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on 22 May 2017
It was as new!
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on 20 July 2011
As Sachs has spent many years working for the World Bank and the forward of his latest book was by Bono, I was very skeptical of this book. However, I found the first half of this book interesting. It described the history of global economics, why countries have developed at different rates and there were case studies of economic reforms in India, China, Poland and Hungary. Although the case studies were economically interesting and very readable, I felt the name dropping and Sachs ego got a little tiring after a while.

The concept I liked most in this book was how Sachs used a `clinical diagnosis' of economic difficulties that countries faced which took into account geography, politics and health. This also highlighted the importance of individual countries developing their own policies for development, and not having a one size fits all policy forced upon them from the World Bank or IMF. I think this is a conclusion that most people who work within the World Bank soon realise, but often too late.

I was less impressed with the second half of the book which aimed to describe how to end poverty. The answer was to increase funding from developing countries, written in detail for too many pages. Although this may be beneficial, I expected more innovation and creativity by a World Renowned Economic Professor. After finishing the book, I felt he had wasted his time writing the second half. This perhaps demonstrates that there are no quick fixes to problems as complex as poverty but surely one of the most influential people in the world could have come up with a better idea than simply giving more money? I won't be recommending this book to anyone.
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VINE VOICEon 17 May 2005
Jeffrey Sach's book should be listed in the biographies and not in the economics section. Filled with generalisations and shortcuts and forwarded by an awestruck Bono, it fails to impress. Once one reaches the end of the book where the recipe to end poverty follows Dr. Sachs world travels, he/she will find the Gap Financing approach to development. The main idea is to indentify the national savings rate, the projected needed investment rate and fill the gap by aid. This pretty much has been the ineffectual method used since the end of WWII to address issues of underdevelopment. A quick survey of the literature (especially Easterly, 2001) can show its limitations. At least Dr. Sachs largely avoids presenting us too rudely with the usual neoliberal orthodoxy paraded by the World Bank and the IMF around the globe. Worth reading but probably not worth applying.
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on 16 May 2012
I bought this book on a recommendation and wasn't really sure whether I wanted to read a book written by an economist. Well, this book is a true 'eye opener.' Jeffrey Sach's account is well written, enjoyable and doesn't hold back any punches. His main conclusion is that poverty can be alleviated globally but 'Richer' economies' lack the will to make any serious inroads to tackle the problem.

It also highlights the bad decisions and policies followed by the 'western leaders' and his hypothesis that even 'current backlash against the west' could have been dealt with far more effectively, if a concerted effort had been made to eradicate poverty.

A compelling, powerful and moving account, together with a blueprint for the future.

Future leaders, such as Imran Khan (Pakistan), would be well placed to read this book as Jeffrey Sachs needs to be on any team serious about changing the plight of it's people.
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on 5 July 2011
The themes of Sachs' book are: Arguments for how development aid have helped to end poverty in the past, how development aid could help ending poverty in the future, and why Western industrialized countries can and should continue and increase development aid to end extreme poverty.

The book is well-written and contains much historical information of independent interest (aid efforts in Bolivia, Poland and Russia, for example, from Sachs' personal experience) and many useful statistics and overviews of issues related to poverty, such as cost-benefit prioritized lists for where aid money should go, as well as statistics for aid budgets of the industrialized nations and the like.

Sachs' main plan for ending world poverty is through increased development aid. He is thoroughly optimistic, perhaps overly so, compared to the more stoic viewpoints of some of his critics, for example William Easterly. Sachs does not touch very much on the topic of what types of aid works best, and how aid should be prioritized, and this is a weakness of the book.

I would recommend the book as a well-written survey of how aid can work well, and of ideas as to how to spend future development aid. However, my personal impression is also that much development aid is squandered on useless projects and siphoned away by bad governance or inefficient methodologies. As a counterpoint to Sachs' optimistic viewpoints, I would also recommend William Easterly or Dambisa Moyos books.
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on 10 August 2005
Broadly speaking, this is an excellent book, packed full with new insights, clear solutions and interesting case studies drawing on a wealth of experience Jeffrey Sachs has in the development economics field. The maps and graphs interspersed in the text were also a welcome addition - too few books use them to full effect.
My only complaints are that (a) at times it read like a bit like biography and (b) it is too short! Often my interest was sparked on a complex issue, only to have it dealt with in a very broad brush way.
In general, though, it is a definite must-read.
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on 11 June 2009
Jeffrey Sachs is special adviser on the UN's Millennium Development Goals to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon. The Goals are to halve extreme poverty by 2015 and end it by 2025. Sachs points out that $27 billion a year could save eight million lives. Three million people die every year of malaria, which is preventable and treatable.

He recounts his work in Bolivia, Poland, Russia, China, India and Africa. He notes, "today's development economics is like eighteenth century medicine."

He attacks the IMF, writing, "The main IMF prescription has been budgetary belt tightening for patients much too poor to own belts." It still always says, "cut welfare spending, privatise, liberalise, pay your debts". In the 1990s, the IMF (and the EU) refused to reschedule Yugoslavia's debts, pushing it into chaos and war.

The G7 hurt Russia by opposing support for the rouble, aid for the poorest, and debt cancellation. The G7 backed what Sachs calls `the massive theft of state assets under the rubric of privatization', `selling' $100 billion of Russia's oil, gas and other resources for just $1 billion.

Sachs argues for the public sector to provide health services (particularly anti-malarial bed nets, vaccines, contraceptives, antiretroviral medicines and oral rehydration therapies), education, railways, water and sanitation, and for public controls to prevent overfishing, pollution, logging and deforestation.

He argues strongly against privatisation and against `social marketing', i.e. charging user fees for health, education, water and sanitation. He urges cancelling the debts of highly indebted poor countries and strengthening the UN.

