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- Listening Length: 7 hours and 43 minutes
- Program Type: Audiobook
- Version: Unabridged
- Publisher: Audible Studios
- Audible.co.uk Release Date: 10 Dec. 2009
- Language: English
- ASIN: B0030EB3RM
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The Bottom Billion: Why the Poorest Countries are Failing and What Can Be Done About It Audiobook – Unabridged
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As the sub-title suggests the book effectively explains “Why the poorest countries are failing and what can be done about it”.
The Bottom Billion presents a very clear framework for understanding and acting upon the problems facing the most severely poor countries. Prof. Collier describes four kinds of poverty trap: conflict, natural resources, landlocked and bad governance. He then discusses four tools which can be used for resolving these issues and importantly the limits of each: aid, military intervention, laws & charters and trade policy, before highlighting in combination the areas of most fruitful action. In particularly he makes a stand for the brave ‘heroes’ of economic development and reform in the developing world and how Western institutions and the electorate (that’s us) need to stand by and support them. I found his framework and arguments very convincing. This is in part due to the concise, lively and personal way he writes. The book is amazingly short for the breadth of material covered. However, it is clear that the book sits atop a tower of research, and thus is in no way lightweight in this respect. In this sense, Prof. Collier is very careful to highlight the sources of his information, and what has and has not been peer reviewed.
One of the things I particularly like about this book is its balanced nature. For example, there is careful, nuanced but persuasive discussion of why globalisation has worked for the developed West, and is working for Asia, and will work for most other developing countries, but that for a few countries (the ‘bottom billion’) it will not work. He tackles this issue and other politically charged issues, such as aid, military intervention and international trade, carefully, and in my opinion in a balanced manner, neither leaning too left, or too right; whilst trying to use data rather than ideology in his arguments. I previously held strong (and perhaps ill informed) views on some of these issues and have found that his arguments have at least begun to change my mind and thinking about them.
The mineral economist in me also found the sections on natural resources very interesting, and it is relieving to see economists moving beyond simple resource curse theory and onto more constructive arguments about how to develop countries with abundant natural resources. He expands on the subject greatly in The Plundered Planet, which would be a fine accompaniment to this book. For readers more generally interested in economic development, reading the Bottom Billion and then the Plundered Planet is probably the most fruitful order, starting broadly and then focusing on the particularly tricky issue of the resource curse. For those in the minerals or petroleum sectors, starting with the Plundered Planet covering these industries, and then taking a broader look at economic development in general via The Bottom Billion, as I have done, would be recommended.
In general, whilst I am still somewhat new to the field of development economics, and I’m sure Prof. Collier is not right on everything, I would be surprised if there were many better starting points for understanding economic development in the poorest countries than this book.
For anyone studying economics these types of books are a must read.
The richest resourced countries in the world, are always amongst the worlds poorest countries on earth. This doesnt happen by mistake. This is the curse of having something that another people want to take/steal from you.
Definately worth a read, whether you want to have a more realistic grasp of how economics function in real world scenarios, or if you just want to find answers to the age old question of 'why are some countries so poor'
-This book analyzes why the bottom billion countries remain the poorest while countries as China and India experiences rapid growth, to what extent anything can be done about their situation and to what extent existing policies are effective. The scope is not to give you an insight into the daily lives of the bottom billion or to learn about the history of these countries. If you search for that you need to look other places.
-The authors research presents «4 reasons for misery» - conflict (73%), they have natural resources (29%), they are land locked with bad neighbours (38%) and bad governance in a small country (75%). The author presents «4 instruments to rescue» - aid, military intervention, laws&charters and trade policy.
-The book explains how and in what order, what instruments are effective. To be effective, they must be aimed where most likely to fail. This means more (not less) money, time, courage and research on risk management, not lowering the ambitions to where we are more likely to succeed.
-Lack of figures and tables is a shortcoming of this book. The 4 traps and 4 instruments idea, can be put into a 4 x 4 table, listing what instruments are effective in the different traps, with some example countries. When we read 190 pages about these countries we want a table telling us what countries we read about...
-Some important up-to-date examples and topics for this book is left out. The new landlocked country South Sudan and that land locked Ethiopia is the only country recognizing access-to-sea Somaliland. It is a lot of up to date conflict, landlocked countries, military intervention, infrastructure project etc material here.
-As another reviewer has pointed out, the author has left out micro-finance. The author's answer on why - «I can not include everything» is not convincing. Micro-finance is probably more important than fair trade, if the author has a research backed reason not to believe in Micro-finance, it it interesting and on topic to know why, as he does with fair trade. More important is it that the impact and effects og big Chinese investments in Africa is not included. As anyone interested in Aid obviously need these topics covered, "Dead Aid: Why aid is not working and how there is another way for Africa" by Dambisa Moyo is a good alternative to include Micro Finance and Chinese investments.
-The Baltic States did not have had a better economic performance than other former Soviet Republics, due to promise of EU membership as such. Then Moldova and Ukraine would not have the 3rd and 5th biggest fall in GDP among the former soviet Republics, while Kazakhstan's fall was lower than Latvia's and Lithuania's. The political institutions in the Baltics in before WWII and the corrupt political institutions in Ukraine, that Estonia and Latvia were the richest Soviet Republics and the civil wars in Moldova probably explains much (Verena Fritz - «State Building» has more). Shell did not plan to lower Brent Spar in the North sea as Collier suggests, but on 2500 meters in the Atlantic Sea. Greenpeace apologized to Shell the 5th of September 1995 for the disinformation that there was 5500 tons of Crude Oil in the platform. According to an independent report Veritas wrote, it was substantial environmental risks if bringing the platform to the shore. See "Brent Spar" in Wikipedia for more info.
These examples are not that important, they are not even about the bottom billion. That is part of the point though - why include them? Both examples are in the laws and charters chapter. This chapter and the one about military interventions are arguably less well-written than the others. From the hand of an Economist this is understandable. That does not make them better though.
Enjoy your reading, I hope to see better use of tables, inclusion of micro-finance, the Ethiopia/Eritrea/ Somaliland and the Sudan/South Sudan cases in the next edition.
On the other hand there are some really great ideas and NGOs certainly should familiarize themselves with this book, so should people responsible for development in governments.