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The Bottom Billion: Why the Poorest Countries are Failing and What Can be Done About it Paperback – 1 Jan 2009

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Product details

  • Paperback: 209 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press Inc (1 Jan. 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0195373383
  • ISBN-13: 978-0195373387
  • Product Dimensions: 20.6 x 1.5 x 13.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (62 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,905,560 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

More About the Author

Paul Collier is Professor of Economics and Director of the Centre for the Study of African Economies at Oxford University. He is a former Director of the Development Research group at the World Bank. His are aof research is the causes and consequences of civil war; the effects of aid; and the problems of democracy in low-income and natural-resource-rich societies. His multi-award-winning book The Bottom Billion was published in 2007.

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"An important book."--Fareed Zakaria"Insightful and influential."--Newsweek"An acclaimed bestseller in 2007, and already a set text in development courses worldwide, Paul Collier's The Bottom Billion has far from exhausted its potential to change the way we think about, teach about, and legislate about global poverty...Its policy recommendations, many of which focus on empowering domestic actors, including through voluntary international standards to serve as rallying cries for reform movements, are not only pragmatic but also addressed squarely to the audience that matters most: the G8. It does not hurt its crossover appeal that The Bottom Billon is a model of good writing for the public understanding of social science."--Ethics & International Affairs (publication of the Carnegie Council)"Excellent...his key recommendations are right on the mark, and his message should resonate in the development discourse for years to come...Highly recommended."--CHOICE"This is a path-breaking work providing penetrating insights into the largely unexplored borderland between economics and politics."--George Soros"One of the most important books on world poverty in a very long time."--Richard John Neuhaus, founder of First Things Magazine"Provides a penetrating reassessment of why vast populations remain trapped in poverty, despite endless debate over foreign aid policy among wealthy countries and institutions."--Barbara McDougall, Jury Chair, The Lionel Gelber Prize, and Canada's Former Secretary of State for External Affairs"Workable development ideas are hard to find, but Professor Collier may have identified the next frontier for positive change."--Tyler Cowen, The New York Times"This slip of a book is set to become a classic of the 'how to help the world's poorest' genre. Crammed with statistical nuggets and common sense, his book should be compulsory reading for anyone embroiled in the hitherto thankless business of trying to pull people out of the pit of poverty where the 'bottom billion' of the world's population of 6.6 billion seem irredeemably stuck."--The Economist"If Sachs seems too saintly and Easterly too cynical, then Collier is the authentic old Africa hand: he knows the terrain and has a keen ear. As Collier rightly says, it is time to dispense with the false dichotomies that bedevil the current debate on Africa. If you've ever found yourself on one side or the other of those arguments - and who hasn't? - then you simply must read this book."--Niall Ferguson, The New York Times Book Review"Rich in both analysis and recommendations...Read this book. You will learn much you do not know. It will also change the way you look at the tragedy of persistent poverty in a world of plenty."--Financial Times"Terrifically readable."

About the Author

Paul Collier is Professor of Economics and Director of the Center for the Study of African Economies at Oxford University. Former director of Development Research at the World Bank, he is one of the world's leading experts on African economies, and is the author of Breaking the Conflict Trap, among other books.

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Customer Reviews

4.4 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

119 of 120 people found the following review helpful By A. O. P. Akemu on 13 Dec. 2007
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
As a kid growing up in Nigeria, I thought that it was 'normal' that Latin Americans, Asians and Africans were classified as The Third World. Now as an adult, it seems that the only pictures of starving children I see on TV are those from my native continent. Despite the aid and attention that Africa has received in the last 20 years, most African countries are still stuck in pre-industrial poverty. Professor Collier's highly accessible book provides some illumination on the matter.

The thesis of the book is that the economies of the poorest countries in the world, the so-called bottom-billion, have not grown in the last 30 years because they are stuck in one or more of the following traps: (1) the conflict trap; (2) the natural resource trap; (3) the "landlocked with bad neighbours" trap; and (4) the "bad governance in a small country" trap. Collier proposes the following solutions to the problems: (1) Military intervention; (2) adoption of voluntary laws and charters; and 3) changing rich-world trade policy.

