Friday, November 03, 2006

A world of haves and have nots

I'd like to recommend the Gapminder website. This includes a brilliant presentation that lays out the huge development gaps that continue to plague the developing world.

It illustrates two things very clearly:

As East Asia pulls itself forward through rapid economic expansion (the largest single surge out of poverty in a single generation that history has ever seen) the development challenge is increasingly focused on Africa. I used to work as a teacher in rural Zimbabwe. This was a hands-on education on both the path forward for Africa (increased education, a diversified economy backed up by clear ownership rights, the roll out of basic health provision, provision of clean water and enough infrastructure to allow access to markets and services for all) and the challenges (particularly governance issues in the form of an increasingly corrupt and autocratic governing elite, the dangers of foreign entanglements - i.e. the civil war in the Congo in search of plunder - but also the external factors of world commodity prices and poor weather that can hit agriculture- based economies). The world owes Africa all the help it can get. But African leaders owe their people even more.

The second thing it shows is that differences (economic and health) within countries are at least as large as those between countries. The income differential between the bottom 20% and the top 20% in Namibia, for example, is the same as that between Sierra Leone (one of the world's poorest, war-torn countries) and Japan (where robots are increasingly being primed to take over household duties). I remember hitch-hiking on UN vehicles through the beauty of Namibia as it got its Independence from South Africa; its sad that that so much remains to be done.

What strikes me even closer to home though is that in Islington we face the same issue: the rich are getting richer and the poor, poorer. Tony Blair's Government has presided over increasing wealth disparity. It never was right in Zimbabwe - and it sure is not going to create a healthy society in the UK.

I look forward to a UK version of

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