Wednesday, October 29, 2008

The annual Jeffrey Sachs student lecture aimed at rich nations

Every year Jeffrey Sachs presents an annual lecture for the student body of Columbia University. Sachs is a professor at Columbia and directs the University's Earth Institute and it's Millennium Villages project. The villages are a sort of test lab for how to pull people out of poverty.

Jeffrey Sachs used this years student lecture to lament the fact that the rich nations are not hearing the cries of the poor, and the millions of people who stand up for them. He especially singled out the Bush administration.

The Columbia Spectator's Maureen Stimola reports that Sachs says that people in the Villages cannot escape poverty without aid.

Sachs stressed the need for more outside intervention. A major difficulty, he said, is the “poverty trap,” a phenomenon brought on by extended periods of extremely low productivity. Villagers often cannot escape the “trap” without aid.

But with five years of “investment, investment, investment, and community involvement with a holistic approach,” a base of economic productivity can form, he said. The following five years will be devoted to institutionalizing the project, and involving villages in business on a larger commercial scale.

Sach’s concerns come at a time when the project is entering what he calls a “critical, big-money phase.”

“Highly cost-effective solutions are abound,” Sachs said, “but the poorest of the poor can’t afford them, and the richest of the rich are often blind to them.”

Even so, the effects of the initial investments are already evident.

In the 12 existing Millennium Villages, locals have seen a rapid increase in agricultural productivity. Relatively low-cost bed nets have effectively stalled the spread of malaria. And with the advent of these successes, Sachs said they are arriving at the second phase of the project.

Sachs predicted that with more extensive “official aid” from economically successful nations, such as current sponsors Japan, Korea, and Norway, the project will be able to reach a level of self-sustainability.

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