Paul Collier, fully Sir Paul Collier

Collier, fully Sir Paul Collier

Professor of Economics and Public Policy at the Blavatnik School of Government, Director for the Centre for the Study of African Economies at the University of Oxford, Director of the Development Research Group of the World Bank

Author Quotes

The left needs to move on from the West?s self-flagellation and idealized notions of developing countries. Poverty is not romantic. The countries of the bottom billion are not there to pioneer experiments in socialism; they need to be helped along the already trodden path of building market economies. The international financial institutions are not part of a conspiracy against poor countries; they represent beleaguered efforts to help. The left has to learn to love growth. Aid cannot just be targeted for the photogenic social priorities; it has to be used to help countries break into export markets. At present the clarion call for the left is Jeffrey Sachs? 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. The right needs to move on from the notion of aid as part of the problem ? as welfare payments to scroungers and crooks. It has to disabuse itself of the belief that growth is something that is always there for the taking, if only societies would get themselves together. It has to face up to the fact that these countries are stuck, that competing with China and India is going to be difficult. Indeed, it has to recognize that private activity in the global market can sometimes generate problems for the poorest countries that need public solutions. And because not even the U.S. government is big enough to fix these problems by itself, these public solutions will usually have to be cooperative. At present the clarion call for the right is economist William Easterly?s book The White Man?s Burden. Easterly is right to mock the delusions of the aid lobby. But just as Sachs exaggerates the payoff to aid, Easterly exaggerates the downside and again neglects the scope for other policies. We are not as impotent and ignorant as Easterly seems to think.

There is basically no relationship between political repression and the risk of civil war.

We could find no relationship between the subsequent risk of civil war and either the country that had been the colonial power or how long the country had been decolonized.

The lower a country?s income at the onset of a conflict, the longer the conflict lasts. There was also some tendency for wars to last longer if important export products of the society become more valuable; perhaps in such cases war becomes easier to finance.

There is one other approach I would like to see tried in failing states, and that is what is known as ?independent service authorities.? The idea is that in countries where basic public services such as primary education and health clinics are utterly failing, the government, civil society, and donors combined could try to build an alternative system for spending public money. The key features would be a high degree of scrutiny by civil society as to how the money was being spent; competing channels of service delivery, encompassing public, private, and NGO; and continuous evaluation to see which was working best. The authority would be a wholesale organization for purchasing basic services, buying some from local governments, some from NGOs such as churches, and some from private firms. It would finance not just the building of schools and clinics but also their day-to-day operation. Once such an organization was put into place, managed jointly by government, donors, and civil society, both donors and the government would channel money through it.

We could find only three characteristics that were reliably significant in determining whether a turnaround occurred. Starting from being a failing state, a country was more likely to achieve a sustained turnaround the larger its population, the greater the proportion of its population that had secondary education, and ? perhaps more surprisingly ? if it had recently emerged from civil war. Among the many characteristics that did not seem to matter one way or the other were democracy and political rights.

The migration triggered by civil war sharply increases the incidence of disease among the population in the havens to which refugees run. The increase is too large simply to be accounted for by the refugees themselves; what seems to happen is that in their trek across country, refugees are exposed to disease vectors to which they have little resistance, and the diseases they pick up then move with them to their place of refuge, also infecting the people already living in that area.

These ideas open horizons across the political divide. The left will find that approaches it has discounted, such as military interventions, trade, and encouraging growth, are critical means to the ends it has long embraced. The right will find that, unlike the challenge of global poverty reduction, the problem of the bottom billion will not be fixed automatically by global growth, and that neglect now will become a security nightmare for the world of our children. We can crack this problem; indeed, we must. But to do so, we need to build a unity of purpose.

We do find some effect: societies that have one group that is large enough to form a majority of the population, but where other groups are still significant ? what we call ?ethnic dominance? ? are indeed more at risk. Examples are Rwanda and Burundi? But this effect is not too huge, and most of the societies that make up the bottom billion are too diverse for any one group to be this dominant.

