July 5, 2011

THE END OF HISTORY IS WORKING OUT EXACTLY AS WELL AS YOU THOUGHT IT WOULD:

With Little Notice, Globalization Reduced Poverty (Laurence Chandy, Geoffrey Gertz, 5 July 2011, Yale Global)

It is customary to bemoan the intractability of global poverty and the lack of progress against the Millennium Development Goals. But the stunning fact is that, gone unnoticed, the goal to halve global poverty was probably reached three years ago.

We are in the midst of the fastest period of poverty reduction the world has ever seen. The global poverty rate, which stood at 25 percent in 2005, is ticking downwards at one to two percentage points a year, lifting around 70 million people – the population of Turkey or Thailand – out of destitution annually. Advances in human progress on such a scale are unprecedented, yet remain almost universally unacknowledged. [...]

Not only is poverty falling rapidly, it’s falling across all regions and most countries. Unsurprisingly, the greatest reduction has occurred in Asia. But it’s not just the dynamic economies of East Asia, such as China, recording great feats in poverty reduction; South Asian giants including India and Bangladesh, and Central Asian economies such as Uzbekistan also make great strides. Even Sub-Saharan Africa is sharing in this progress. The region finally broke through the symbolic threshold of a 50 percent poverty rate in 2008 and its number of poor people has begun falling for the first time on record.

This stunning progress is driven by rapid economic growth across the developing world. During the 1980s and 1990s, per capita growth in developing countries averaged just 1 to 2 percent a year, not nearly fast enough to make a serious dent in poverty levels. Since around 2003, however, growth in the developing world has taken off, averaging 5 percent per capita a year.

How and why sustained high economic growth in developing countries took hold are questions likely to be debated by economic historians for many decades. Already one can point to a number of probable sources emerging or accelerating around the turn of the century: an investment boom triggered by rising commodity prices; high growth spillovers originating from large open emerging economies that utilize cross-border supply chains; diversification into novel export markets from cut flowers to call centers; spread of new technologies, in particular rapid adoption of cell phones; increased public and private investment in infrastructure; the cessation of a number of conflicts and improved political stability; and the abandonment of inferior growth strategies such as import substitution for a focus on macroeconomic health and improved competitiveness.

These factors are manifestations of a set of broader trends – the rise of globalization, the spread of capitalism and the improving quality of economic governance – which together have enabled the developing world to begin converging on advanced economy incomes after centuries of divergence. The poor countries that display the greatest success today are those that are engaging with the global economy, allowing market prices to balance supply and demand and to allocate scarce resources, and pursuing sensible and strategic economic policies to spur investment, trade and job creation. It’s this potent combination that sets the current period apart from a history of insipid growth and intractable poverty.

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Posted by Orrin Judd at July 5, 2011 5:08 PM
  
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