He observes that the world's nations could easily reach the Millennium Development Goals - if the rich countries paid the aid, 0.7 per cent of their GNP, that they have been promising for 35 years.

So why are his good and humane policies not being applied? What stands in the way? The money is there. $3 trillion went on the Iraq war. $50 billion a year went on Bush's tax cuts for the USA's super-rich - more than enough to pay the US share of reaching the Goals. (Sachs, absurdly, writes, "the reason for this dramatic shift toward the rich is not really known.")

He writes, "There is nothing in economic reasoning to justify letting the companies themselves set the rules of the game through lobbying, campaign financing, and dominance of government policies." No, but this is what they do: capitalist states act in capitalism's interests; economics is not separate from politics.

We must face facts - the block on reaching the Goals is what another economist called the furies of private interest, the greed of the capitalist class. Sachs admits that opposition comes from `the political bosses in the United States and Europe', but he ignores the opposition from the employing class.

The fatal flaw in his programme is his belief that the Goals can be reached while living with capitalism. We will never reach the Goals, until we stop capitalism misruling us all.
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on 18 October 2005
Jeffrey Sachs has written a great book containing a great invitation. During the past two centuries, the biggest part of the world has seen a great economic growth. The one big exception is Africa. Africa is held by extreme poverty, disease and high debts. This difference between Africa and the rest of the world is not primarily caused by exploitation by rich countries (although that has happened to some extent). The difference is not primarily caused by a transfer of wealth from one region to another. Instead, there is a general increase in the world's income and some parts have hardly been able to taken part in this increase. Technology has been the most important driving force between the structural growth in the rich parts of the world. In some parts the geographical, demographic, economical and political circumstances were so unfortunate that real grow has not come off the ground.

The challenge is to help these extreme poor countries to start climbing the development ladder. When that happens a positive spiral of endogenous growth emerges. Once economic development lifts off it usually becomes a self propelling process. This seems to be happening in Asia now. Asia has known extreme poverty for a long time but now the economic climb has started (even in countries like Bangladesh which was once seen as a hopeless case). Problems are now too overwhelming for some African countries to get on their feet by themselves. The international community needs to help. The help needs to be more than it is now but still a tiny fraction of our wealth will be enough.

The book is great because it not only raises attention to this great problem but it also provides a very constructive perspective for solving it. I admire the author for not becoming too cynical and accusative. Instead, he remains factual and constructive and concrete throughout the book. On a detailed level, I have a slight doubt about the comparison Sachs makes between economics and medical practise. What I do believe is that different countries need tailored approaches because of their unique circumstances. Roughly, I think Sachs argues his case well and I believe his general conclusions to be roughly true. This book should contain many source of ideas for political leaders throughout the world.

Coert Visser
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on 22 November 2005
In the first two chapters fascinating information is revealed about wealth creation and the resulting global wealth inequality in just two centuries. In 1820 the per capita income in USA was only threefold higher than in Africa namely 1,200 versus 400 dollars that is then the whole humanity was poor. To-day the per capita income in USA is 25fold higher than Africa. It is also a myth that this was the result of exploitation of the rich western countries of their former colonies though the author readily acknowledges that such exploitation occurred. The true engines of wealth creation are science and technology, division of labour and trade. Wealth creation is a no zero sum game that is one country does not get rich at the expense of another, all countries can escape from the poverty trap.
The author cites the evolution of wealth in parallel to the evolution of technology and industrialization with the resulting urbanization.
It all started in mid-eighteenth hundred century that is around 1750 with the invention of steam and its application in the textile industry and the steam boats. Then around 1850 the rapid mobility of people, merchandise and information with the invention of rail trains and telegraph. And around the end of the nineteenth century and beginning of the twentieth of the internal combustion engine and electricity and the exploitation of fossil fuels as a source of energy. Also he attributes credit to German Chemistry for the techniques of extracting nitrogen from the atmosphere to make fertilizers and thereby increase crop yields.
The rest of the book is stimulating and articulates the thesis of the author that with International Aid, extreme poverty which he defines as people earning one dollar or less per day and now afflicting 1.3 billion of humanity or roughly one fifth can be eliminated by the year 2025. This cannot be achieved on their own because these people are caught in a poverty trap in that they earn so little so they do not have the basic needs to survive much less to save and invest in things like infrastructure, health, education and research and development. He computes that this can be effected if rich countries invest in Overseas Development Assistance 0.7 percent of their Gross Domestic Product. The current assistance by USA is just 0.15 percent.
In the process he gives fascinating statistics. In one table he gives the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of four Sub-Saharan countries and specifically Botswana, Nigeria, Senegal and Uganda which collectively have 161,000,000 inhabitants with a collective GDP of 57 billion dollars which he compares with the collective income of the 400 richest American individuals who possess 69 billion dollars. The comparison is staggering.
The fascination and beauty of the book is that professor Sachs who incidentally at the age of 28 had a tenured faculty position at Harvard having been employed there at the age of 25 is that he relates his story drawing on his personal experience as Economic Advisor in several develoing countries and specifically in Bolivia in Latin America, in ex Socialist countries and specifiacally Poland and Russia, in Far Eastern counties and specifically India and China and several African su-Saharan countries which are the world's poorest having 40 percent of their 800 million population living in extreme povery and in addition afflicted by debilitating diseases like HIV/AIDS, Malaria and Sleeping Sickness.
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on 21 June 2010
The book starts with a general review of the current world situation and its history. As a person unfamiliar with much of this, especially the history I found this really helpful.
Jeffrey then goes on to describe his involvement and knowledge of a variety of specific situations, looks at what is being done and what more, in his opinion, needs to be.
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