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The End Of Poverty, By Jeffry D. Sachs

Info: 2908 words (12 pages) Essay
Published: 18th Apr 2017 in History

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Jeffrey D. Sachs is an internationally renowned economic adviser to governments of the world such as in Latin America, Eastern Europe, former Soviet Union, Asia and Africa. He received his B. A. from Harvard College in 1976 and later his PhD from Harvard University in 1980. He has been a Professor of Health Policy and Management, Quetelet Professor of Sustainable Development and the Director of The Earth Institute at the Columbia University. Sachs was also Special Adviser to the former United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan. The New York Times Magazine quoted him as ‘probably the most important economist in the world’. During his twenty five years of practice and experience, he has achieved so much in the academic realms of economic development including his authorship of the book under review: The end of poverty: Economic possibilities for our time.

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This review shall begin by listing all the eighteen chapters of the book. Thereafter, these chapters shall be categorized into four parts that shall be dictated by the organization of ideas by the author. The review shall also mention some major themes brought out by Jeffrey D. Sachs and the wider organization of the book. This shall be followed by a review of the chapters after which a recap of the whole review shall be done. In the final analysis, it shall be found out that the book is not only an excellent academic piece but also a professional guide in the fields of economic development, policy formulation and implementation.


The book The end of poverty: Economic possibilities for our time by Jeffrey D. Sachs is divided in eighteen chapters. The chapters are as follows: A global family portrait, the spread of economic prosperity, why some countries fail to thrive, clinical economics, Bolivia’s high altitude hyper-inflation, Poland’s return to Europe, reaping the whirlwind: Russia’s struggle for normalcy, China: Catching up after half a millennium, India’s market reforms: The triumph of hope over fear, the voiceless dying: Africa and disease, the millennium, 9/11 and the United Nations, on-the-ground solutions for ending poverty, making the investments needed to end poverty, a global compact to end poverty, can the rich afford to help the poor?, myths and magic bullets, why we should do it and our generation’s challenge. In the opinion of this write up, the book has been subdivided into four major parts that have been dictated by thematic, ideological and logical considerations.

It is interesting to note how Sachs organized his work. He first began with a bird’s eye view of the economy; that is from a global perspective. This is probably because no country exists in economic isolation in this age when the world has become a global village. The transformation of global activities into local occurrences has increased the speed at which economic activity is transacted. This prompted Sachs to tackle the question of the speed at which economic prosperity is occurring. He immediately however contrasted the global demands with some localized challenges facing some countries and later offered a framework through which the extreme cases could be diagnosed: Clinical economics. The author therefore is commendable in his procedural connection of themes and flow of logic. This part comprises of the first four chapters.

In the second part, the author is dealing with cases that shall later be used to prove his cause. The cases were eyewitness narrations and recording which makes the reader more believing while reading the book. These cases included Bolivia, Poland, Russia, China, India and Africa representing from chapter five to chapter ten. Chapter eleven to chapter fifteen form the third part of the book that has to do with academic and professional explanations for both the current situation and the extreme-poverty-free society. This part is punctuated with economic principles in the practice of development. This part also goes back to the global perspective in the explanation of strategic approaches in the eradication of extreme poverty as if the author is insisting that economic development, though locally experienced, is globally driven. The final part deals with the reassurance of possibility of combating extreme poverty by the year 2025. This economic hope is surrounded by myths, justifications and the challenges of the current economic life.

In this view, the book could so be subdivided due to the way ideas have been organized. The author tackled themes such as globalization, economics, development, developing countries, poverty and political economy. The book itself has been organized as follows: Acknowledgements, foreword, introduction, chapter synopsis, works cited, further reading, notes and index.

