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The Bottom Billion: Why the Poorest Countries are Failing and What Can be Done About it [Paperback]

Paul Collier
4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (51 customer reviews)

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Book Description

1 Jan 2009
In the universally acclaimed and award-winning The Bottom Billion, Paul Collier reveals that fifty failed states--home to the poorest one billion people on Earth--pose the central challenge of the developing world in the twenty-first century. The book shines much-needed light on this group of small nations, largely unnoticed by the industrialized West, that are dropping further and further behind the majority of the world's people, often falling into an absolute decline in living standards. A struggle rages within each of these nations between reformers and corrupt leaders--and the corrupt are winning. Collier analyzes the causes of failure, pointing to a set of traps that ensnare these countries, including civil war, a dependence on the extraction and export of natural resources, and bad governance. Standard solutions do not work, he writes; aid is often ineffective, and globalization can actually make matters worse, driving development to more stable nations. What the bottom billion need, Collier argues, is a bold new plan supported by the Group of Eight industrialized nations. If failed states are ever to be helped, the G8 will have to adopt preferential trade policies, new laws against corruption, new international charters, and even conduct carefully calibrated military interventions. Collier has spent a lifetime working to end global poverty. In The Bottom Billion, he offers real hope for solving one of the great humanitarian crises facing the world today. "Set to become a classic. Crammed with statistical nuggets and common sense, his book should be compulsory reading."--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.... 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

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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: 21.1 x 14.1 x 1.5 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (51 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 540,678 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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Review

"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

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

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
111 of 112 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Pragmatic Approach to the Problem of Poverty 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.

BOTTOM-BILLION IN BRIEF
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.

WHAT I LIKED ABOUT THE BOOK
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
5.0 out of 5 stars A joy to read 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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18 of 20 people found the following review helpful
By Donald Mitchell HALL OF FAME TOP 500 REVIEWER VINE VOICE
Format:Hardcover
Are you troubled by the grinding poverty in the poorest countries? If so, this book will give you hope that something more can be done.

How can a global economy that routinely produces new billionaires leave a billion people behind in countries where the economic prospects are bleak despite enormous spending aimed at turning things around? Obviously, the remedy isn't working. You could have figured that out for yourself without reading this book.

Professor Paul Collier takes us beyond that disquieting simplification to measure what some of the reasons are that contribute to the stalled economies in those countries (which are mostly located in sub-Saharan Africa and central Asia) where a billion people live.

The primary factors that he can isolate include frequent armed conflicts (coups, civil wars, and wars with other countries), producing high value natural resources that can be easily exported, having no access to the oceans while being surrounded by neighboring countries having a lot of problems, and poorly performing government in a small country. Armed conflicts not only take a lot of lives and do a lot of damage; armed conflicts drive people into new areas creating enormous dislocations and increased disease. Armed conflicts interrupt the ability to run a farm, a business, or to have a normal life. High value exports encourage those in government to seek payoffs from the exports while the exports drive up the value of the currency making local businesses less competitive with imports. If you are surrounded by bad neighbors, you cannot do much exporting or importing so your economy is stuck where it is. A poorly performing government simply siphons off funds into corruption.
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51 of 58 people found the following review helpful
Format:Hardcover
Despite well-publicised significant improvements in the average condition of several billion people in our world, there remain some one billion seriously poor people, and their condition is unlikely to improve. They are trapped, by conflicts, by possessing natural resources (sic), by being landlocked with bad neighbours, and/or by bad governance. Additionally, globalization is not going to help those caught in the trap. Do we have a responsibility to help? Yes, says Oxford professor of economics and African studies expert, Paul Collier, we do because we are citizens, and that status demands that we help our fellow human beings.

We are a book group of retired men, with experience in a wide range of disciplines and countries, who have read and discussed "The Bottom Billion". Without exception, we all found Collier's identification of this group of non-developing nations, and the problems they face, highly thought-provoking. We were particularly impressed by his use of researchers from different countries and disciplines, and the quantitative techniques used, to analyse the causes of those countries' problems, the impacts on them, and for identifying potential solutions. The power of these analyses was such that many of our preconceived views were changed and we were left wondering what, if anything, we could do as individuals to help the people of these countries escape from their terrible plight.

The Bottom Billion is very principled treatise that takes a close look at one of the biggest running sores in our world, and offers some solutions where many people may have said, sorrowfully, that no cure exists at all.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Slightly bias a t times
Very good and very intersting postion. Prof Collier is experienced and knowledgeable professional so the book by him must be full of interesting facts. Read more
Published 2 months ago by Magdalena
4.0 out of 5 stars Very good book, but unbalanced and sometimes unnecessarily patronising
Overall, I enjoyed the book; it was easy to read and offered numerous suggestions that could help to provide assistance to those nations that have struggled to maintain sustainable... Read more
Published 2 months ago by Richard
5.0 out of 5 stars Good Read
A brilliant book, used it a lot for my dissertation on corruption and development. It's interesting enough to read for enjoyment and my professor loved the fact that I used this... Read more
Published 4 months ago by DS306
5.0 out of 5 stars Great book
A really good book with some interesting and thought provoking ideas on economics. A must read for any economics a level student!
Published 5 months ago by Simzb96
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent Book
An incredibly interesting and easy read for a book full of such rich information. A must read for anyone interesting in the subject or study of poverty.
Published 7 months ago by Antonia
5.0 out of 5 stars fantastic informative book
a great book recommended to me by many people. I don't read a lot but i found this easy to read without getting bored
Published 14 months ago by Dyl
4.0 out of 5 stars book
very useful book for my studies at Bolton Universityam studying a Ba in community Studies
Thanks
Trish Hickey
Middleton MANCHESTER
Published 16 months ago by mishca
4.0 out of 5 stars Thought Provoking Book
This is an excellent, thought provoking book that is not afraid to ask the tough questions about why there is so much poverty in the world. Read more
Published 20 months ago by Dan Mollett
5.0 out of 5 stars If you are going to to read 1 book about poverty&aid - this is a good...
-If you consider to read just one book about poverty and aid this one is well written, 190 pages, inexpensive, gives insights other books not necessarily give you - a good choice. Read more
Published 20 months ago by Jan Øystein Thorsnæs
1.0 out of 5 stars extremely disturbing
I find this book extremely disturbing giving the international repute of the writer and i cringe each time he vaunts about providing firsthand advice to Africa governments. Read more
Published 24 months ago by Michael
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