Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Book: The End of Poverty - How we can make it happen in our lifetime

I first came across this book in the bookstore in Kathmandu, Nepal (One of the poorest countries in the world), but I felt that the subject matter is too heavy to ponder on a trekking trip so I didn't purchase it. The following year, I was on a business trip to India (also one of the poorest countries in the world) and I decided to buy it in the airport.

It was a good book - with Jeffery Sachs sharing his experiences in Bolivia & Poland, and shedding his views on the rise of China and India. It was a heavy topic and the problem is mind boggling. Sometimes, too heavy that I wanted to stop reading.

Some key takeaways from the book:

"The key problem for the poorest countries is that poverty itself can be a trap. When poverty is very extreme, the poor DO NOT have the ability - by themselves - to get out of the mess."

"When countries get their foot on the ladder of development, they are generally able to continue the upward climb. All good things tend to move together at each rising rung; higher capital stock, greater specialization, more advanced technology, and lower fertility. If a country is trapped below the ladder, with the first rung too high off the ground, the climb does not even get started."

Reasons why Communist China is the booming (currently the second largest economy in the world), while the rest of the Soviet and economies are not doing as well.

"1. The Soviet and Eastern European economies had massive foreign debts, whereas China did not.
2. China had a large coastline that supported its export-led growth, whereas the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe did not have the benefit of large coastlines and the resulting low-cost access to international trade.
3. China had the benefit of overseas Chinese communities, which acted as foreign investors and role models, whereas most of the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe did not have comparable overseas communities.
4. The Soviet Union was experiencing a drastic decline in oil production at the outset of reforms, but China was not.
5. The Soviet Union had gone much further down the road of industralization, using technologies incompatible with Western (US, EU & Japanese) technologies, whereas China remained at a low level of technology and could more easily adopt Western specification."

On why Malaria has reached an epidermic level in Africa but not the rest of the world:
"...Malaria is largely a tropical disease, and if warm weather is a prerequisite, Africa has it! ..... The force of transmission of malaria in Africa is roughly 9 times that of India because of the difference of mosquito species..."

"Corruption is the Culprit....corruption is Africa's venal sin, the deepest source of its current malaise..."


Jeff's insights have led me to think deeper about the problems facing this world. But why do I care about extreme poverty - since I am not affected by it anyway and I am not rich to make any significant changes. I would not have any material gain by spending my time thinking and donating money.

My analogy is a person who is suffering from Depression, needs someone else to help them out of the situation. Similarly, in extreme poverty, they also need a helping hand. 

Everyday we have heard so many negative news around the world. The world is in serious need of people who could show empathy, love and compassion, otherwise the world is hopeless. I believe that by doing small things within our limited abilities, we could make this world a slightly better place. 

The world is in serious need of people who cares.

One of the organizations that I truly believes could alleviate poverty is

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