Doomed to poverty? Gates says no

Bill and Melinda Gates refute the arguments that poor countries are destined to remain poor and that the gap between rich and poor will only grow larger. All Africa reports:

The American entrepreneur and philanthropist, Bill Gates, has mounted a vigorous attack on prophets of doom who say that poor countries are destined to remain so and that foreign aid doesn’t work. In the sixth of the annual letters issued by their foundation, Bill and Melinda Gates urge their readers to combat what they call three “myths”: those around efforts to end poverty, the effectiveness of foreign aid and – Melissa Gates’s particular target – the argument that reducing child deaths will lead to the world becoming over-populated.

In the 2014 letter, published by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation today, Bill Gates says the belief that the world cannot end poverty and disease is not just mistaken: “It is harmful. It can stall progress. It makes efforts to solve these problems seem pointless. It blinds us to the opportunity we have to create a world where almost everyone has a chance to prosper.

Some notes from the letter:

“After plummeting during the debt crisis of the 1980s, it has climbed by two thirds since 1998, to nearly $2,200 from just over $1,300. Today more and more countries are turning toward strong sustained development, and more will follow. Seven of the 10 fastest-growing economies of the past half-decade are in Africa.”

He also makes a case for “big strides” in health and education in sub-Saharan Africa:

The life-span for women has risen from 41 to 57 years since 1960, and would have gone up to 61 years were it not for the HIV epidemic;

The percentage of children in school has gone from the low 40s in 1970 to more than 75 percent.

Gates acknowledges that average figures conceal big differences between countries,…

Nevertheless, he predicts that by 2035 almost all countries will be what are now categorized as “lower-middle income” or richer: “Almost no country will be as poor as any of the 35 countries that the World Bank classifies as low-income today, even after adjusting for inflation.”

Read the 2014 letter here and see chart and video below:

By almost any measure, the world is better than it has ever been. People are living longer, healthier lives. Many nations that were aid recipients are now self-sufficient. You might think that such striking progress would be widely celebrated, but in fact, Melinda and I are struck by how many people think the world is getting worse. The belief that the world can’t solve extreme poverty and disease, isn’t just mistaken. It is harmful. That’s why in this year’s letter we take apart some of the myths that slow down the work. The next time you hear these myths, we hope you will do the same. – Bill Gates


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