In his book, Sachs (2010) defined extreme poverty as living below one dollar a day. According to him, extreme poverty could be eliminated by the year 2025. He goes ahead to present a critical argument on how to go about it. In his proposed approach, all countries have potential to strengthen the economic development continuum that results from the wider global variations in economic development. Since economic development “tends to build on itself” (p. 73), then each country’s foothold on the economic development ladder can be used for the desired economic ascent by the said time. However, the author cautioned that there is a threshold below which economic development cannot be realized. This is explained through the concept of economic trap in which financial services are not available for the required investment. The situation is further exacerbated by disease, climatic challenges, geographic isolation and environmental degradation among others. The book The end of poverty: Economic possibilities for our time also introduces a very interesting concept of clinical economics; a symbolic comparison between economic processes and the way a physician diagnoses a patient. This was inspired by the authors experiences in India, China, Poland, Russia and Bolivia. In this view, those people concerned with the development agenda need to clearly understand the interdependency of countries and also that of different aspects of economy. Development practitioners also need to recognize the variety of a myriad of diagnoses, urgency of the subject matter and the centrality of monitoring and evaluation of the outcomes of any economic development initiative.

The first chapter of the book introduces the symbol of an economic ladder in a global environment. It is estimated that around one sixth of the world’s population is too ill and hungry ‘to get a foot on the first rung of the development rung’. From a global perspective, this population is not even able to escape from this material deprivation. However, in view of this write up, the author could find himself at academic loggerheads with Africanists since he exclusively ascribed extreme poverty to poor countries only (p. 18). In the second chapter, the author went back in time to trace the genesis economic inequalities and their consequent spread. He clearly stated that technology has been the major force in the spread of economic trends (p. 31). In answering the question why some countries fail to thrive, the author pointed out lack of resources that made the poor unable to save for the future. Other reasons included the landlocked nature of some countries, fiscal trap, governance failures and lack of innovation, cultural barriers and the demographic trap. The author thus suggested the application of clinical economics that entails working through a checklist to determine the actual cause of the observable economic symptom. It seems that the author was influenced by his academic practice since he was a Professor of Health Policy and Management at Columbia University. Against this background therefore, the use of a clinical economic symbol is made clear.

In the mid-1980’s, the author worked with the Bolivian government to stabilize currency value, tax the wealthy and establish an emergency social fund. This forms part of the author’s building block to one of his proposed strategies of poverty eradication in chapter 14 since the World Bank funded the social fund. It could also be one of the author’s convictions that such funding could eradicate poverty as evident in Bolivia. In the proceeding chapter (5), the author described his experience in Poland where he helped the government establish a market economy. In page 136, Sachs advised the Russian government to adopt key reforms that led to the liberalization of the market. This was also connected to his idea on external funding (foreign aid) since it was part of the advice to the government. It is however critical to consider this idea against the theories of development. For instance, from the perspective of the developing world, foreign aid is not very good: It is accompanied with many conditions. The ninth and the tenth chapters also have similar cases in which market reforms and unprecedented economic growth in India and China respectively were at the center of his proof for strategic propositions.

It seems that the author used a lot of his academic prowess in proving the possibility of the end of poverty. To demonstrate this, there are chapters of the book that are specifically geared towards intense advocacy of the end of the said extreme poverty. There must have been a compelling force with which Sachs was certain of the possibility of elimination of extreme poverty even though he was conscious of the horrifying images of the effect of poverty in Africa; what he had earlier called the poverty trap. It remains at the discretion of the reader to judge the author as having contradicted himself by portraying such extreme cases yet prescribing such a short time for the elimination of the poverty. The second possible area of contradiction evident in chapter 10 is the involvement of international agencies such as the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) (p. 189) in the alleviation of the extent of poverty in developing countries yet he did not succinctly state whether there was any conditionality especially those that were driven by economic aspirations. The author stateed that the developed world had a moral responsibility to help in the curbing of unnecessary deaths which is a result of the diseases in those parts of the world.

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In chapter 11, Sachs (2010) stipulated that the time for debate was over and that it was time for action. This action could be demonstrated through partnerships as illustrated by the eighth Millennium Development Goal (MDG). The United Nation’s Millennium Assembly confirmed the view of the author on poverty in September 2000. During this assembly, the great challenges presented by Kofi Annan as affecting the global society were extreme poverty, pandemic diseases, environmental harm, war and conflict. Elsewhere, another strategy of eradicating poverty was multilateral agreements through which the rich world’s moral obligation to support the less developed world would be actualized. The author seems to be conscious of the controversy that has rendered the under-developed and the developing world to assert that most trade agreements always sought to advance an economic agenda for the developed world. Instead of focusing on the debate itself, the author suggested that development practitioners should focus on the gains that the developing countries would enjoy because of such agreements.

