The Great Surge, Steven Radelet, 2015


The proportion of countries living in extreme poverty has fallen from 42% in 1993 to juts 17% in 2011. The opening of China accounts for a large share of the change, but  the fall also affects dozens of countries in every region of the world (sample of 109 developing countries with population greater than 1 million is considered)

People in developing countries have incomes today that are nearly double those of their parents 2 decades ago.

People born in developing countries live 1/3 longer than they did 20 years ago.

In 1980, only half of the girls enrolled and completed primary education. Today 4 out 5 are.

In 1983, 17 countries had democracies. By 2013 the number had tripled to 56.Violence decline sharply. Since 1980, incidence of civil war in developing countries has been cut by half. Battle deaths in war have fallen by more than 75%.

But there are still 1 billion people in extreme poverty and those just above $1.25 a day are hardly well off. Every year, 6 million children still die of preventable disease.

When the global food crisis struck in 2007, many predicted that poverty would rise sharply, but developing countries showed their resilience, and poverty continued to fall. The financial crisis of 2008 slowed the pace of progress but developing countries rebounded faster than rich countries.

Paul Theroux ‘I can testify that Africa is much worse off than when I first went there 50 years ago’. Evidence points to the contrary. Africa today is less poor, less sick, better educated, and better  governed. Dambisa Moyo charges that ‘evidence overwhelmingly demonstrates that Aid to Africa has made the poor poorer’. The facts are rather different: poverty is falling, incomes are growing, debt levels have plummeted, inflation is at its lowest in decades, investment is pouring in as never before and civil conflict has fallen.

Explaining development through the long term perspective: David Landes “The Wealth and Poverty of Nations”: Europe’ ascendancy had much to do with its culture, work ethic, attitudes toward science and religion, and social organization. Jared Diamond “Guns, Germ and Steel” found that Europe’s prosperity was largely the result of differences in geography, demography and ecology. Daron Acemoglu argues that the repressive institutions set up by European colonizers to extract resources through violence are central to understanding institutions in developing countries today. All these conclusion do not explain why so many developing countries began to turn at roughly the same time in the 1990s.

Explaining development through analysis at the micro level: Esther Duflo focuses at specific impact of actions and programmes in particular context. They help design programs and help understand why people make decisions but fail to explain why a country that was stagnating turns the corner.

Explaining development through the idea of “poverty traps”. Jeffrey Sacks, Paul Collier have refined the model. Sachs shows that developing countries are more prone to endemic disease. Collier argues that poor countries are more vulnerable to conflict and war. Bad governance keeps countries poor and poverty makes it harder to build the legal, government and political institutions necessary to improve governance. Most people in developing countries have been trapped in one way or another for much of the last several centuries. And that some escaped does not mean the traps are not real for those left behind.

Three major catalysts sparked the great surge. First, a geopolitical shift: the end of the cold war and the collapse of Soviet Union. Obstacles to development melted away. Second, globalization and new technologies provided new opportunities. Financial flows to developing countries now top $1 trillion a year, 12 times larger than in 1990. Third, the surge required the right skills and capabilities, in particular leadership to bring about institutional changes. Nelson Mandela, Cory Aquino, Oscar Arias (Costa Rica), Lech Walesa, and many others worked to build new and more inclusive political system. Civil Society gave greater voice to everyday citizens. As effective leadership began to emerge in some countries, it spread to others.

Foreign aid played a supporting role in bolstering development progress. The bulk of the evidence shows that on the whole aid has moderate positive impact on development progress. It had in particular strong effect on improving global health, mitigating impact of natural disasters and humanitarian crises, and helping jumpstart turnarounds from war in some countries. The bulk of the research shows a modest positive relationship between aid and economic growth.  Duke University Sarah Bermeo found that after 1992 foreign aid from democratic donors was associated with an increase in the likelihood of a democratic transition. Aid from non-democratic donors – such as china – did not have that effect.

Economic growth in the world’s leading economies will increasingly depend on growth and prosperity in developing countries. Development in developing countries is good for 3 reasons: it enhances global security; it is good for trade, business and global income growth; it helps spread shared values of openness, prosperity and freedom.

There is no guarantee that the surge that started 20 years ago will continue.

The $1.25 (in 2005 prices) is WB extreme poverty. It is not picked out of the air. It is roughly equal to the average of the national poverty lines in the poorest 15 countries in the world. WB PovcalNet database.

