Friday, October 4, 2013

Extreme poverty in Africa: glass half full?

Sometime in the next few days I was planning to post a link to the new UNICEF figures on global child mortality (once I had taken a look at the report), but Jeffrey Sachs in the NYT (via) beat me to it (at least w/r/t the figures for Africa).

Sachs has a glass-half-full view of poverty and its effects in Africa, observing, among other things, that malaria is down by 30 percent (over what period exactly he doesn't say) and that economic growth is up to 5.7 percent in the period 2000-2010. He doesn't discuss how that growth has been distributed, however. And the child mortality figures, although better than they were, are still terrible: almost 10 percent under-5 mortality per 1000 births in 2012 (or in plain language, for every 1000 children born, 98 died before their fifth birthday). [ETA: Oh yes, the (supposedly) key figure: the percent living below the W.Bank's $1.25-a-day extreme poverty line was down to 49 percent in 2010 for sub-Saharan Africa, 21 percent for developing countries taken altogether.]  

Sachs is probably right that private-public 'partnerships' are required to make progress on further reducing extreme poverty. But structural reforms are also needed, such as, to mention just one, ending offshore tax havens that cost developing countries more money every year than they receive in official development assistance. This last point I take from a book that I've checked out of the library but as yet have only glanced at: Gillian Brock, Global Justice: A Cosmopolitan Account (Oxford U.P., 2009). She discusses taxation and its connection to global poverty in chap.5. (I'm assuming this particular problem is as bad now as it was several years ago when Brock wrote. In the unlikely event that's wrong, someone can correct me.)

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