Friday, December 11, 2009

Jeffrey Sachs on the MDGs in the next decade

In his latest commentary, Jeffrey Sachs was asked to comment on his hopes for poverty fighting efforts in the next decade.

Sachs remarks on how the Millennium Development Goals rallied the world during the past decade. Poor nations used it's clear goals and tried to meet them. While the leaders of the rich nations made well meaning pledges but largely did not follow through with them.

Sachs writes about his hopes for the MDG's in the next decade, we found the commentary at the Ottawa Citizen.

The Millennium Declaration addressed poverty with unusual clarity. First, rather than defining poverty in a simplistic and reductionist manner (for example, focusing on household income), the MDGs adopted a holistic vision of poverty, including income, hunger, disease, discrimination against girls and women, lack of schooling, and environmental degradation.

Second, poverty reduction goals were put in clear, quantitative terms. As an example, child mortality is to decline by two-thirds as of 2015, relative to the baseline rate of 1990.

Third, a deadline was given for each goal and target, generally the year 2015. The world, in short, adopted a multi-dimensional concept of poverty, and established realistic time-bound and quantitative goals for its reduction.

Of course the MDGs are not the only process driving poverty reduction. Much is occurring through economic development that was already powerfully underway in some parts of the world, including rapidly growing emerging economies such as China and India. Indeed, the rapid "catching up" growth of many emerging markets gives hope and demonstration that goals such as the MDGs can be achieved more widely. Poor countries have the potential for rapid progress in today's globalized economy precisely because they suffer a technological backlog compared with the world's technological leaders. If the poorer countries figure out ways to bridge the technological divide, for example by favouring mass education and by exporting low-wage goods and using the foreign exchange to import technology, then rapid catching up is possible.

Yet the MDGs remind us of three things. First, the reduction of poverty is more than economic growth. Even if there is rapid economic growth, many of the poverty-reduction goals will not be fulfilled unless the public sector also makes targeted investments, such as emergency obstetrical care to fight maternal morbidity and mortality, or AIDS treatment, or environmental conservation. Second, economic growth itself requires complementary actions by the public and private sector. The achievement of rapid growth in China depends on market forces, but not on market forces alone. The Chinese government has invested heavily in infrastructure, education, and technology, to bolster private-market forces.

Third, some parts of the world are stuck at the bottom, in a "poverty trap." They are so poor that they must use all of their current income just to stay alive, and even then, it's not enough. In those cases, international development assistance is vital to break the poverty trap and to initiate self-sustaining growth. Sub-Saharan Africa is the major region in the world, but not the only one, suffering from deep poverty traps.

The achievement of the MDGs, therefore, requires a mix of public-sector and private-sector actions. Market forces are critical, but not sufficient. And market forces can be destructive, of the environment and of minorities and excluded groups, who may see their customary rights overridden by the rich and powerful.

No comments: