Top critical review
6 people found this helpful
Slightly insidious and I wonder if the authors realise this
on 2 December 2013
Being winner of the FT/Goldman Sachs Business Book of the Year is surely no accolade.
This is a very us and them book. The authors claim that poor people think differently to the way The West expects them to think - and therefore our aid interventions often fail. This attitude wrong-foots the reader from the first page. People who are up against it in America and Europe react the same way to straightened circumstances; they drop their insurance where possible, they take part-time or self-employed work, they take children out of education, they lose hope and enthusiasm and reduce their expectations as much as they can. I can't see where the difference is between the developed and the undeveloped countries - apart from the fact that poorer countries often have to deal with unclean water, corrupt non-leaders and warfare. So it’s simply easier to sympathise with their situation.
There are some revealing comments in this book that expose the uglier side of what the authors are implying; an example surfaces in the Education section. During the Raj Indian schools educated Indian children to set them apart from their own kind and ensure that they realigned their allegiances to the British Raj and not to Indian nationalistic interests. It's phrased differently but I can't locate the quote. This point raised alarm bells. Why? Well, aren't the poor nations the result of the rich ones? Globalisation (which I predict will one day be a dirty word) purports to make the planet one great tube of toothpaste; squeeze it in one spot and it rises in another. Globalisation was intended to mean benefits for all worldwide but one hardly needs to open ones eyes to see global businesses use its mantle as an excuse to suck the blood from other countries. In short, the rich countries NEED other countries to be poorer. Before globalisation this was not the case. The Raj needed to educate an elite set of Indians to join the British side. When the authors claim education in India is in need of loosening-up and returning to basics for all they forget that it doesn't turn this corner because it doesn't suit the richer countries. Everyone aspirational wants to work for the winning side. Obviously the winning side is the richer side. It's hardly any wonder that in developing countries individuals continue the us and them mentality within their own communities. They are doing something logical.
Another revealing statement along the lines that people don't finish their cycle of immunisations after just having stated that clinics are often closed when they should be open. Sort of difficult to drop your work and children to get to a closed clinic - which would obviously make it difficult to finish the cycle in the allotted time.
Here's another one - the incidence of under-aged pregnancies. The heading for this section is "Sex, School Uniforms and Sugar Daddies" (an inappropriate juxtaposition in an economics book) ... Apparently these rates are rather high in Congo etc because the girls need parental consent to get the contraceptives. There is no mention of rape statistics.
One other reviewer mentioned that the authors should have read the mesmerically fascinating book Thinking Fast and Slow by a nobel prize winner. I concur. Lies, damn lies and statistics. The authors of Poor Economics need to learn a little more wisdom before they state at the end of the book that "we can stop pretending that there is some solution at hand". Whilst I recognise that their research and trials are sound their conclusions miss the mark time and time again. By focusing on the perspective of the poor, whilst interesting, they deflect the spotlight on the powers that be - powers who will not allow these people off their knees until they need those people to buy their goods. No wonder Goldman Sachs gave it their stamp of approval. This is a book for capitalists and not for well-meaning people.
(I gave it 3 stars to acknowledge its research but I wouldn't recommend it to anyone.)