In my view, Oxford University scholar Paul Collier has taken a much more intelligent approach to the diagnosing the underlying problem of the poorest countries (the "bottom billion") which has led him to propose solutions that strike me as having reasonable chance of succeeding. I haven't yet read his book, but the book review by Naill Ferguson in the New York Times is illuminating. (A post by Bangkok Pundit brought the article to my attention. Pundit asks whether Collier's thesis might lead one to question some basic assumptions about the root cause of violence in the southern-most provinces).
The notion of the bottom billion matters because most of today’s development strategies (for example, the United Nations’ Millennium Development Goals) focus much less discriminatingly on all developing economies — what used to be called “the third world.” But the world is no longer (as it used to be) one-sixth rich and five-sixths poor. Thanks to explosive growth in Asia, it will soon be more like one-sixth rich, two-thirds O.K. and one-sixth poor. It is this last group, according to Collier, that we need to worry about. . .I think that's a key point, nowadays categories like "third world" or "developing nations" are misleading. Economically Thailand bears little resemblance to Burma or Cambodia, for example. According to Collier the poorest countries have fallen into one (or more) of four "traps":
- Conflict. ("Three things turn out to increase the risk of conflict: a relatively high proportion of young, uneducated men; an imbalance between ethnic groups, with one tending to outnumber the rest; and a supply of natural resources like diamonds or oil, which simultaneously encourages and helps to finance rebellion")
- "The resource curse" -- for which he coined the term “diamonds are a guerrilla’s best friend."
- The fact that ". . . landlocked countries are . . . dependent on their neighbors’ transportation systems if they want to trade."
- And the biggest, most obvious factor, ". . . bad governance. "
Recommended Reading: "Zen and the meaning of poor people's debt in Thaksin's Thailand."
- "African manufacturers need some temporary protection from Asian competition. Rich countries should exempt products from bottom billion countries" from tariffs.
- "Reflecting on the tendency of post conflict countries to lapse back into civil war, he argues trenchantly for occasional foreign interventions in failed states. What post conflict countries need, he says, is 10 years of peace enforced by an external military force. If that means infringing national sovereignty, so be it."