MARCH 2014

March 2014

3 MYTHS THAT BLOCK PROGRESS FOR THE POOR

By Bill & Melinda Gates

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Foreword by the 259 Trillion Vs 5 Trillions Series Authors:

In this special article, we want everyone to take a step back and look at all the achievements the world has made over the years. Bill Gates has written that there is no truth in the statement that the rich countries are getting richer while the poor, stay poor. He provided compelling evidence to support his myth busting newsletter. Bill & Melinda Gates urged everyone to spread the word of his annual newsletter, to which we summarized it for you here.

For more myth busting facts on the rich and poor, read You Don’t Represent Us – Answering OWS book.

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[Excerpt]

By almost any measure, the world is better than it has ever been. People are living longer, healthier lives. Extreme poverty rates have been cut in half in the past 25 years. Child mortality is plunging. Many nations that were aid recipients are now self-sufficient.

You might think that such striking progress would be widely celebrated, and that people would rush to figure out what is working so well and do more of it. But they’re not, at least not in proportion to the progress. In fact, I’m struck by how few people think the world is improving, and by how many actually think the opposite— that it is getting worse.

I believe this is partly because many people are in the grip of several myths—mistaken ideas that defy the facts. The most damaging myths are that the poor will remain poor, that efforts to help them are wasted, and that saving lives will only make things worse.

I understand why people might hold these negative views. This is what they see in the news. Bad news happens in dramatic events that are easy for reporters to cover: Famine suddenly strikes a country, or a dictator takes over someplace. Good news—at least the kind of good news that I have in mind—happens in slow motion. Countries are getting richer, but it’s hard to capture that on video. Health is improving, but there’s no press conference for children who did not die of malaria.  The belief that the world is getting worse, that we can’t solve extreme poverty and disease, isn’t just mistaken. It is harmful. It can stall progress. It makes efforts to solve these problems seem pointless. It blinds us to the opportunity we have to create a world where almost everyone has a chance to prosper.

If people think the best times are in the past, they can get pessimistic and long for a return to the good old days. If they think the best times are in the future, they see things differently.

We’re going to make the opposite case, that the world is getting better, and that in two decades it will be better still. But that future isn’t pre-ordained. To achieve it, we’ll need to apply human ingenuity and act on our compassion. That starts with removing the barriers that undercut our confidence and slow our momentum. That’s why in this year’s letter Melinda and I take apart some of the myths that slow down the work.

The next time you hear these myths, we hope you will do the same.

[End of Excerpt]

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Thankfully these books are not bestsellers, because the basic premise is false. The fact is, incomes and other measures of human welfare are rising almost everywhere, including in Africa. So why is this myth so deeply ingrained?

Since 1960, China’s real income per person has gone up eightfold. India’s has quadrupled, Brazil’s has almost quintupled, and the small country of Botswana, with shrewd management of its mineral resources, has seen a thirty-fold increase. There is a class of nations in the middle that barely existed 50 years ago, and it includes more than half of the world’s population.

[End of Excerpt]

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By 2035, there will be almost no poor countries left in the world.

It will be a remarkable achievement. When I was born, most countries in the world were poor. In the next two decades, desperately poor countries will become the exception rather than the rule. Billions of people will have been lifted out of extreme poverty.
The idea that this will happen within my lifetime is simply amazing to me.

[End of Excerpt]

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[Excerpt]

Many people think that development aid is a large part of rich countries’ budgets, which would mean a lot can be saved by cutting back. When pollsters ask Americans what share of the budget goes to aid, the average response is “25 percent.” When asked how much the government should spend, people tend to say “10 percent.” I suspect you would get similar results in the United Kingdom, Germany, and elsewhere.
Here are the actual numbers. For Norway, the most generous nation in the world, it’s less than 3 percent.
For the United States, it’s less than 1 percent. To put it in perspective, it’s about $30 for every American.

There is a double standard at work here. I’ve heard people calling on the government to shut down some aid program if one dollar of corruption is found. On the other hand, four of the past seven governors of Illinois have gone to prison for corruption, and to my knowledge no one has demanded that Illinois schools be shut down or its highways closed. technology will help in the fight against corruption. The Internet is making it easier for citizens to know what their government should be delivering—like how much money their health clinic should get—so they can hold officials accountable. As public knowledge goes up, corruption goes down, and more money goes where it’s supposed to.

Another argument from critics is that aid holds back normal economic development, keeping countries dependent on generosity from outsiders. This argument makes several mistakes.

The “aid breeds dependency” argument misses all the countries that have graduated from being aid recipients, and focuses only on the most difficult remaining cases. Here is a quick list of former major recipients that have grown so much that they receive hardly any aid today: Botswana, Morocco, Brazil, Mexico, Chile, Costa Rica, Peru, Thailand, Mauritius, Singapore, and Malaysia. South Korea received enormous amounts of aid after the Korean War, and is now a net donor. China is also a net aid donor and funds a lot of science to help developing countries. India receives 0.09 percent of its GDP in aid, down from 1 percent in 1991.

[End of Excerpt]

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[Excerpt]

Letting children die now so they don’t starve later—doesn’t actually work, thank goodness. It may be counterintuitive, but the countries with the most deaths have among the fastest-growing populations in the world. This is because the women in these countries tend to have the most births, too. Scholars debate the precise reasons why, but the correlation between child death and birth rates is strong.

Take Afghanistan, where child mortality—the number of children who die before turning five years old—is very high. Afghan women have an average of 6.2 children.7 As a result, even though more than 10 percent of Afghan children don’t survive, the country’s population is projected to grow from 30 million today to 55 million by 2050. Clearly, high death rates don’t prevent population growth (not to mention the fact that Afghanistan is nobody’s idea of a model for a prosperous future).

When children survive in greater numbers, parents decide to have smaller families.

[End of Excerpt]

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[Excerpt]

Saving lives doesn’t lead to overpopulation. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. Creating societies where people enjoy basic health, relative prosperity, fundamental equality, and access to contraceptives is the only way to secure a sustainable world. We will build a better future for everyone by giving people the freedom and the power to build a better future for themselves and their families.

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If you read the news every day, it’s easy to get the impression that the world is getting worse. There is nothing inherently wrong with focusing on bad news, of course—as long as you get it in context. Melinda and I are disgusted by the fact that more than six million children died last year. But we are motivated by the fact that this number is the lowest ever recorded. We want to make sure it keeps going down.

We hope you will help get the word out on all these myths. Help your friends put the bad news in context. Tell political leaders that you care about saving lives and that you support foreign aid. If you’re looking to donate a few dollars, you should know that organizations working in health and development offer a phenomenal return on your money. The next time you’re in an online forum and someone claims that saving children causes overpopulation, you can explain the facts. You can help bring about a new global belief that every life has equal value.

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To read the complete letter, click HERE

Or download the PDF, HERE

Download this article Summary HERE

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