The minimal state is not a viable model in the context of oil and aid; the government must transform its money into public services. Does corruption impede development given these opportunities? Of course it does. In 2004 a survey tracked money released by the Ministry of Finance in Chad intended for rural health clinics. The survey had the extremely modest purpose of finding out how much of the money actually reached the clinics ? not whether the clinics spent it well, or whether the staff of the clinics knew what they were doing, just where the money went. Amazingly, less that [sic] 1 percent of it reached the clinics ? 99 percent failed to reach its destination.

This book is about the Malawis and the Ethiopias of this world, the minority of developing countries that are now at the bottom of the global economic system. Some, such as Malawi, have always been at the bottom. Others, including Sierra Leone, once were less poor than India or China.

We found that in general all countries, landlocked or not, benefited from the growth of their neighbors: growth spills over. The global was that if a country?s neighbor grew by an additional 1 percent, the country grew at an additional 0.4 percent.

The objective of development has to be elevated above the level of the development ministry. Because four different branches of government need to be coordinated, the only level of government likely to be effective is the top. The head of government has to accept development as the bottom billion as a personal priority. Obviously I do not mean tat this should be the main priority, for that is unrealistic.

This book is an attempt to shift thinking; it is written to be read, and so I have kept clear of footnotes and the rest of the usual grim apparatus of professional scholarship. I have tried to write something that you can enjoy reading. But don?t let that lead you to conclude that what I have to say is just a load of froth. Underpinning the book are a mass of technical papers published in professional journals and subjected to blind refereeing.

We need an alliance between the NGOs and the OECD, which is the bureaucracy for intergovernmental coordination.

The obvious agency to do this would be the World Bank or the IMF, as either of these has the expertise and does not stand to gain from falsification.

This chapter is written for people who cannot imagine that it is better for half a million Rwandans to have died than for eighteen Americans to be sacrificed.

What can be done to increase growth spillovers from neighbors? Cross-border trade is primarily a matter of transport infrastructure and trade.

The payoff came out at around $15 billion, and the cost of maximal technical assistance sustained for four years is only around $1 billion. So donors were in fact missing a really good opportunity for aid: spend $1 for an expected return of $15. And don?t forget that the only benefits counted in that $100 billion are to the neighborhood; the additional security that spills over to the wider world is a bonus.

To be clear, I do not want these authorities everywhere in the bottom billion. I want them to be an option in the worst settings, where the realistic prospect is that otherwise we are going to wait a long time for significant change.

What else makes a country prone to civil war? Well, slow growth, or worse, stagnation or decline. As an approximation, a typical low-income country faces a chance of civil war of about 14 percent in any five-year period. Each percentage point added to the growth rate knocks off a percentage point from this risk.

The politically correct answer to the need for technical assistance is to support ?capacity building? instead: that means train the locals rather than fly in the experts. There is a lot of sense in capacity building, but there is also a chicken-and-egg problem. Until the country has an international standard, and if there are no prospects, then they use their credentials as a passport out of the country.

To be effective, an external presence requires troops with a mandate to fight to preserve the peace, as well as contributing governments willing to accept casualties. In return for this external security guarantee, the post-conflict government should be required to radically downsize its own army. It has to learn to rule by consent rather than oppression.

When I settled into discussions with the government, I asked them a question that I always ask when advising a government, because it forces people to get concrete and also serves as a measure of ambition: which country did they wish to be like in twenty years? time?

The problem of the bottom billion is serious, but it is fixable. It is much less daunting than the dramatic problems that were overcome in the twentieth century: disease, fascism, and communism.

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Collier, fully Sir Paul Collier
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Professor of Economics and Public Policy at the Blavatnik School of Government, Director for the Centre for the Study of African Economies at the University of Oxford, Director of the Development Research Group of the World Bank