[Imc-thailand] The End of Poverty: An Interview with Jeffrey Sachs

ECOTERRA Intl. MailHub at ecoterra.net
Mon May 9 13:52:24 PDT 2005

*The End of Poverty*: An Interview with Jeffrey Sachs
*News: One of the world's top economists offers a blueprint for 
transforming the developing world. *
* Interviewed By Onnesha Roychoudhuri*
May 6, 2005

In February of this year, UN Secretary General Kofi Annan remarked 
<http://www.globalpolicy.org/reform/0210kofispeech.htm>: "We will not 
defeat terrorism unless we also tackle the causes of conflict and 
misgovernment in developing countries. And we will not defeat poverty so 
long as trade and investment in any major part of the world are 
inhibited by fear of violence or instability." The point was that a 
broader global security strategy needed to go hand in hand with a 
poverty reduction strategy. To that end, the UN set about drawing up its 
Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). Adopted by all member countries in 
2000, the MDGs aim to achieve everything from eradicating extreme 
poverty to ensuring universal primary education and basic health care 
access, all by the year 2015.

In order to figure out /how/ to reach these goals, Annan organized a 
panel of over 250 development experts to lay out practical strategies 
for promoting rapid development. Headed by economist Jeffrey Sachs, the 
panel published their final report 
in January of 2005. The report calls for both an increase in aid from 
Western countries and a reallocation of funding priorities in the 
developing countries themselves. The report also calls for more aid to 
be given on a local level. By bypassing governments, the UN hopes to 
spark more immediate and effective development. For instance, in one 
test case conducted in Kenya 
<http://www.nytimes.com/2005/05/05/opinion/05thu1.html>, UN funding went 
straight to the village of Sauri, where the schools were able to provide 
much-needed food for their students, and hence jumped in ranking from 
68th to 7th in the district.

Shortly after the release of the UN report came the publication of 
Sachs' book, /The End of Poverty/ 
in which he laid out his own strategies for eradicating poverty by 2025. 
Sachs, who gained renown for advising Latin American and Asian 
governments on economic reform, has gained popularity as "can-do" 
economist amidst a cacophony of naysayers on development. But his 
optimistic attitude has also attracted quite a bit of skepticism. Why is 
it that decades of development economics haven't achieved the 
elimination of poverty? What makes Sachs' proposals so special? Is 
eradicating poverty a feasible goal to achieve in our lifetime? Sachs 
recently sat down with /Mother Jones/ to discuss these issues.

*Mother Jones:* What makes your plan to end poverty so different from 
the development efforts that were tried in the 1950s and 60s? Why hasn't 
five decades worth of development work been very successful thus far?

*Jeffrey Sachs:* I think so far there's been a lack of appropriate 
effort, which includes many things. For development to work, rich 
countries need to help poor countries make certain practical investments 
that are often really very basic. Once you get your head around 
development issues and realize how solvable many of them are, there are 
tremendous things that can be done. But for decades we just haven't 
tried to do many of these basic things. For instance, one issue that has 
been tragically neglected for decades now is malaria. That's a disease 
that kills up to 3 million people every year. It's a disease that could 
be controlled quite dramatically and easily if we just put in the 
effort. It's truly hard for me to understand why we aren't.

*MJ:* What do you say to critics who argue that it's a waste to put more 
money into a development system that hasn't used that money very 
effectively thus far?

*JS:* Well, we have to be smart about whatever we're doing. But I'm 
quite convinced that, broadly speaking, economic development works. The 
main arguments of the Millennium Project Report, and the main argument 
of my book is that there are certain places on the planet that, because 
of various circumstances--geographical isolation, burden of disease, 
climate, or soil--these countries just can't quite get started. So it's 
a matter of helping them get started, whether to grow more food or to 
fight malaria or to handle recurring droughts. Then, once they're on the 
first rung of the ladder of development, they'll start climbing just 
like the rest of the world.

