Saturday, November 27, 2004

DAVID BROOKS hates to bear good news, he says, because only pessimists are regarded as intellectually serious. But he bears some good news in a great article, nevertheless; he says that we are in the 11th month of the most prosperous year in human history:
Last week, the World Bank released a report showing that global growth "accelerated sharply" this year to a rate of about 4 percent.

Best of all, the poorer nations are leading the way. Some rich countries, like the U.S. and Japan, are doing well, but the developing world is leading this economic surge. Developing countries are seeing their economies expand by 6.1 percent this year - an unprecedented rate - and, even if you take China, India and Russia out of the equation, developing world growth is still around 5 percent. As even the cautious folks at the World Bank note, all developing regions are growing faster this decade than they did in the 1980's and 90's.

This is having a wonderful effect on world poverty, because when regions grow, that growth is shared up and down the income ladder. In its report, the World Bank notes that economic growth is producing a "spectacular" decline in poverty in East and South Asia. In 1990, there were roughly 472 million people in the East Asia and Pacific region living on less than $1 a day. By 2001, there were 271 million living in extreme poverty, and by 2015, at current projections, there will only be 19 million people living under those conditions.
Of course, Brooks is not dismissing the tragedy of the Sub-Saharan Africa, which is still out of this phenomenon, but he correctly points out that the solution for this forgotten area is the same that has brought the prosperity he's writing about: globalization, the maligned word among so many people, particularly in Europe.
Just once, I'd like to see someone like Bono or Bruce Springsteen stand up at a concert and speak the truth to his fan base: that the world is complicated and there are no free lunches. But if you really want to reduce world poverty, you should be cheering on those guys in pinstripe suits at the free-trade negotiations and those investors jetting around the world. Thanks, in part, to them, we are making progress against poverty. Thanks, in part, to them, more people around the world have something to be thankful for.
And between the quoted paragraphs, Brooks even mentions my fellow countryman -and occasional reader of this blog-, the notable economist Xavier Sala-i-Martín (warning: his webpage is, er, special). Go and read the whole piece.