Monday, February 15, 2010

February 2010 Newsletter
Recently, the GlobalLight Projects team has been discussing Paul Collier's book, The Bottom Billion. A professor of economics at Oxford University and former World Bank official, Collier argues that the world's people can be seen as three groups - one billion rich people (that's us), four billion who are making progress in economic development (China, India, etc) and one billion people who are falling further behind (most of Africa). From The Washington Post review:

The Third World has shrunk, but it hasn't vanished. The new third world -- the hard core of the development challenge that Zoellick [head of the World Bank] faces -- is composed of about 50 countries that are home to a billion people. Globalization is propelling China and India toward wealth, and both are closing in on the prosperous with unprecedented speed.

But globalization is not working for the bottom billion. Their incomes have been virtually stagnant. From 1960 to 2000, the new third world experienced no growth at all. Meanwhile, the economies of the rest of the developing world have enjoyed accelerating growth, decade by decade. First gradually, then rapidly, the bottom billion have fallen away from the rest of mankind. Encouragingly, Zoellick has picked up on this. "Globalization must not leave the bottom billion behind," he told the National Press Club on Oct. 10. But it already has.

Collier identifies what he calls five traps that keep the bottom billion behind: conflict, natural resources (too many rather than too few), landlocked with bad neighbours, and bad governance in a small country. He supports his arguments with economic data but in a very readable form.

An example of the problem is shown in a comparison of the educational opportunities between Canada and Zambia.
Although Canada has over 3 times the population of Zambia, the two countries have approximately the same number of primary school students. But what happens to those students is startling. Some children in Zambia get little or no primary education. Only a fraction of those progress to secondary school and again a fraction make it to post-secondary education. While Canada has 1.4 million students in colleges and universities, Zambia has 24,000. These kinds of statistics are more or less true for all of the bottom billion.

The book is both sad and hopeful. There are solutions. Besides the moral cost of leaving one sixth of the people of the world doomed to misery and early death, Collier also notes the economic cost to the world of having so many marginalized people with very little to lose. GlobalLight Projects is focusing on providing schools with electricity in order to attract good teachers and provide rural students with modern tools of learning. This is not the only solution to the problems of the bottom billion, but surely developing the human potential of the people is key to changing the future for the better. As Collier notes, change for these societies must come from within rather than imposed from outside.

You can read Collier's blog here and the book is available at, You can help GlobalLight Projects with your financial donation here.

I'm in a great rage now, as I understand how many lives we have lost.
~Stephen Lewis

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Your GlobalLight Projects Team
Marilyn, Wayde, Peter, Thomas & Doug

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