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

Globalization arouses passions: it is considered either wonderful or terrible. I think the sad reality is that although globalization has powered the majority of developing countries toward prosperity, it is now making things harder for these latecomers.

In retrospect, it was perhaps a mistake for the international system to permit economically unviable areas to become independent countries. But the deed is done, and we have to live with the consequences. One of the consequences is the need for big aid as a means of raising domestic consumption in these desperately poor environments, even if the aid does not do much for growth. For these countries the psychology of aid needs to recognize that it is not there as a temporary stimulus to development, it is there to bring some minimal decency to standards of living. Probably the key role for development aid ? as opposed to direct support for consumption ? in the landlocked countries is to improve their transport links to the coasts.

Norway, about the richest country in the world, parks some of its oil revenue in a ?future-generations fund.

Pressure works, but it needs to be organized. This is the domain of the NGOs and the rock stars.

Technical assistance during the first four years of an incipient reform, and especially during the first two years, has a big favorable effect on the chances that the momentum of the reforms will be maintained.

The development lobbies themselves, notably the big Western NGO charities, often just don?t understand trade. It is complicated and doesn?t appeal to their publics, so they take the populist line. Even former U.S. president Bill Clinton, that great communicator, said that the hardest idea he ever had to get across to the American electorate was the notion of comparative advantage ? that every country can produce something that can be exported to mutual advantage.

A post-conflict charter should include guidance on behavior by donors and the international security regime. Donors should be committed for the decade, not just the first couple of high-glamour years. International security forces should likewise be committed for the long haul. In return, post-conflict governments should reduce their own military spending ? as we have seen, it is dysfunctional. They should have a transparent budgetary process, so that public power does not translate into private profit. They should include opposition groups in power, for example through decentralization. And they should sort out conflicting and confused property claims quickly.

Before globalization gave huge opportunities to China and India, they were poorer than many of the countries that have been caught in the traps.

High military spending by the government may inadvertently signal to the rebel forces that the government is indeed going to renege on any deal and rule by repression.

In the developing world, excluding Africa, only 1 percent of the population lives in countries that are both landlocked and resource-scarce. Another way of saying this is that other than in Africa, areas that are far from the coast and don?t have resources simply don?t become countries. Pretty sensible, that: such areas are so dependent upon what the neighboring areas do that it is better to be part of their polity rather than independent.

Not all developing countries are the same.

Probably parliaments should also set some ceilings on contributions, and require some transparency in party finances. This is not a very ambitious agenda, but it would at least get the issue of campaign finance started.

Technical assistance in a failing state prior to turnaround has little effect on the prospect of a turnaround occurring. The experts come and preach and people listen politely, but not much happens. This is bad news for the agencies that do this and little else, and it is also bad news for failing states.

The enthusiasm of the villains for the opportunities for corruption that trade restrictions constitute, and the consequent struggle of reformers to reduce barriers, is misread by NGOs such as Christian Aid. Seeing everything through the spectrum of rich countries oppressing poor countries, these agencies spend charitable donations opposing the reduction in African trade barriers. Lenin had a phrase for those in the West who supported him without understanding his true intent: ?useful idiots.? Today?s useful idiots campaign for trade barriers.

A recent study by the Center for Global Development, a Washington think tank, came up with an estimate of diminishing returns implying that when aid reaches about 16 percent of GDP it more or less ceases to be effective.

By 2050 the development gulf will no longer be between a rich billion in the most developed countries and five billion in the developing countries; rather, it will be between the trapped billion and the rest of humankind.

I am definitely not arguing that we should be indifferent to how an economy grows. The growth of Equatorial Guinea, for example, produces benefits for only a handful of its people, but this is exceptional; growth usually does benefit ordinary people.

In this book we have discussed four instruments: aid, security, laws and charters, and trade.

Of course, in a book of this length I cannot set out all the evidence. But I hope that I have convinced you of three central propositions, each unfortunately fairly novel, that encapsulate how thinking needs to change. The first is that the development problem we now face is not that of the past forty years: it is not the five billion people of the developing world and the Millennium Development Goals that track their progress. It is a much more focused problem of around a billion people in countries that are stuck. This is the problem we are going to have to tackle, and if we stick with present efforts, it is likely to be intractable even as the dashboard indicators of world poverty get better and better. The second is that within the societies of the bottom billion there is an intense struggle between brave people who are trying to achieve change and powerful groups who oppose them. The politics of the bottom billion is not the bland and sedate process of the rich democracies but rather a dangerous contest between moral extremes. The struggle for the future of the bottom billion is not a contest between an evil rich world and a noble poor world. It is within the societies of the bottom billion, and to date we have largely been bystanders. The third is that we do not need to be bystanders. Our support for change can be decisive. But we will need not just a more intelligent approach to aid but complementary actions using instruments that have not conventionally been part of the development armory: trade policies, security strategies, changes in our laws, and new international charters. In short, we need to narrow the target and broaden the instruments. That should be the agenda for the G8.

Rebels usually have something to complain about, and if they don't they make it up. All too often the really disadvantaged are in no position to rebel; they just suffer quietly.

Technical assistance needs to be reorganized to look more like emergency relief and less like a pipeline of projects. Just as when the Southeast Asian tsunami struck in December 2004 emergency relief teams were quickly flown in, so when political opportunities arise, skills should be available.

The environments in which agencies should increasingly be operating are those in which to be effective they will need to spend more on administration, not less. Mismeasurement of bureaucratic performance is a general problem. In aid agencies it encourages low-risk, low-administration operations that are the precise opposite of what they will need to be doing to meet the coming development challenges.

A third key pressure point in cleaning up resource revenues is the international companies in the extractive industries. The model here is De Beers and its Kimberly Process for the certification of diamonds. For many years De Beers has been in denial that conflict diamonds were a problem. Then pressure from NGOs persuaded the company that denial was not going to work: if the image of conflict diamonds became entrenched in the mind of consumers, diamonds could go the way of fur. To their considerable credit, De Beers radically changed tack.

By contrast, the British intervention in Sierra Leone just mentioned, Operation Palliser, has been a huge success. It has imposed security and maintained it once the RUF was disposed of. The whole operation has been amazingly cheap. I can think of no other way in which peace could have been restored and maintained in Sierra Leone.

I proposed a charter for post-conflict governance. International actors have had huge power in post-conflict situations and have usually been embarrassed to use it because of accusations of infringing upon sovereignty. The international community has so much at stake in these situations that it has to learn to learn to be comfortable with infringing upon sovereignty. But it is far more acceptable for international actors to impose a previously defined international norm than to invent fresh demands on the hoof as a particular situation deteriorates.

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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