“... those goals are unreachable”
IMF official in conversation with Jeffrey Sachs
Abstract: This paper discusses one of the issues that are at the heart of the debate on development: the achievement or not of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). The first part touches on the framework of the MDGs and has an overview of their not optimistic performance. The second section addresses the gaps and incoherence at national level that are playing a major role for slowing down the MDGs’ attainment. In the third part, the focus is on the other side of the medal: the politics at international level, which influences on the MDGs, with special emphasis on the failed promises and the role of international organisations. The fourth part is a discussion of one of the contemporary thinking on development theory: concepts such as ‘poverty trap’, ‘big push’ and ‘take off’, which have been proposed by Jeffrey Sachs, are analysed in the context of the MDGs and developing countries. The principal conclusions are that at national and international level, good governance and politics play a critical role for attaining the MDGs, and the mainstream theory of poverty trap, big push and take off should be handled with care, when providing policy recommendations.
I. Introduction: The Millennium Development Goals (MDGs)
The document of the MDGs comprises eight goals and eighteen targets to be achieved by 2015. The MDGs as part of the Millennium Declaration, pledged by almost all the leaders worldwide, in the Millennium Summit in September 2000, are the first agreement with measurable 48 indicators for monitoring their progress. (United Nations, 2007).
Regarding the multidimensionality of the MDGs, Sachs mentions: ‘the MDGs wisely recognize that extreme poverty has many dimensions, not only low income, but also vulnerability to disease, exclusion from education, chronic hunger and undernutrition, lack of access to basic amenities such as clean water and sanitation, and environmental degradation such as deforestation and land erosion that threatens lives and livelihoods’ (2005: 213)
However, the failure to achieve all the MDGs seems to be a concern highlighted by the United Nations (2007) in The Millennium Development Goals Report 2007, and other studies (Black and White, 2004). For instance, Vandemoortele (2004:124) offers us an overview of the MDGs performance. He argues that is it possible to see evidence of reduction in poverty, child mortality, cases of polio, HIV/AIDS, and improvement in education, nutrition. Though, there have been setbacks in some countries: increasing child mortality and malnutrition rates, decreasing primary school enrolment, increasing HIV cases, and wider gender gaps, which play a role against the achievement of the MDGs worldwide.
In the following sections, the main reasons for concluding that the MDGs are not fully supported are analysed in-depth.
II. Gaps and incoherence at national level
Taking into account the thoughts of Vandemoortele (2008) there are three political and technical problems that undermine the attainment of the MDGs: i) Adaptation instead of adoption
In many countries there was a ‘mindless adoption’ of the global objectives and targets, but unfortunately they were not adapted and transformed into national objectives and targets (Vandemoortele, 2008: 1). It seems that in many countries there was a process of acceptation of the MDGs, as a whole, including non relevant targets. Adaptation is a process that involves change and modification of the original objectives in order to make them suitable for the particularities of the country. Just as an example, in some countries Malaria is not a problem anymore. So, why those countries have to maintain...