*MJ:* So do you believe that past efforts, to get these less-developed 
countries on the "first rung," haven't been pragmatic enough?

*JS:* Part of it is that many of these countries are invisible places, 
neglected by us politically, neglected by our business firms, by 
international markets, and by trade. We tend to focus on these countries 
only when they're in such extraordinary crises that they get shown on 
CNN because they're in a deep drought or a massive war, which is 
something that impoverished countries are much more prone to falling to. 
There haven't been too many stories in our press about Senegal, Ghana, 
Tanzania, Malawi, or Ethiopia, other than when the disasters hit. And 
yet these are places that are in very deep trouble all of the time, but 
with largely solvable problems. And those are the kinds of the places 
that I'm talking about as being stuck in extreme poverty.

*MJ:* If there's been no real effort to draw the world's attention to 
those places, is there any hope that funding will go there?

*JS:* The world got side-tracked from development issues during the 
post-9/11 crisis period. During the war in Iraq there were bitter 
divisions in the world community, and the idea of being able to focus on 
the problems of extreme poverty or malaria or drought and chronic hunger 
in Africa were just not at the top of the world's debate.

But I think the tsunami in the Indian Ocean last December, in which we 
could all see the scope of the devastation on our television screens, 
shifted discussion towards the plight of the world's poor. So now there 
are some positive signs. Tony Blair has pushed for an Africa Commission 
which just produced a report 
<> in March that 
focuses on poorest of the poor in Africa. There will be a UN poverty 
summit this September which is predicted to be the largest gathering of 
world leaders in history. And I'm traveling extensively around the world 
talking about these issues. So I think that even in our country, there 
is a growing discussion.

*MJ:* I know that former World Bank employee and economist William 
Easterly has criticized your proposals 
and called for what he terms a "piecemeal reform" approach in which 
development efforts are carried out one step at a time, with subsequent 
evaluation. What is your response to this?

*JS:* Basically, I don't think that we should be choosing between 
whether a young girl has immunizations or water, or between whether her 
mother and father are alive, because they have access of treatment for 
AIDS, or whether she has a meal at school, or whether her father and 
mother, who are farmers, are able to grow enough food to feed their 
family and earn some income. Those all strike me as quite doable and 
practical things that can be done at once.

I make the analogy that farmers, to grow their food, need good soil, 
sunshine, proper rain, and heat. If you don't one of those, even if you 
have the other three, your crop is still not going to grow. A lot of 
life in a poor village is like that. If you have a clinic but you don't 
have safe drinking water, or if you have safe drinking water and a 
clinic, but you don't have bed nets to fight malaria, you just don't get 
the kind of needs met and the basic quality of life that gives you a 
chance. I think that Bill Easterly misunderstands what I propose. I'm 
not proposing a single global plan dictated by some UN central command. 
Quite the opposite, I'm proposing that we help people help themselves. 
This can be done without legions of people rushing over to these 
countries to build houses and schools. This is what people in their own 
communities can do if we give them the resources to do it.

*MJ:* Part of Easterly's argument is that if you implement different 
strategies all at once, it will be difficult to isolate and understand 
which strategies worked effectively, and which did not. Do you share 
this concern?

*JS:* I have been working with over 250 of my colleagues on the 
Millennium Development Report. Everybody here is an expert on a 
different thing. The soil scientists really know a lot about how to 
improve soil nutrients and the doctors really know a lot about how to 
keep children alive. The malariologists really know how to control 
malaria and the hydrologists really know how to get safe drinking water 
in a community. One doesn't have to test whether it's good to have more 
food production, or malaria bed nets or doctors or teachers. These are 
proven technologies. If we were introducing something new, that would be 
different, but ours is not an approach based on new discoveries, this is 
an approach based on the best of proven technologies.

