Paul Collier is an economics professor at Oxford, and a former Development Research director at the World Bank. He writes without using economic jargon, and he relies as much as possible on hard data and as little as possible on ideology.
Historically, the development community divided the world into one billion wealthy people and five billion people in need of help. Collier shows that, in recent years, 80% of these five billion people are actually from nations where development has taken root, and that these economies are consistently growing, sometimes at a remarkable pace. The real problem lies with the bottom one billion people from nations where development seems to be permanently stalled.
What causes some countries to fail to thrive economically? Collier identifies four “traps” that, alone or in combination, are key to causing economic development to stall out: civil wars and coup d’états, over-dependence on raw resource exports, being landlocked with bad neighbours, and having bad governance in a small country.
Will globalization help? He argues persuasively, and more than a bit depressingly, that the bottom billion have missed the globalization boat, and that they face a staggering array of barriers that did not exist for countries such as India and China when they broke into these markets much earlier. So he argues that globalization will not help bring these countries into the developed world.
What can be done to help? He identifies and discusses four tools: foreign aid, military intervention, laws and charters, and trade policy. In the concluding chapter he shows how different combinations of these tools are needed depending on the mix of development traps that exist in any particular country.
Once you’ve read Collier’s book you may agree or disagree with his solutions, but you are guaranteed to know more about the issues, the arguments, and the pertinent data. The pressure for Canada to work toward real solutions to this crucial issue can only come from informed voters, so I urge any and all Canadians to give this book a try.
Have you already given this book a try? Let us know with your comments.