The Bottom Billion/ Paul Collier

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The Bottom Billion: Why the poorest countries are failing and what can be done about it by Paul Collier Oxford University Press (2007)

“I have a little boy who is six. I do not want him to grow up in a world with a vast running sore- a billion people stuck in desperate conditions alongside unprecedented prosperity.” (176. Paul Collier). It is a global nightmare and “a ghetto of misery and discontent” (collier) that would affect, not only Africa, but the world in general, “unless” the G8 (a group of 8 industrialized countries) and mass of informed ordinary citizens act seriously and responsibly to help these countries overcome the poverty trap they have been stuck in for decades; enable them to converge with the rest of the world and live up to the 21st century standards. Paul Collier is a professor of Economics and Director of the Center for the Study of African Economies at Oxford University, and former director of Development Research at the World Bank. In 2010, he was named by Foreign Policy Magazine to its list of top global thinkers. Collier holds a distinction award from Oxford University. Among his books The Plundered Planet published in May 2010, Wars, Guns, and Votes published in March 2009, and the Bottom Billion published in 2007. In the “Bottom Billion: why the poorest countries are failing and what can be done about it” Collier seeks to find out factors that are causing one billion of people to live in extreme poverty and have unproductive life. In the meanwhile he wants to shift the thinking of the industrialized countries from “alleviating [their] poverty” to “economic convergence”. Collier approaches his arguments through an empirical studies where he analyses statistically the correlation between factors he considers to be responsible to cause the sad reality which one billion of people live in - the “fourteenth century [characteristics of]: civil war, plague, ignorance.” He uses data from University of Michigan, his own resources and experiences as an Africa expert, and his colleagues’ resources. Collier gradually argues that there are four traps which are responsible to trap bottom billion countries and place them at the bottom of the global economic system. However Collier does also include solutions that are needed to be taken seriously and responsibly by both the G8 and the bottom billion government officials for any change to happen and to save the world from “sleepwalking into unnecessary catastrophe” in the future. What is the “bottom billion”? According to Collier, they are fifty-eight small countries Characterized by civil war, plague, and ignorance. Their population combined is fewer than China or India. Per capita income is very low, so the income of the typical country is negligible, less than that of most of the rich world cities. They are countries that do not form a geographic label, so Collier label them as “Africa+” as 70% of the people of the bottom billion are in Africa. The + sign refers to places such as Haiti, Bolivia, the Central Asian countries, Laos, Cambodia, Yemen, Burma, and North Korea. The average life expectancy is 50 yrs, the infant mortality is 14%, and proportion of children with symptoms of long-term mal nutrition is 36%. The misfortune one billion still is living in extreme poverty in a country affected by recurrent conflicts, resource curse, geographic isolation or bad governance. 1) The conflict trap: according to Collier, 73% of people in the societies of the bottom billion have recently been in civil war or still in one. 50% of conflicts in the bottom billion are post conflict relapses. The low income, slow growth, and dependency upon primary commodity exports (oil, diamonds, or gold) are leading causes that increases the risk of civil war. Civil war destroys the economic of the society during war and post conflict war as collier calculates the average cost to be $ 64 billion. Examples of countries fail into conflicts...
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