Extreme Poverty In Rapid Decline Worldwide
Further to that Oxfam report on poverty, their whole case is undone by this graph:
It comes from Our World in Data, an extremely professional outfit, and is based on official World bank data.
Our world is certainly a long way from being perfect, and much more needs to be done to tackle poverty. Yet the incidence of extreme poverty has fallen sharply in the last few decades, despite the huge increase in global population.
In 1970, 60% of the world’s population was living in extreme poverty. This had reduced to 10% in 2015.
This reminded me of an excellent commentary by Dan Hannan in the Telegraph a few weeks ago:
Africa was for a long time synonymous with suffering. It appeared in our news reports and charity appeals as a savage, war-torn, corrupt, benighted and famine-prone place where cartoonish dictators lorded it over cowed starvelings. Such stereotypes don’t survive first contact.
Visiting Uganda for the first time recently, I was completely taken off-guard by the optimism I found, the enterprise, the constant hum of activity. Everyone seemed to have a business. Private schools and clinics were springing up on every corner. Uganda has taken more than a million refugees without anyone suggesting that it build walls, yet it still manages to grow at around five per cent a year.
Fair enough, you might say, but Uganda was never at the bottom of the African league. What about a proper s—hole? Zimbabwe, say – officially rated the worst place on the planet by the United Nations for most of the first decade of this century, where inflation peaked at 90 sextillion per cent in November 2008? Well, inflation in Zimbabwe in 2017 was 2.5 per cent – a lower rate than in the UK.
The government is contemplating a privatisation programme, floating loss-making behemoths such as the airline, the railway and the electricity company. Contrary to the expectations of many observers – including this one – the country seems to be heading toward multi-party democracy. It will be one of 15 African states in which national elections take place this year.
Africa’s largely unremarked and unreported transformation has been brought about through free trade. As previously closed economies have joined the global market system, poverty has fallen, literacy has risen and people have started demanding greater rights.
Africa stood aside from much of the global enrichment of the late 20th century, locked instead into socialism that its post-colonial leaders had learned at Western universities – often the London School of Economics. It was Africa’s misfortune to win independence at precisely the moment when the worst ideas in economics – import substitution, nationalisation, price and wage controls – were in fashion.
Decades of overseas aid made no difference, but a few years of economic liberalisation have unleashed a technological revolution. Many Africans are going straight from bricks of banknotes to phone-based payment systems without the intervening stage of bank accounts.
“Little else is requisite to carry a state to the highest degree of opulence from the lowest barbarism, but peace, easy taxes, and a tolerable administration of justice,” wrote Adam Smith in 1755. In Africa, we see his dictum being realised every day.
What he reports about Uganda is borne out by the World Bank charts:
And all coinciding with rising emissions of CO2!