Chapters 12 and 13 are concerned with the actual strategies through which extreme poverty could be eliminated. In places where extreme poverty is a major issue, it is critical that their economies are ‘jump-started’ through financial resources in form of official development assistance (p. 246). Since financial resources have always been the major challenge, is eradication of extreme poverty feasible? This could be answered by the above multilateral agreements and the existence of the international lending agencies. In these chapters nevertheless, it is expressly stated that this would be achieved through foreign aid on education, health, agriculture and infrastructure. According to him, it would greatly reduce the investment gap. However, chapter ten was elaborate in the depiction of how extreme poverty and disease were especially in Africa thus emergence of the question of the sufficiency of foreign aid in the eradication of poverty. In chapter 14, the author answered the question by restating the specialized functions of the earlier mentioned agencies that should consider each country on its own and work hand in hand with country-level teams of such agencies to offer sustainable solutions to the problems they face. In chapter fifteen, the author offered calculations on how the rich world could actually eradicate extreme poverty: By donating less than 0.6 percent of their Gross Domestic Product (GDP). This could work if this donation pattern could be sustained through 2015. The author was not far from the calculations of the United Nations Development Program’s (UNDP’s) Millennium Development Goals- it was calculated at the rate of 0.7 per cent of those countries GDPs.

One of the core features of Sachs’s strategic propositions was foreign aid. As earlier stated, foreign aid has over time been castigated by some development practitioners in the developing and underdeveloped world for its conditionality. However, Sachs proceeded to prove how it was the way towards alleviation of extreme poverty levels. Why would he be so convinced? The author outlined some myths and misconceptions attached to the concepts of foreign aid and multilateral agreements. Whether the critics of foreign aid were right or wrong, chapter 16 points out that they could be part of the myth. This is common with most of development thinking (p. 309). In fact, chapter 17 gives justifications for economic assistance.

In an economically transcendent perspective, the writer put it that it was part of the United States’ foreign policy to support countries in their independence, provide humanitarian relief after natural calamities and extend assistance for reconstruction and development (p. 331). In this regard, extremely poor countries do not have justification for not accepting foreign aid and by extension indulging in multilateral agreements. All said and done, through there are aspect of lack of leadership in chapter 17 and 18, the latter chapter gives a lot of hope by quoting the words of Robert Kennedy (368).


Economic development is one of the key focuses of world governments in a quest to amass power and provide for its citizens. There have however been so many factors that hinder this development. Sachs (2010) called them economic traps and are mostly persistent in the developing and underdeveloped world. To curb these challenges, it is important to consider the global connectedness of the economy, the speed at which economies are spreading and the academic and practical approaches to the development agenda. It thus means that development practitioners have to be proactive and ambitious in their policy formulation and implementation. One such economic thinking is found in the work of Jeffrey D. Sachs, who served as Special Advisor to the former United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan. In his book The end of poverty: Economic possibilities of our time, Sachs gave some of the strategies through which extreme poverty could be eradicated by the year 2025.

This review began by briefly highlighting the academic attainments of the author and his massive experience in the practice of economic development. The review also gave a brief outline of the chapters before expounding on their thematic concerns. Within the chapters, the salient issues were described including applause on the author’s prowess to connect themes logically and present the subject matter professionally. Above all, the ambition of the author in possibilities of elimination of extreme poverty by the specified time was recognized. However, the reader may be left to enquire the feasibility of the approaches to poverty alleviation bearing in mind that poverty and disease are still very prevalent in the developing world especially Africa. The author argued that the rich world has a moral responsibility to offer donor aid to the developing world. In addition, multilateral agreements should be intensified. Further, if the economic traps were more than the donor capacity, the specialized organs of international agencies should form country-level committees to tackle country-specific economic challenges. This review also found helpful the sections of the entire book including the foreword, introduction and the works cited. Finally, it was evident a natural classification of chapters into distinct categories, emergence of themes and positive attitude of the author. It could be said that the author did his best in putting across the subject matter thereby achieving a substantial degree of academic standing and professional practice. This is an excellent work for both students and practitioners of economic development and social policy.


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