The Bottom Billion, By Paul Collier

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The Independent Culture

According to Paul Collier, a former director of development research at the World Bank, the world's poorest people – the bottom billion – are trapped. While most countries appear to be rising out of poverty there remains a group of nations for which change seems impossible. Concentrated in Africa and Central Asia, these nations have seen a decrease in living standards in recent years. The average life expectancy of those living in them is 50 years, rather than 67 as it is in other countries; 14 per cent of children die before their first birthday, as opposed to four per cent elsewhere.

Why should we worry about this? Collier acknowledges a moral imperative to end suffering, but his main concerns are pragmatic: the economic success of the poorest countries is crucial to the stability and security of the rest of the world. Constructing market economies with the aid of military force and other forms of intervention appears to be Collier's vision of the future, one supported by a belief that, for the majority of the developed world "capitalism is working". Is it really?

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