Published On: Sat, Jul 27th, 2019

Eliminate Extreme Poverty by the Year 2025 With Clinical Economics

Jeffrey D. Sachs, Professor of Economics and Director of the Earth Institute at Columbia University, has been a leading economic adviser to governments around the world. He headed the United Nations Millennium Project and is Special Adviser to United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. In his 2005 bestseller “The End of Poverty” Sachs introduces a plan to eliminate extreme poverty.

What is Extreme Poverty?

Extreme poverty is living without access to clean water, it is children dying of hunger, and it is — as rock star Bono points out in his introduction to the book — “fifteen thousand Africans dying each and every day of preventable, treatable diseases for lack of drugs that we take for granted.”

The proportion of the developing world’s population living in extreme economic poverty — defined as living on less than $1.25 per day — has fallen from 52 percent in 1981 to 26 percent in 2005. But there are great regional differences. While poverty rates in Asia have fallen, they showed no decline in Sub-Saharan Africa.

Development Economics Needs an Overhaul

Today’s development economics is at the stage of 18th century medicine, when doctors used leeches to draw blood from their patients, Sachs says. If economists take on the lessons of modern medicine “both in the development of the underlying science and in the systematization of clinical practice”, sustainable development can be achieved.

Eliminate Extreme Poverty by the Year 2025 With Clinical Economics

“Life doesn’t come with one problem neatly separated from the rest. Specialization is helpful, but you’ve got to see the web.” Economists have to look at everything from geography to infrastructure to community and family structure. Sachs labels this comprehensive approach “clinical economics”.

Lessons from Poland, India and China

The author’s experiences as an international adviser to governments undergoing economic reform bolster his claim that extreme poverty can be eradicated. In Poland he witnessed a fundamental transformation from a moribund socialist economy to a market economy. Developments in India and China have shown that centuries of relative economic decline can be substantially reversed.

How to Help in sub-Saharan Africa?

A combination of adverse geography and extreme poverty create the poverty trap for many African countries. Disease, drought and distance from world markets are the prevailing conditions. Due to AIDS and malaria many countries are losing trained people faster than they can be educated. In the year 2000 sub-Saharan-Africa’s life-expectancy stood at 47 years, more than two decades lower than in East Asia (69 years).

963 million undernourished people live in the world. One in seven people do not get enough food, that is more than the populations of USA, Canada and the European Union.
AIDS increases poverty (it erases family and community structure), and poverty then again is the cause for poor health. Several Harvard medicine professors — Paul Farmer who fights AIDS in Haiti among them — initiated the research and the campaign that led to the birth of the Global Fund to fight AIDS, TB and malaria. One major step was to convince drug companies to supply disease stricken countries with anti-AIDS drugs at production cost.

Taking Up the Challenge

It is a myth that the developed world already gives a large amount to the poor. From the world as a whole the amount of aid per African per year is very small. In 2002 the US gave $3 per sub-Saharan African. Minus amounts paid out for US consultants, technical cooperation and debt relief the actual aid per African shrinks to only six cents (The End of Poverty, p.310)

The U.S. has promised in the Monterrey Consensus to give a much larger portion of its annual output, specifically up to 0.7% of the GDP. If developed nations can deliver on their promise to invest $150 billion a year for the next 20 years extreme poverty can be eliminated. This sum is less than the 0.7 percent of their Gross National Product (GNP). Given the recent financial turmoil, some might argue, that the rich countries can’t afford to look beyond their borders at this point in time. Sachs argues that the costs of inaction are much higher than the costs of action. Any investment in alleviating poverty is an investment in global peace.

About the Author

- Paul Linus is an eminent online journalist who has been writing news, features and editorials on different websites from across the world for about a decade. He can be contacted at

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