*MJ:* Some critics have expressed concern that the Millennium Goals may 
set unrealistic targets for certain countries. What if those countries 
fail to meet the specified level of development and then disillusioned 
donors decide to lower their funding?

*JS:* First, it should be understood that the goals in most cases are 
set proportionate to a given country's situation. So we'll reduce by 2/3 
the child mortality rate, or by 3/4 the maternal mortality rate. We're 
not aiming at the same absolute standard in every country. I think that 
the other thing that is really important to understand is that as I have 
been working with the UN on this for the last 3 years and meeting 
leaders all over the world. What I've found is that their concern isn't 
that the goals are too high. Exactly the opposite: They actually /want/ 
these UN goals, they want them to be ambitious, and they want to be held 
to account. And they want their development partners, the developed 
world, to be held to account on following through on commitments. Again, 
this all goes towards pressuring rich nations to set aside 0.7 percent 
of GNP for development aid. That is not a goal that I set, or that the 
UN set, this is a goal that was adopted 35 years ago by the world 
community and the goal that was set again in the Monterrey consensus 
<http://www.un.org/esa/ffd/aconf198-11.pdf> signed by the U.S. in 2002.

*MJ:* What about aid being sent to countries that have a serious problem 
with corruption? Some have argued that large amounts of aid will merely 
prop up those regimes. Can poverty be eradicated while corrupt 
politicians are in office?

*JS:* My experience is that there's corruption everywhere: in the U.S., 
in Europe, in Asia, and in Africa. It's a bit like infectious 
disease--you can control it, but it's very hard to eradicate it. And 
yes, there are some cases where the corruption is so massive that unless 
you are really, really clever and come up with some radically new 
approach to the issue, you're going to have a hard time accomplishing 
many development goals. It's quite hard in a place like Zimbabwe, now, 
where the current government, in a quite despicable way, clings to 
power. Or, in a country where there is absolutely no transparency or 
where you have a family ruling violently to stay in power. It's very 
hard to do a lot of the things that really need to be done to build an 
effective school system, a health system, and so on. I don't have any 
magic solution for those situations.

But, let me note that the world successfully eradicated small pox, and 
not just in countries that scored high on a governance index but in all 
parts of the world. This was an international effort which targeted a 
specific outcome undertaken by professionals using a proven technology 
and a very extensive monitoring system. And that's the general model for 
our aid proposals. Nothing is done on trust. Everything should be done 
on a basis of measurement and monitoring. When you really focus, there 
are so many ways to be clever about how to do this to make it work 
better. Don't just send money; send bed nets, send in auditors, make 
targets quantitative. There are a lot of tricks, a lot of ways, that if 
one is practical about this, one can get results.

But what happens is that everyone's wringing their hands about 
corruption without trying to solve practical problems. And right now, 
we're not even helping the /well/-governed places, the places where we 
are capable of finding absolutely practical and effective approaches to 
turning help into real success on the ground. The basic issue is not to 
lecture about morality and governance. The basic issue is, is there a 
way for us to help to fight AIDS, TB, malaria, and other killers which 
are taking an incredible number of lives? I've seen these children 
dying, each time I visit these clinics. And these are absolutely 
preventable deaths.

*MJ:* Now you suggest in your book that we need to assess ailing 
economies just as doctors assess patients. You call it "clinical 
economics." Does the current academic curriculum for development 
economics provide a sufficient framework for educating people to ensure 
that the MDGs will be achieved by future economists?

*JS:* No it doesn't. I realized 10 or 15 years ago that the students in 
economics departments write dissertations about countries that they 
never stepped foot in because their advisor gives them a database from 
Nigeria or Kenya or some place else, and they do their thesis that way. 
That's like becoming a doctor without ever seeing a patient. We don't do 
case studies. We don't train students to understand the differences 
across countries. There are a tremendous number of loose generalizations 
made all the time

Similarly, people aren't trained in the practical experiences of being 
operational. Sometimes people say, "We teach academic things, we don't 
teach operational things." But, frankly, to do development right, you 
have to do something that's more like going through medical school and 
having a clinical hospital where you actually learn about different 
cases, and do case analyses. When something goes wrong, you study it. 
There are what are called "M&M rounds" in hospitals--morbidity and 
mortality rounds. When something doesn't work, when a patient dies or 
doesn't get better, the doctors get together to discuss the case. We 
don't do that in academic economics. For me, the field is not properly 
organized right now to really take on these challenges adequately and 
I'm hoping that the field will become more like a clinical science.

