American economist Jeffrey Sachs is respected as one of the most influential and powerful advisors on global issues. One of Sachs’ books, The End of Poverty, discusses some of the issues facing developing and emerging countries.
Sachs notes that he believes extreme poverty can be eradicated by 2025, but only through the accomplishment of the Millennium Development Goals. He speaks about how countries that are so far below the poverty line struggle to reach what he calls the bottom rung of the economic development ladder. Sachs says when countries cannot reach the bottom rung, they cannot climb the ladder of economic growth. However, he says once aided, countries can grasp the bottom rung and pull itself up. Once the country has begun its growth, it will need less foreign aid and be more self-sustaining.
Many issues can keep countries from reaching the bottom rung or from advancing once the rung is reached. Sachs lists off the major issues facing developing countries: government corruption, diseases including AIDS and malaria, social inequalities based on gender and ethnicity, lack of transportation, communications and trade infrastructure, unstable political landscapes and geographic barriers.
One of the countries suffering from many of these factors is Malawi. The country is landlocked and extremely overpopulated. It is one of the poorest countries in the world, with most large estates owned by foreign owners. Because Malawi is landlocked without access to easy water travel, it has to pay high transportation costs to get goods in and out of other countries. Malawi also suffered from outbreaks of AIDS, malaria, and tuberculosis due to poor medical care and living conditions.
To fight these poor conditions and get citizens to be self-sustaining, the government of Malawi created a subsidy program where people could buy a small amount of seed and fertilizer to begin a livable crop on their land. The growers could save part of the earnings and build up their own credit. Because of this program, production doubled in the first harvest season and the country began producing enough grain for itself. The success caused outside donor countries to fund the program, allowing the government of Malawi to use the money in other ways.
Many in the country of Bangladesh suffer from extreme poverty as well. Many women, hoping to escape this extreme poverty, have taken jobs is sweatshops to make a wage. Rich-world protestors have argued the conditions are poor and factories unsafe for workers. Sachs says these protestors need to support increased numbers of jobs such as these, as long as conditions are safe, because it provides jobs for women and helps boost the garment economy of Bangladesh. Sachs argues this labor force can help Bangladesh climb the first rung of the economic development ladder and begin to pull the country out of poverty.
Sachs calls technology one of the greatest weapons against poverty. He believes access to new technologies can greatly reduce the poverty level and help countries reach economic success. Access to new technologies has greatly improved the quality of life in India. With more widespread internet, computer and cell phone usage has come an increase in per capita income and an opportunity for women to enter the labor market. Technology is creating new jobs that women can obtain, also helping reduce the stigma around women being inferior to men. This technology revolution has not occurred as much in Bangladesh and Malawi. This could be because there is no basic infrastructure for technology to grow. A country with poor health and a lack of infrastructure may not be able to accommodate cell phone towers and internet cafes.