Sachs and The End of Poverty: A Pipe Dream?

Jeffrey Sachs speaking at Johns Hopkins University

Many experts have given their input on the best way to combat poverty, but few are as disputed as Jeffery Sachs. Sachs is an economist and author that has very positive views for the future and believes that we could eradicate world poverty by 2025. He thoroughly believes in the MDGs and believes that through their completion, much of the world’s poverty can be eradicated forever. He speaks of how foreign aid is the biggest contribution to the fight against poverty. Not surprisingly, this is one of the things he is most disputed on – many people believe that the amount of aid necessary isn’t sustainable or it creates too much dependence on money that will soon be gone. Sachs argues that if these countries are helped just enough to help them reach the “bottom rung” of the economic ladder, they can help themselves become successful in the future.

While Sachs is very optimistic, he is quite aware of the setbacks that face us in overcoming poverty. He lists 7 obstacles that block developing countries from success: unstable political landscapes, disease, social inequalities, lack of trade infrastructure, geographic location, and government corruption. These issues are what keep the impoverished countries from development. Sachs’ approach to fixing these issues is one that focuses on each country individually. Just as every nation doesn’t suffer from the same plights, they cannot be helped with the same plan. His idea to help these developing nations is one that is prescribed only for them.

Sachs has many people who don’t agree that his plan to end poverty is a realistic goal. They argue that his approach creates dependence, not sustainability, and changes that occur because of this aid can have devastating effects on the societies they are trying to help. Nina Munk, an outspoken critic of Sachs’, gives an example of an area called Dertu, in northeastern Kenya. The amount of donated food and supplies caused the people of this area to abandon their nomadic lifestyle and settle in one place. A small area became overcrowded, garbage filled the streets, and fighting began among the people stuck in their newfound shantytown. Munk feels that he refuses to admit failure and is causing more harm because of his pride. She claims that he and the 29 other academics who wrote the Millennium Villages Handbook had been unable to anticipate all the social and environmental complexities at work in even the smallest of villages.

Even with all his critics, Sachs is determined to help impoverished countries find a way to sustain themselves. Below I have included a lecture where he details his ideas on sustainability.



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