From 1.3bn of people living with less than a $1 dollar a day in 1993 to 600 million in 2011. Abject poverty dropped by more than half in just 18 years.

The decline of extreme poverty ranks as one of the most important achievements in global economic history, with far reaching economic, political and security implications.

The biggest force behind the decline in poverty is clear: China. 84% of the Chinese population was extremely poor in 1981. Deng Xiaoping began to introduce economic reform. In 2011, the number of extremely poor had dropped to 84 million, just 6% of the population.

Sub Saharan Africa is the only region were the total number of extremely poor is not yet falling, but the number essentially level off in 2002. The % went down from 59% in 1993 to 47% in 2011.

Developing countries started to invest in health, education, social safety nets to support the poor and strategies to support agriculture.

For the first time in human history there are more people living on more than $5 a day than on less than $1.25 a day.

In 1980, trade between developing countries accounted for less than 6% of the global total; by 2010 it accounted for more than 21%.

Economist often use 2% per capita growth as a standard because it is roughly equal to the average long term growth rate of the US and major economies and to the average world growth rate since 1960.

21coutries achieved a 2% per capita growth rate from 1977 to 1994. 71 did it from 1995 to 2013. The number more than tripled.

Not only are developing countries more important to the global economy, but it is clear that economic policy makers in developing countries are much more astute and skilled than their predecessors.

Investment and other financial flow peaked in 2007, fell rapidly in 2008 and 2009, but by 2010 they were back to their previous high. Trade was back to its peak within 2 years.

The idea of a turnaround just as a commodity boom is too simplistic.  Turnaround started in 1995, long before the current boom. In fact, late 1990s global commodity prices were falling.

There has been growth, more jobs and higher wages. Growth benefitted the poor: while growth is not the only driver for poverty reduction, there is no force more powerful for reducing extreme poverty than sustained economic growth. This relationship is not automatic and depends a lot on the policies and strategies that country pursue. Cases in which the poor do not benefit from growth are the exception, not the rule.

Public demand for conservation grows in tropical developing countries as they reach upper middle income status.

‘The haves and the Have-nots: a brief and idiosyncratic history of global inequality’ – Branko Milanovic.

It is true that within some countries inequality has gotten worse – such as China – but inequality has improved in others – such as in Brazil. For the majority of developing countries, inequality hasn’t changed much, even alongside the acceleration in growth.

Since so many poor countries have been growing so fast for the last decade, the income gap between rich and most poor countries has been shrinking.

Inequality across countries is not worsening: in 1994 the average income in the world’s richest countries was more than 8 times larger than the average in 109 developing countries, by 2011 the ratio has closed to around 6. Still a large gap, but also a big drop in 20 years.

Malaria mortality declined 47% between 2000 and 2013; AIDS related death reduced by 35% in 8 years to 2013; Tuberculosis death fell 33% in 10 years to 2013; Children death from diarrhea was reduced 7 times between 1990 and 2013 (from 5 millions to 760,000)

Polity IV Project with data on political regime characteristics and transitions, complementary to Freedom House focus on basic rights.

In 1405 Admiral Zheng commenced a 2 year journey to Vietnam, Indonesia, Sri Lanka and India. He had 317 ships and 27,000 men. The fleet included 62 enormous treasure chips which measured 120 meters long. The 4 ships of Vasco de Gama and 3 ships of Columbus could all fit on the deck of one treasure ship.  In 1424 the new emperor of china ended the expeditions and turned China inward (to focus at the defense against the Mongols and avoid the enrichment of merchant that would be hard to control).

Total trade share of GDP in developing countries jumped from 66% to 95% from 1990 to 2012: trade increased 50% faster than GDP. Financial flows are 12 times larger (1990 to today); FDI is up to 600billion a year, up from 26 billion in 1990.

International private capital flows to developing countries (investments, bond, lending) declined during the 1980s in real terms. They doubled from 91 billion in 1990 to 215 billion in 2000, then expanded more than fivefold to 1.1 billion in 2012. A 12 time increase since 1990.

The origins of the Asia economic miracle: it all began with the green revolution and the increases in agricultural productivity and nutrition that came with it.

The Center of Disease Control was originally founded in 1946 to fight malaria. It was located in Atlanta, in the midst of US’s major malarial zone.