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The Bottom Billion

Why the Poorest Countries Are Failing and What Can Be Done About It

By Paul Collier
15-minute read
The Bottom Billion: Why the Poorest Countries Are Failing and What Can Be Done About It by Paul Collier

The Bottom Billion (2007) focuses on the specific problems of the 50 poorest states in the world and the traps that keep them impoverished. These states are drastically behind even developing nations and are in serious need of help from wealthier nations if they are to ever achieve economic self-determination. Drawing on his original research, Collier points out the pitfalls of the conventional methods for dealing with this extreme poverty and offers unique policy recommendations that cater to the unique struggles faced by the world’s poorest nations.

  • Anyone interested in economics
  • Anyone interested in history
  • Anyone interested in social justice

Paul Collier, formerly Director of Development Research at the World Bank, is Professor of Economics and Director of the Centre for the Study of African Economies at Oxford Universities and author of Wars, Guns, and Votes: Democracy in Dangerous Places.

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The Bottom Billion

Why the Poorest Countries Are Failing and What Can Be Done About It

By Paul Collier
  • Read in 15 minutes
  • Contains 9 key ideas
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The Bottom Billion: Why the Poorest Countries Are Failing and What Can Be Done About It by Paul Collier
Synopsis

The Bottom Billion (2007) focuses on the specific problems of the 50 poorest states in the world and the traps that keep them impoverished. These states are drastically behind even developing nations and are in serious need of help from wealthier nations if they are to ever achieve economic self-determination. Drawing on his original research, Collier points out the pitfalls of the conventional methods for dealing with this extreme poverty and offers unique policy recommendations that cater to the unique struggles faced by the world’s poorest nations.

Key idea 1 of 9

The longer poor nations remain poor, the harder it is to integrate them into the global economy.

We often hear the term “developing world” used to describe all countries that are not part of the international elite such as the United States or Western Europe. 

Yet, this simplistic way of thinking obscures the huge differences between the poverty faced by developing nations and the poverty of the very poorest nations.

In fact, the world’s poorest are considerably worse off than the other developing countries. For example, the average life expectancy in developing countries is 67 years, while in the poorest regions it is a mere 50. Likewise, a staggering 36 percent of the population of extremely poor nations suffer long-term malnutrition, compared to 20 percent in the rest of the developing world.

The primary reason for this disparity is that the poorest nations simply aren’t developing. With each passing year, this lack of development causes the wealth gap between the poorest nations and the rest of the world to widen.

One major reason for this is that many of the poorest nations have already “missed the globalization boat.”

In the past, developing nations like China and India were able to enjoy high-speed industrialization and an influx of capital as wealthier nations looked for cheaper manufacturing options. However, the world’s poorest nations were left behind during this wave of globalization, and have not been able to catch up since.

As this gap widens, the potential for the poorest nations to catch up becomes ever harder.

This is because when industrialized countries trade with each other, they share access to technological innovations, allowing them all to constantly improve their economic potential. The poorest countries, however, can’t do this, since they often have very little industry. So as the rest of the world continues to grow and develop, the poorest countries are effectively standing still.

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