall Ferguson) -- has an insightful OpEd piece in the NYTimes today titled A Measure of Hope about the need for sustained and rapid action to tackle global poverty. Collier notes...
Our top priority should be to provide credible hope where it has been lacking. The African countries in the bottom billion have missed out on the prolonged period of global growth that the rest of the world has experienced. The United Nations’ goal should not be to help the poor in fast-growing and middle-income countries; it should do its utmost to help the bottom billion to catch up.

[But the] Millennium Development Goals [...] are devoid of strategy; their only remedy is more aid. I am not hostile to aid. I think we should increase it, though given the looming recession in Europe and North America, I doubt we will. But other policies on governance, agriculture, security and trade could be used to potent effect. International coordination is needed more than ever. For all its manifest limitations, the United Nations must work. International coordination has been, indeed, the great achievement of the Millennium Development Goals; all the major donor countries have bought into them.

But they should now be revised so as to focus on the challenge of helping the bottom billion to converge with the rest of mankind -- and on a more realistic timescale. We need not just [the current UN Secretary General-sponsored] “Year of the Bottom Billion,” but several decades.
And I think we can do it: We can -- and, indeed, we must -- truly eliminate the scourge of poverty from our planet by 2050 and to replace it with increasing prosperity and growing hope.

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