Differing Perspectives on How to End Poverty

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  • Chapter 10 talks about the debate on pros and cons of development aid with leading economists Jeffrey Sachs (Columbia University) and William Easterly (NYU) pitted against each other. Each side has valid points. After reading for a few weeks about the issue of ending poverty, what is your take on this debate?

In chapter 10 of Poor Economics, Jeffrey Sachs’ views on development aid are discussed. He sees corruption as a “poverty trap” in which poverty causes corruption and corruption causes poverty. A solution he suggests is to give aid only for specific goals like malaria control, sanitation of drinking water, and for other solutions that can be easily monitored. Once living standards are raised from these foreign-aided projects, Sachs argues that civil society would be empowered and in turn, “governments would maintain the rule of law.”

On the other hand, William Easterly’s views are much more on the side of anti-aid (as explained in Poor Economics). Easterly believes that the central problem is that it is easier to take over a country and insert Western values rather than knowing how to make it run well. He also believes in freedom, both politically and economically and highly values free market economies. Free markets are key to moving a country toward finding its own success. Banerjee and Duflo state that Easterly “also wants governments to stop pushing education and health care on an indifferent populace but rather allow them the freedom to get themselves educated and healthy, through their own collective action.” So, he’s not saying that he has a pessimistic view toward poor countries, or doesn’t think they’ll ever move above the poverty line. Instead, Easterly doesn’t find the solution to the poverty problem in outside aid.

I’ve found that I most identify with a third perspective that falls somewhat in between Easterly and Sachs, Paul Collier. Collier is a professor of economics and public policy at the University of Oxford. His argument is that there are four main poverty traps that are preventing poor countries from moving upward. First is conflict. 73% of those in the poorest billion of the world’s population are either involved in or recovering from civil war according to Paul Collier’s book, The Bottom Billion. He goes on to say that civil war creates a vicious circle, much like Easterly, where war causes poverty and low income contributes to even more tension. The next trap is natural resources. Once a valuable natural resource is discovered in a country, all of the infrastructure and business development is put toward those efforts all while the citizens don’t receive much of the natural resource wealth returned back to them. The third trap he identifies is landlocked countries. Without dependable trade areas, it’s hard for countries to participate in the global economy. His suggestion is to ensure that landlocked countries are the first to receive foreign aid in order to move out of this trap. Lastly, bad governance is destructive, especially in the poorest of countries. Without properly functioning governments, Collier says that development is ultimately impossible. He also identifies the “failed states” as costing the global economy $100 billion, so it’s in our best nature to help out, for selfish reasons if nothing else. So, on one side, Collier believes that foreign aid can be beneficial if it’s used effectively, but he leans toward Easterly in that a country needs to be sustainable on it’s own to truly move out of poverty.

  • Check out Laura Poitras new website https://fieldofvision.org/ – is her vision a tool to address global issues? How do you think people can be and should be reached about global issues?

 

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Laura Poitras’ website, Field of Vision, is described as a “filmmaker-driven documentary that commissions and creates original short-form nonfiction films about developing and ongoing stories around the globe. We produce cinematic work that tells the stories of our world from new perspectives.” It showcases various documentaries covering topics from destruction in the European Union to Syrian refugees and much more. In a way, I think Poitras’ vision is to address global issues, but I also see it as a way to simply get the word out that these things are happening in the world we live in. I don’t see the vision as a solution, but rather as a good platform to become informed so that you can voice your educated about global issues that you may not have been able to form previous to watching the various documentaries. I think using visuals, whether through photographs or films, is important in effectively reaching people about global issues. Giving a face to the stories that are in the news every day makes it much more personal, rather than hearing statistics or other types of numbers. Humanizing the poverty and related issues is how I believe people are going to be best reached about global issues.

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