New hope for the last billion

March 15th, 2008 by Dave Leave a reply »

Mark Lange, a former speechwriter for President George H.W. Bush (don’t tune out!), wrote a very interesting 5 part report called “An End to Poverty” summarizing some of the latest facts and thinking on extreme poverty and the road forward.

I think this is an excellent summary which challenges both the mainstream left and right attitudes and solutions to poverty. He calls us to focus on the “last billion” who are stuck in extreme poverty rather than to see all developing nations/peoples as in the same situation (which they are not.)

He has “borrowed” many of his stats from Paul Colliers new book, The Bottom Billion and added some new ideas. I just finished reading Colliers’ book and I will soon write a book review with a strong recommendation to read.

Part I – A first step for the global poor – shatter six myths
Part II –
Why so much aid for the poor has made so little difference
Part III –
What it takes to open a door for the poor
Part IV –
The risks of fighting poverty too well
Part V –
Practical steps to end poverty

Please post comments about facts that surprised you and things that Mark raises which cause you to wonder if you need to rethink some things on how you’re thinking about the best approaches to ending extreme poverty.

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3 comments

  1. Barmak Kusha says:

    Dear Dave, may I please have your permission to repost this to my facebook blog? Thank you, barmak

  2. Hungry child says:

    great! thanks for sharing!

  3. Anonymous says:

    Dave,

    I just ran across your blog. I am a microfinance consultant (over 10 years)and share your interest in sustainable large scale solutions–especially for the bottom billion. I have been using the Lange series in many conversations since it first came out.

    The most important part for me was the following about focus on the bottom billion:

    [MYTH] Wealthy nations must work to reduce poverty everywhere.

    Why? This well-intended ethic is driven by a natural – but in this case dangerous – human tendency to focus on relative standing, independent of absolute wellbeing.
    …….
    This seems like the fair objective, pursued in the belief that reducing disparity supports social stability. But it’s wrong.
    There’s an enormous opportunity cost to devoting limited resources to better-off, mid-tier developing countries. Their citizens, while struggling, aren’t dying by the millions every year. The last billion are.

    In my experience, microfinance is rapidly falling into the same trap for great business reasons, but with far less results for bottom billion microfinance to help the poorest billion leave poverty.

    There are some good answers to this to energize focus on the bottom billion, but successful MFIs and MFI networks are drawn to the great business case to serve the more profitable 90% of MFI clients above the bottom billion where over 95% of the money, investment, grants and profits lie and often hide behind appealing rhetoric about “serving the poor or serving the poorest of the poor” without serving large numbers of the bottom billion.

    Microfinance is too good a tool for changing extreme poverty for the bottom billion to not focus more on the bottom billion niche.

    Tom

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