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WSJ: Bill & Melinda Gates – Three Myths on the World’s Poor

Bill and Melinda Gates call foreign aid a phenomenal investment that’s transforming the world.

MYTH ONE: Poor countries are doomed to stay poor.

In our lifetimes, the global picture of poverty has been completely redrawn. Per-person incomes in Turkey and Chile are where the U.S. was in 1960. Malaysia is nearly there. So is Gabon. Since 1960, China’s real income per person has gone up eightfold. India’s has quadrupled, Brazil’s has almost quintupled, and tiny Botswana, with shrewd management of its mineral resources, has seen a 30-fold increase. A new class of middle-income nations that barely existed 50 years ago now includes more than half the world’s population.

And yes, this holds true even in Africa. Income per person in Africa has climbed by two-thirds since 1998—from just over $1,300 then to nearly $2,200 today. Seven of the 10 fastest-growing economies of the past half-decade are in Africa.

MYTH THREE: Saving lives leads to overpopulation.

When more children survive, parents decide to have smaller families. Consider Thailand. Around 1960, child mortality started going down. Then around 1970, after the government invested in a strong family planning program, birthrates started to drop. In the course of just two decades, Thai women went from having six children on average to having just two. Today, child mortality in Thailand is almost as low as it is in the U.S., and Thai women have an average of 1.6 children. This pattern of falling death rates followed by falling birthrates applies for the vast majority of the world.

 

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Here’s our prediction: By 2035, there will be almost no poor countries left in the world. Yes, a few unhappy countries will be held back by war, political realities (such as North Korea) or geography (such as landlocked states in central Africa). But every country inSouth America, Asia and Central America (except perhaps Haiti) and most in coastal Africa will have become middle-income nations. More than 70% of countries will have a higher per-person income than China does today.

MYTH TWO: Foreign aid is a big waste.

Actually, it is a phenomenal investment. Foreign aid doesn’t just save lives; it also lays the groundwork for lasting, long-term economic progress.

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