Saturday, September 22, 2007

The Bottom Billion

World Bank economist Paul Collier attempts to first define and then resolve the problems of the poorest countries in the world through this ambitious economic argument of a book. He uses a broad economic analysis to define six traps that economies in what he calls the "bottom billion" fall into -- comparing economies across countries in a unique way, usually using statistics and lists originally compiled by other people, which he references in the back of the book. Collier offers some new insights based on this approach, and his packaging of the information is engaging. He avoids sounding academic or too analytical while offering a policy position. The book relies too much on international charters and similar measures as solutions, but the definition of challenges facing the poorest countries in the world is useful reading. He also provides a useful chapter on why aid or the wrong type of aid can make problems worse for these countries, which I hope will help shape aid packages in the future instead of being used as an argument against aid. Collier himself cautions that aid should still be given, though it probably needs to be more targeted and tied to specific "governance" goals, he says. All in all, a useful book, although I didn't finish it because the solutions he offers seem like too much "weak tea" in response to such major problems.
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