*MJ:* In your book, you recount some of your experiences in developing 
countries. In one passage you note, "One day in Goni's office we were 
brainstorming and hit on the idea of establishing an emergency social 
fund that would direct money to the poorest communities to help finance 
local infrastructure like water harvesting, or irrigation, or road 
improvements. I picked up the phone and called the World Bank. Katherine 
Marshall, the head of the Bolivia team at the Bank immediately 
responded, "You're right, let's do this." Why is it that a whole World 
Bank team specializing in Bolivia hadn't come up with the idea that you 

*JS:* Well, sometimes they have ideas, sometimes I have ideas. It just 
so happened in this case that the idea came from me. But I do feel that 
in Washington over the last 25 years, especially during this era called 
"the structural adjustment era," there hasn't been a lot of actual 
problem-solving. There has been a lot of concern about budget-saving on 
the part of the rich countries. A lot of what was really happening in 
Washington had a subtext: "Keep poor people away from our taxpayers, 
tell them to tighten their belts, tell them to solve their own problems, 
tell them to keep sending their debt payments to us."

It was, in my view, a very unhappy and unsatisfactory period and there 
were, no doubt, a lot of creative people that were prepared to do a lot 
of things but they weren't given assignments to do that. I was 
absolutely shocked and aghast when I learned that in the late 1990s the 
World Bank and other donors weren't paying a penny to help treat people 
dying of AIDS.

Rarely do rich countries say, "Look, we're just not prepared to spend 
money to save poor people's lives." Instead, you get a lot of 
skepticism. "You can't do this, this is impossible. We're doing 
everything we can after all. We've tried everything. Let's go slowly. 
Let's do one thing at a time." I don't buy those arguments. I think that 
they all essentially stem from a vision that has been forced on the 
professional staff of these agencies because they have no money to 
spend. And they have no money to spend because in the end, the United 
States and other rich countries aren't giving them the resources to 
enable them to think ambitiously enough. One of the reasons why that is, 
is because the American people think we're doing everything we can be 
doing and frankly because they're told that there's nothing more we can do.

*MJ:* Do you think the U.S. will ever agree to dedicate 0.7 percent of 
its GNP to development aid?

*JS:* I don't think that any leading politician believes we're going to 
do that right now. It's not the conventional wisdom. The way it's going 
to happen is if the public tells the politicians, "Yes, we want to do 
this, we want to follow through on our word, it's good for us, and it's 
good for the world."

I've found in talks and discussion about the Millennium Project that 
people are very surprised to find out what the U.S. is and is not doing 
vis-à-vis the world's poor. Opinion surveys show, and I find this 
verified in audiences, e-mails, and discussion groups, that people tend 
to overestimate U.S. assistance efforts, usually by a factor of about 25 
or 30. People think that we give several percent of our annual income 
and several percent, maybe even a quarter of budget to foreign aid and 
they're shocked to find out that it's actually much less than 1 percent 
of our budget. They're shocked to find that throughout Africa, the kind 
of practical investments that I'm talking about run to about 1 penny out 
of every $100 of our GNP. They can't believe it, but that's the 
unfortunate situation. When they find that out, and they see that we're 
spending $500 billion on the military and only about $1 to $2 billion on 
investments in Africa, they're concerned because I think that they feel 
this is probably not the best choice for America.

