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A Practical Plan

cmr.jpgWe talk about the Millennium Development Goals pretty often -- as Alex noted over a year ago, they're "the closest thing we have to an international consensus on how to meet the basic needs of everyone on the planet." Economist Jeffery Sachs is the head of the Millennium Project, and while he may not be the most radical thinker when it comes to meeting global development needs, he has some pretty solid ideas. He thinks we can eliminate deeply-rooted poverty, worldwide, by spending "50 cents out of every $100 of rich-world income in the coming decade." But what would that mean, in detail?

This is what it would mean: Investing in Development: A Practical Plan to Achieve the Millennium Development Goals, the Millennium Development Project report, is at once audacious and eminently plausible, a combination that delights both the scenarist and the activist in me. It's a massive document (over 33 MB if downloaded as a high-resolution PDF) but it spells out just what the world needs to do to end the grinding misery of poverty, what it can do, and how. It gives real-world, realizable steps to meeting an idealist's dream:

The report, "Investing in Development," doesn't stop at malaria, though controlling it might be the greatest bargain on the planet. The project's scientists show how special "fertilizer trees" could replenish Africa's soil nutrients and lead to a doubling or tripling of food crop yields in just a few years, enabling farmers to grow more food more reliably and break free of famine. Using these and other cost-effective modern tools, Africa could have its own "green revolution," as Asia did some decades ago. As in Asia, food security in Africa would be a prelude to sustained economic growth.

The study documents how emergency obstetrical care could be provided at local clinics even in impoverished settings, saving hundreds of thousands of mothers who will die in childbirth this year because of obstructed labor and other complications. The project similarly documents how the introduction of low-cost, nutritionally balanced school meals, using locally produced foods, could improve the health, nutrition, school attendance and performance of more than 100 million children in the world's poorest countries.

Taken together, these and similar steps would change the face of extreme poverty -- indeed, put the world on a path to eliminate it in this generation.

People in extreme poverty are outside the global economy, outside the global culture, outside the global future. We can do something about this. We must. And now we can't say we don't know how.

Comments (6)


martin wolf shares his concerns...

Expand aid with care and caution

Should we support a doubling of the share of gross domestic product spent by the world's rich countries on development aid?

Nobody could argue against eliminating destitution, the ravages of disease, improving the lot of women and extending educational opportunity. It is equally impossible to argue against the additional aid if it would help achieve those goals. For the world's rich countries, the sums are trivial by any standards.

I have at least four concerns. First, the transformation in behaviour of the recipient countries and particularly of the countries that have fallen furthest behind both the targets and other developing countries is too large to be credible. The proposition that changes of this magnitude will be seen all over Africa within a decade beggars belief.

Second, scaling up existing interventions to cover whole countries cannot be the simple proposition the report envisages. Where are all the doctors, nurses, teachers, engineers, skilled maintenance workers, civil servants and so on and so forth to come from? And how can fragile organisations cope with such large expansion over what are, in the history of organisations, brief periods?

Third, where are the trade-offs of objectives among and within countries? Should the world, for example, focus on overachieving in countries with greater potential or concentrate on countries with bigger political or social obstacles to success? Equally, why should a date be sacrosanct? Is it not far more important to get the direction right?

Finally, where are the incentives to achieve the desired economic and social progress: incentives for governments, individuals and businesses? The history of thinking on development has seen a move away from a belief that investment determines outcomes to an appreciation of the power of incentives to determine efficient investment. The approach in this report reverses this approach. I fear this is a mistake.

The authors of the report can respond that I am nit-picking. I disagree. If the effort to spend large proportionate increases in foreign aid overwhelms government services, the waste could be huge. If, in addition, governments fail to stick to envisaged priorities, the backlash abroad could also be large. It is essential, both for the effectiveness of the extra aid on the ground and the political acceptability of the aid abroad that the additional resources not only be, but be seen to be, used at least tolerably well.

If this new effort at expanding aid is to work, it needs to be introduced both selectively, as the report agrees, and with some caution. If this means that we fail to meet the millennium goals, so be it. A careful build up that generates sustained improvements would be vastly better than a dramatic expansion that ends up in chaos and disappointment.

also see http://economist.com/agenda/displayStory.cfm?story_id=3574421 and http://news.ft.com/cms/s/50f7bd20-68f5-11d9-9183-00000e2511c8.html


Ah, you guys need to put a link from the small map to a full-sized map, or at least of higher quality.

p/s - I love maps.

Thanks for the story, Glory!

_earth, in this case a link wasn't possible -- the map is a reduced-size screencap from the PDF.

Some of the graphics and tables are available online - here.

The child mortality map is here.

