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The Bottom Billion: Why the Poorest Countries are Failing and What Can Be Done About It

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  • Posted January 29, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    The Bottom Line on World Poverty

    This is one the best policy books that I have read and an example of what a good policy book should be all about. It deals with the subject that is often in public spotlight and yet it seems as intractable today as it was decades ago. This sad state of affairs may in at least part be attributed to some of the misunderstanding of what global poverty is all about, who is most affected by it, and what sort of traps those most affected find themselves incapable of escaping. As this book clearly argues, the so called "poverty trap" in and of itself is not a trap at all, since otherwise all World would still be as poor as a few centuries ago. Furthermore, vast segments of the "global poor" actually live in countries that are developing at a more or less steady pace and can expect to be lifted out of that poverty within a generation or two. The ones who seem stuck are the bottom billion of the world population, and this book deals with them. The research that this book is based on comes up with four basic traps that could permanently hinder the poorest countries in development. The traps, some of them counterintuitive, are:

    1. The Conflict Trap
    2. The Natural Resource Trap
    3. Landlocked with Bad Neighbors
    4. Bad Governance in a Small Country

    Not every one of the poorest countries in the world is subject to all of these traps, but they are subject to at least one of them. Furthermore, Collier is not content to just describe the problem; he offers several courses of action that can deal with them. At least one of them, military interventions, has been largely discredited lately in the eyes of the public and policy wonks alike. However, if we are sincere and serious about helping the poorest in this world, we need to keep the military option open.

    All in all, this is a wonderful book that is both data-driven and engaging. Even if you have not followed the issues surrounding global poverty in the past, this book may induce you to get engaged in thinking about it more actively and seriously.

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    Posted November 11, 2008

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    Posted October 7, 2009

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