The book is written in a logical, easy-to-read style. Professor Collier, former head of research at the World Bank, is remarkably familiar with African societies. He rightly points out that aid and revenue from commodities have enriched local parasitic elites, who prefer to maintain the status quo rather than invest in economic development; 'rent' money, based solely on patronage, funds the gravy train for elites. The narrative is laced with delectable anecdotes of author's travels in Africa. He recalls how he was treated as a celebrity in the Central African Republic and how, after he disclosed that he worked for the World Bank, he was shunned by the Immigration official in Nigeria.
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32 of 34 people found the following review helpful By Nicholas Argyris on 2 Jan. 2008
Format: Hardcover
This is a thought-provoking book: the problems of the poorest countries are deeply and cogently analysed and explained, and appropriate policies proposed. It has the added virtue of being written in simple and refreshingly straight-forward language. There is much that is absolutely original here.

The one comment I have is that Collier bases some of his policy prescriptions on the assumption that the only way to develop is through export, which seems to suggest export-led growth and large projects. There is nothing about micro projects and the need to work with the poor to alleviate poverty through the provision of appropriate/intermediate technology.

I e-mailed him about this and received a rapid and courteous reply saying that he did not have space in the book to cover everything and that he agreed that exporting only makes sense as a growth strategy for some countries and that he has no fault to find with the micro approach.

He also suggested I might write this review; so I did.

PS I also thoroughly recommend the lecture on his website.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By A. Barre on 6 April 2008
Format: Hardcover
I find Paul Collier's book(The Bottom Billion) interesting to read. He easily highlights Many of the economic difficulties facing the poorest countries in the world. He then suggests multi-faced approach that can be applied to tackle some of the issues he highlighted, not only by the poor countries themselves but also by the so called "donor" countries.

Much of Paul's argument is based on data collected by international organization such as IMF and The World Bank and so on. When reading through the pages you would meet some high ranking individuals in these countries, i.e. the Finance minister, but rarely the ordinary person in the street and the challenges he/she faces. In my opinion this is the main weakness of this book. It's a top down approach. He does not talk so much about some of the side effects that export driven policies had on these countries such as planting crops for export in the best available land instead of the staple food of the country which people need to survive. Overall very good book, though I encourage Paul to get out of the big hotels and ministerial headquarters and meet ordinary people next time he visits one of these countries.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Erik Cleves Kristensen on 30 Aug. 2008
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
In my work over the last few years, struggling with the issues of development and poverty reduction, and I read a lot of books on the issues. Recently, I read one of the best books in the form of Paul Collier's The Bottom Billion.
Just as Mr. Collier says at the end of his book, discussions on poverty and development have over the last few years been dominated by two extremes: On the one extreme Mr. Jeffrey Sachs call for more aid to "end poverty", and on the other side, William Easterly's negativity that nothing really works (in the books The End of Poverty and The White Man's Burden, respectively).
Mr. Collier strikes a marvelous and necessary balance between these two. On one side, he says about Mr. Sachs:
"At present the clarion call for the left is Jeffrey Sach's book the end of poverty. Much as I agree with Sachs' passionate call to action, I think that he has overplayed the importance of aid. Aid alone will not solve the problems of the bottom billion - we need to use a wider range of policies."
Mr. Sachs is an advocate of more money will solve the problems, but as Mr. Collier puts well in the book, many of the problems related to poverty are structural, from lack of investement, infrastructure, education, conflict, to being landlocked. Some of these problems are not solved just with more money. Unfortunately, this is a tendency in development aid nowadays, perhaps as aid agencies and staff need to justify their existence, even increase it: the need of more money, much of it in the form of budgetary support, which goes directly to a poor country's budget, in ever bigger amounts. But the link to poverty reduction is awkward to say the least: as pointed out in both Easterly's and Collier's book, higher dependence on foreign aid hardly leads to poverty reduction.
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