Book Review : The End Of Poverty Economic Possibilities For Our Time by Jeffrey D. Sachs

We live in an era of globalization that consists of different transactional social forces intimated privacy by human rights and a vision of human community based on the unity of divers culture seeking an end to poverty, oppression and collective violence. Furthermore, the view of poverty has thus been constructed primarily from the views of people living in very different conditions to those whom Sachs cites in The End of Poverty. It is a view shaped by individual poor people from across the world. It is not a view of nations and not always acknowledged by politicians and official government advisers.

Define Construct:
Sachs solution to poverty is based on his assertion that the extreme poor lack six major kinds of capital: human capital, business capital, infrastructure, natural capital, public institutional capital and knowledge capital. Therefore, the decrease in the ratio of capital accumulation per person would lead to the poverty trap (Sachs, 2005, p.244).

Explain assumptions:
In terms of human capital, business capital: One of the assumptions that Sachs makes is that disease and illness have to be cured before these areas can be approved in Africa. For example, in Africa millions of people have been infected by Malaria and are dying because of the lack of anti-malaria medicine. These deaths have reduced the human capital which also affected the business capital. For instance, Sachs states that the general key has been physical security within the zone, easy connections to reliable water and power, and tax-free imports of inputs and exports of finish products. In East Asia, it has the basis of free-trade zones that leap into global production in garment, toys, semiconductors and electronics (p. 264).

In terms of infrastructure and natural capital: The infrastructure that Sachs provides is: An underlying base or foundation especially for an organization or system. The basic facilities, services, and installations needed for the functioning of a community or society, such as transportation and communications systems, water and power lines, and public institutions including schools, post offices, and prisons. For instance, the urban environmental hazards include air pollution, the release of toxic chemicals into the environment from factories, urban garage, etc. Thus, these conditions need to be improved in different areas especially the rural areas by targeted environmental investments (p.255).

While the natural capital refers to the resources and the environmental services that is needed by the human society. For example, the India’s IT boom encourages their scientists to harness that technology specially to meet India’s needs, such as, design a local-loop wireless for different Indian villagers to access online. In contrast, in Africa, such as, Sub-Sahran or any low-income regions are hard to implement this project because they lack for the grant support and laboratory equipment (p.261).
In terms of public institutional capital and knowledge capital: Sachs explains that most the investments provide for the public institutional and knowledge capital in order to: fight epidemic diseases, development new immunization, provide nutrition program, and participate in community projects that is related with public health. These approaches would address the Millennium Development goals that advocates for the fighting the hunger, diseases, pollution, and lack of education (P.257).

Critique assumptions:
In terms of human capital, business capital: Sachs rejects a single cause of poverty in Africa explanations, and argues that political changes, good governance and economic reform are insufficient by themselves to enable growth in Africa. He argues that malaria, the reliance of much of Africa’s food production on rain fed agriculture, and the high rates of nutrient depletion of many of the soils are critical factors that still need to be overcome if Africa’s people are to be liberated from the downward spiral of poverty. These are indeed all important dimensions of African poverty, and it is valuable to have them highlighted so prominently in international discourses on the subject.

In terms of infrastructure and natural capital: Within this framework, Sachs’s definition of geography therefore comes into play especially in terms of infrastructure and natural capital. Foreign aid, he argues, needs to be used to overcome these capital shortages, for example providing roads and infrastructure to minimize the impact of a state’s isolation from international trade, and supporting healthy soils and well-functioning ecosystems. The key issue is not so much how physical geography has conspired to make Africa poor, but rather why it is that complex social, political, cultural and economic interactions in these particular environments have shaped the places of Africa in the way that they have. This is a much more complex notion of ‘geography’ than that espoused by Sachs.

In term of public institutional capital and knowledge capital:
Sachs’ arguments are particularly valuable emphasizes the positive role that public institutional capital and technology play in overcoming poverty. While this is in part because he sees the diffusion of technology as being a key requirement for economic growth, he also places considerable emphasis on the need for village level technological capacity. Sachs (2005, p.257) argues that ‘rapid economic development requires that technical capacity suffuses the entire society from bottom up’, and that the way to do this is to provide technological training to large numbers of people at the village level. For instance, In Asia and Africa, the campaign (vaccination worldwide) that is funded by World Health Organization was successfully reached the furthest corners of the world especially in the regions where there are violent conflict (p.260).

Provide alternatives:
First, we need to listen more closely to the voices of the poor, to their dreams and aspirations, and take it upon ourselves to help deliver them. To achieve this, we need to find ways of giving platforms to those without voices, and to bypassing the usual systems of consultation and debate that have invariably left them unrepresented. Second, it is then important that those in positions of power in the development community, most notably the personnel of donor organizations, and other international agencies, actually act on what they see and learn from poor people about poverty. In particular, this requires us to reconsider how best to deliver support to poor people and communities in ways other than through financial assistance to national governments. Many of the poorest in the world remain poor because the existing systems of donor support quite simply exclude them from the equation; they do not live in poor countries. Finally, we need to move away from arguments that seek to maximize prosperity/economic well-being, and instead shift to those that seek to minimize inequality and poverty. This will require us to pay as much attention to social and cultural factors in our shared proposals for reducing poverty as we do to economic ones.

Sachs’ arguments have enormous appeal, and they have been significant in shaping many of the economic changes that have been witnessed in the worldwide countries. It is therefore especially important to identify where his main strengths are, and why his specific economic growth agenda has indeed been so popular. These six areas that is mentioning above have particular importance and resonance, and which help to explain why they have been so influential. Finally, each of one of us needs to act about poverty. Where I differ with him, is that I believe that this means that we will each have to make sacrifices. Sachs’ implication that we can somehow eliminate extreme poverty without it having a significant impact on our own lives is fundamentally wrong. We have to make a commitment to change, and that in itself is a difference. Simply increasing the amount of our own national budgets that are allocated to aid is quite simply not enough. There is so much more that we need to do. We need to begin really to listen to poor people. We need to act in their interests rather than our own. We need to focus on minimizing inequalities more than we do on maximizing profits. Only then will we find our true humanity.


About BentRamallah

Writing is part of my resistance, Palestinian-Jordanian, working in humanitarian aid, refugee, social policy and protection. I love to cook, dance, hike, teach and practice yoga, and rescue animals.
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