*MJ:* What do you think of two recent proposed strategies--President 
Bush's Millennium Challenge Accounts 
(MCA), and Britain's International Financing Fund (IFF), proposed by 
Tony Blair and Gordon Brown--as means of promoting global development?

*JS:* They're both good ideas. But by now, the MCA was supposed to have 
dispersed $1.7 billion dollars, $3.3 billion in the second year, and $5 
billion in the third year. It has missed all its targets. In three 
years, it's only committed about $100 million dollars to one project. It 
has not yet been turned into a reality.

Brown's is also a very good idea. Unfortunately the U.S. basically said 
"no" to participation in that. I think the European countries will 
undertake the IFF, but not with any U.S. support. But the IFF is a very 
good concept--the idea is that Britain and six other countries have 
announced a timetable to reach a goal of dedicating 0.7 percent of their 
GNP to development by the year 2015. So what this would do is allow them 
actually to borrow against the rising trend so that they could frontload 
some of the money.

What the Africa Commission, the Millennium Development Report, the World 
Bank and IMF have all found is that right now poor countries could 
usefully absorb a tremendous increase of money and use it properly. The 
IMF and World Bank recently released a report called the Global 
Monitoring Report 
which said that aid should be doubled. There is a professional 
understanding that the money is needed to break the poverty trap and 
save lives and that the money can be effectively used.

* Onnesha Roychoudhuri is an editorial fellow at /Mother Jones/.
 http://www.motherjones.com/news/qa/2005/05/jeffrey_sachs.html *


*Do you want to read or distribute a message in another language?*
*(Don't  use these services for confidential texts - they are read and 
stored!) *
Just go to the free translation sites: Best: Google Language Tools
http://www.google.com/language_tools?hl=en or Altavista Babelfish
http://babelfish.altavista.com/translate.dyn or Freetranslator
http://www.freetranslation.com/ <http://freetranslation.com/>or 
(all - except google - for text of less than 150 words only) or go to
or http://www.t-mail.com/t-text.shtml or check for Arabic and African
automated translators at http://www.bisharat.net/Trans/  and have
the translation of the text done free of charge. Look for other
tools at http://www.omniglot.com/links/translation.htm.
But, please, still keep the reference to the source and note in your
distribution that the text is only an automated translation, while the
original can be obtained from ECOTERRA. Thank you!
*Don't  use these services for confidential texts - they are read and 
stored! *
*ECOTERRA Intl. *nodes
Cairns * Calgary * Cassel * Cebu * Curitiba
* London * Nairobi * Roma * Paris * Wien
*24 h EMERGENCY RESPONSE: +254-733-633-000*
Marine Group: http://www.ecop.info
Eco_Alert · http://groups.yahoo.com/group/Eco_Alert/
green is good - environmentalism is not political - it is sanity !

Please feel welcome to subscribe to any or all of our free
mailing lists and see important updates, e-mail security issues as
well as copyright rules at  *http://www.ecoterra.org.uk/footer.htm* !*
©* = *Copyright* is © ECOTERRA Intl. 2005 - all rights reserved
otherwise *CL=CopyLeft* or N*©*=*Anti-Copyright*

*** *NOTICE*: This email and any files or attachments transmitted
with it may be confidential and/or privileged. The information is
intended solely for the use of the individual, entity, group or list to
whom it is addressed, except if earmarked for widest distribution.
Please see also our disclaimer  
Unless other sources are quoted or other indications given:
All contents is published under the Open Content License 
<http://opencontent.org/>, if nothing else is
mentioned, but some rights are reserved under the Creative Commons 
Licence <http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nd-nc/2.0/>. 
*To unsubscribe klick REPLY and type unsubscribe in the reference line.*

-------------- next part --------------
An HTML attachment was scrubbed...
URL: http://lists.indymedia.org/pipermail/imc-thailand/attachments/20050509/982f6370/attachment-0001.htm

More information about the Imc-thailand mailing list