|Jeffrey D. Sachs, The End Of
Poverty : How We Can Make It Happen in Our Lifetime, Penguin Books,
2005; Price £4.50.
“The ideas in this book have a hook you won’t forget; the end of
poverty … In Jeff’s hands, the millstone of opportunity around our
necks becomes an adventure, something doable and achievable” Bono
We can end poverty by 2025… and change the world forever.
The cumulative experience of seeing the world from many vantage points
has helped Jeffery Sachs to appreciate the real circumstances on our
planet - the causes of poverty, the role of rich-country policies, and
the possibilities for the future. He examines how poverty has been
beaten in the past, how can a real difference be made for the
one-fifth of humanity who still live in extreme poverty.
The book depicts the pathetic plight of impoverished people throughout
the developing world. This book is about ending poverty in our time as
the title of the book says. It is not a forecast. It is not a
prediction of what will happen but only an explanation of what can
happen. This book, then, is about making the right choices - choices
that can lead to a much safer world based on a true reverence and
respect for human life. When the preconditions of basic infrastructure
(roads, power, and ports) and human capital (health and education) are
in place, markets are powerful engines of development. Without those
preconditions, markets can cruelly bypass large parts of the world,
leaving them impoverished and suffering without respite. Collective
action, through effective government provision of health, education,
infrastructure, as well as foreign assistance when needed, underpins
Sachs provides an excellent and accurate Global Family Portrait. He
explains the situation of poverty in Third World countries such as
India, Malawi, Bangladesh apathy.
The move from universal poverty to varying degrees of prosperity has
happened rapidly in the span of human history. Two hundred years ago
the idea that we could potentially achieve the end of extreme poverty
would have been unimaginable. Just about everybody was poor, with the
exception of a very small minority of rulers and large landowners.
Life was as difficult in much of Europe as it was in India or China.
The gulf between today’s rich and poor countries is therefore a new
phenomenon, a yawning gap that opened during the period of modern
economic growth. As of 1820, the biggest gap between the rich and poor
- specifically, between the world’s leading economy of the day, the
United Kingdom, and the world’s poorest region, Africa - was a ratio
of four to one in per capita income (even after adjusting for
differences in purchasing power. By 1998, the gap between the richest
economy, the United States, and the poorest region, Africa, had
widened to twenty to one.
Sachs discusses and dissects and blasts certain myths about the causes
of poverty in this book. Extreme poverty has been defined as living on
less than a dollar per day. His views are supported with ample graphs
Three main points stand out:
• All regions were poor in 1820
• All regions experienced economic progress
• Today’s rich regions experienced by far the greatest economic
Modern economic growth has also produced a revolution in social
mobility. Established social rankings – such as the fixed hierarchical
divisions between peasants and gentry, or within the Indian caste
structure, or in the social orders of nobility, priests, merchants,
and farmers that characterized many traditional Asian societies - all
unravel under the forces of market-based modern economic growth. One
more crucial element occurs with deep structural change: the division
of labour increases, as people become more and more specialised in
their skills. The talents of a poor rural farmer in Africa today, or
in Scotland at the time of Adam Smith, are truly marvellous. Sachs
believes that the single most important reason why prosperity spread,
and why it continues to spread, is the transmission of technologies
and the ideas underlying them.
The book presents how certain investments can reverse the cycle of
poverty. Human capital, infrastructure, knowledge capital, etc., are
all potential ways to influence and lift those suffering out of
poverty, however these need to be addressed systemically in order to
Sachs contends that the west should give a lumpsum upfront for the
basic infrastructure (roads, electricity, water) to be setup. Only
then can sustained economic reforms materialise. The global plan,
requires big money and big debt relief.
The global plan for reduction of poverty suggested by Sachs is quite
ambitious. Sachs calculated that it would take anywhere from $ 135
billion to $ 190 billion in donations from rich countries over the
next two decades in order to eliminate poverty by 2025. To end the
world’s poverty, he offers a very unusual, but effective plan ranging
from planting nitrogenous leguminous trees to replenish soil fertility
to using anti retroviral therapy for AIDS. Sachs plan calls for swift
and aggressive actions including anti-viral ---- for aids, mosquito
nets for malaria and battery charging stations. He makes an appeal to
the Secretary General of the UN to run the overall programme for
lifting poor countries out of the poverty trap.
The mission is to save 20000 lives per day and end extreme poverty.
Sachs is of the opinion that if AIDS is controlled in Africa, the
financial position of its people will drastically improve. This is
well said since AIDS is one of the many ills plaguing Africa which is
eating into its infrastructure. Sachs makes an appeal to the West to
give a lump-sum amount for the basic infrastructure (roads, electicity,
water) to be set up. Only then one can sustain economic reforms. He
mentions that USA is giving 0.2% of their GDP as aid to the poor
nations whereas the West should give 0.7% of their income to the poor
Sachs sets towering goals which he states are very easy to achieve.
Sachs’ big plan to end poverty is a very effective one, but he says
that the task is very easy, which is not right.
While governments do have a role in addressing world poverty, the real
question is, "How should governments best address the poverty issue?"
Since more funds are annually given to address poverty through
charitable contributions than the tax dollars, and are managed with
greater efficiency through those humanitarian organizations, the
answer to how governments should contribute to the fight against
poverty is not an easy one.
Sachs proposes the development of a goliath governmental project by
suggesting the UN Secretary General personally run the overall plan,
coordinating the actions of thousands of officials in six UN agencies,
UN country teams, the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund.
Whatever looks good as a suggestion, has, however many limitations.
Several chapters go in depth into the economies of China, Russia,
India and other developing countries. All these sections are backed by
solid research and are well presented.
Very comprehensive account of specific ideas on how to end global
poverty, a global compact to end poverty, can the rich afford to help
the poor, myths and magic bullets, why should we do it and our
generation’s challenge runs over 18 chapters. A millennium development
goals based poverty reduction strategy containing five parts, four
concerns which must be addressed for poverty reduction at global
level, the package of basis needs have emerged out of intensive
research - oriented and analytical mind.
The only real weakness of this book is what it doesn't say. Sachs
ascribes all root causes and solutions to a government effort. In
seems impossible in a nearly 400 - page book on poverty, to not
address materialism, greed, and the culture of valuing self above all
else. Yet no where does he address personal responsibility. The fact
that the efficiency of non-governmental charitable work through
organizations like "World Vision" vastly outperforms any government
processes is ignored here. The book is poorer for the lack of
addressing personal accountability for each of us to care for the poor
in our world community.
Dr. (Mrs.) Vijaya Katti
Professor & Chairperson (GSD)
Indian Institute of Foreign Trade
New Delhi - 110016