The maps and tables available are:
Map 1: Child mortality rate, 2002
Map 2: Maternal mortality ratio, 2000
Map 3: Share of urban population living in slums
Map 4: Human vulnerability index, 1980
Map 5: Fertilizer consumption, 2001
Map 6: Physicians per 1,000 people
Map 7: Antiretroviral drug coverage
Map 8: Millennium Development Goals financing gap, 2015

Figure 1: Rising national incomes reduce the risk of civil war

Table 1: Major trends in the Goals, by region
Table 2: Population living below the poverty line
Table 3: Agriculture risk, location risk, and malaria risk, by region
Table 4: Recommendations for reforming development partnership
Table 5: Estimated official development assistance for direct MDG support and MDG capacity building, 2002
Table 6: Financing the Millennium Development Goals in Ghana
Table 7: Estimated cost of meeting the Millennium Development Goals in all countries
Table 8: Plausible official development assistance needs to meet the Millennium Development Goals
Table 9: The benefits of meeting the Millennium Development Goals, by region
Table 10: Estimated official development assistance flows and gaps of Development Assistance Committee members based on existing commitments


I have to take suggestions from Jeffery Sachs with a grain of salt. Being an economist means never having to say you're sorry.

This is one of the main orchestrators of the collapse and cannibalism of the Russian economy. Not to put too fine a point on it, the blood of the russian people is on his hands. His own words "I feel like a surgeon who cut open the patient and foudn nothing where it was supposed to be." Sure must have been shocking for him, but how aboutt eh patent?

And now he's going to solve the problems of the world's poor? Why not give someone with a better track record a chance?

Jeffery Sach's didn't write the report. He is director of the project. As their website says:

This report has been co-authored by the coordinators of the UN Millennium Project’s 10 task forces and Secretariat, building on the contributions made by hundreds of scholars, development practitioners, scientists, political leaders and policy leaders involved since the Project’s inception in July 2002. A large number of task force associates and task force members made tremendous contributions to many parts of this report, including Gabriella Carolini, Glenn Denning, Helen de Pinho, Philip Dobie, Lisa Dreier, Lynn Freedman, Caren Grown, Ruth Levine, Kristen Lewis, Joan Paluzzi, Robin Sears, Smita Srinivas, Yesim Tozan, Ron Waldman, Paul Wilson, and Nalan Yuksel. In the UN Millennium Project Secretariat, Albert Hyunbae Cho, Michael Faye, Michael Krouse, Fatou Lo, Gordon McCord, Luis Javier Montero, Rohit Wanchoo, Emily White, and Alice Wiemers worked around the clock for many months to provide invaluable research assistance. Erin Trowbridge provided extremely important comments and inputs. Prarthna Dayal, Rafael Flor, Maria Beatriz Orlando, Kelly Tobin, Brian Torpy, and Haynie Wheeler also made essential efforts in further supporting task force contributions.

This report also directly integrates many of the ideas developed by the UN Millennium Project’s Task Force on Poverty and Economic Development, including many outlined by its interim report of February 2004. The members and associates of the Task Force on Poverty and Economic Development who contributed include Kwesi Botchwey, Haidari Amani, Ernest Aryeetey, George Cahuzac, Andrew Cassels, Jamie Drummond, Richard Freeman, Rebecca Grynspan, Pekka Haavisto, Aynul Hasan, Peter Heller, Macartan Humphreys, John Langmore, Ruth Jacoby, Carlos Jarque, Allan Jury, Eddy Lee, Zhu Ling, Thomas Merrick, Vijay Modi, John Okidi, Hafiz Pasha, Michael Platzer, Steven Radelet, Atiqur Rahman, Frederic Richard, Ana-Teresa Romero, Rabbi Royan, Ratna Sahay, Francisco Sercovich, Sudhir Shetty, David Simon, Suresh Tendulkar, Michael Usnick, Ashutosh Varshney, and Xianbin Yao. Several of them wrote crucial background papers that formed the basis for important sections of the text. These include Philip Alston (human rights), Macartan Humphreys and Ashutosh Varshney (conflict), Vijay Modi (rural infrastructure), David Simon (aid flows), and Steven Radelet (governance and official development assistance). The Economic Commission for Africa (together with UNDP Ethiopia) and the Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (in collaboration with UNDP Thailand) hosted the task force meetings where many of the ideas in this report were developed.

Rather than basing Sachs, I'm interesting in hearing what people find right, wrong or interesting in the report.

For example, I think the report doesn't focus enough on ecology and the environment. Malaria prevention provides a specific case. While I think the focus on malaria prevention is good, malaria prevention could be improved if there was some thinking about how irrigation specifically and agroecosystems in general could be managed to decrease malaria transmission.


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