rsz_1By Mal Warwick

The BBC reports that the president of the World Bank, Dr. Jim Yong Kim, has said economic growth is “not enough” to end world poverty.

In an interview with the BBC’s Michelle Fleury, Dr. Kim explained that “Even if all countries grow at the same rates as over the past 20 years, and if the income distribution remains unchanged, world poverty will only fall by 10% by 2030, from 17.7% in 2010.”

Dr. Kim’s questionable numbers aside, why is this news?

If economic growth were enough to end poverty, wouldn’t it be fair to question why two-thirds of the people of India still live on $2 a day or less despite the stupendous growth of the Indian economy since its independence from Great Britain in 1947.

1Dr. Kim asserts that “we need a laser-like focus on making growth more inclusive and targeting more programmes to assist the poor directly if we’re going to end extreme poverty.”

Unfortunately, the World Bank’s prescription — increasing investment in top-down, government-run welfare programs — sounds like just more of the same. Such efforts, encouraged by the Bank, the UN, foreign aid agencies, and most “development experts,” have accomplished so little over the six decades of the “war” against global poverty that I suggest, in all immodesty, that Dr. Kim and his colleagues simply stop doing what they’re doing. They’ve done enough damage, propping up abusive, autocratic regimes throughout the Global South, feeding the insatiable appetite of corruption, and suppressing initiative and self-confidence among the poor. 

No, economic growth isn’t enough to end poverty. But the cures suggested by the likes of Dr. Kim, Dr. Jeffrey Sachs, and other cheerleaders for top-down, undemocratic “development” efforts are no better than the disease. The poor must lift themselves out of poverty. Trickle-down economics and government welfare won’t help a bit. 

The solution to poverty lies in the market. With the right tools, and the right business models, the poor themselves can dramatically increase their productivity — especially on the 500 million tiny farms where 70 percent of them live — and increase their purchasing power enough to keep out of poverty forever. 

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