Could There Be No Poor Countries in 20 Years? Bill Gates Thinks So

Screen Shot 2014-01-21 at 1.10.10 PMThis is probably one of my favourite headlines I’ve had to write so far this year, especially on the heels of yesterday’s post about less than 100 people having more wealth than half of the world. In the Bill and Melinda Gates’ Foundation annual letter, Bill Gates is optimistic, to say the least:

I am optimistic enough about this that I am willing to make a prediction. By 2035, there will be almost no poor countries left in the world. (I mean by our current definition of poor.) Almost all countries will be what we now call lower-middle income or richer. Countries will learn from their most productive neighbors and benefit from innovations like new vaccines, better seeds, and the digital revolution. Their labor forces, buoyed by expanded education, will attract new investments.

By current definition of poor, Gates clarifies that he means that, “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.”


Can you imagine a world where this happens? And Gates thinks that this could happen by 2035 — that’s 20 years from now! Twenty years!

A few months ago, I wrote a post considering what might be my generation’s version of racism:

I’ve spent a lot of time talking about my generation in comparison to generations past, but the true purpose of this post is a juxtaposition of the generations to come. As I said, it seems that past generations had a harder time than mine digesting the mix of cultures. For kids growing up today (in certain countries), it’s abundantly clear that there are people who look different from them and it’s just normal to grow up and be friends with people like this. My question, what is it that my generation will have a hard time with that future generations will see as natural?

Maybe a tangential answer to that question is poverty. Maybe in my lifetime, poverty (as we know it) will be eradicated. That’s certainly a wild idea given the current state of the world, but I for one would be thrilled to see this come to pass as I imagine others would be. With that being said, I could see how some folks might not be as accepting of this change and that’s not to say that they wouldn’t want poverty to be forever changed, but just that they might be a little less comfortable with the change.

As an example, let’s use technology. Generations before mine had technology that was quite different from what we use today. That is, the invention of TV was amazing. Now today, we can watch TV on a device that we can carry around in our pocket. Some folks from past generations are amazed by this and might still have a hard time adjusting to this reality.

That’s how I’m trying to superimpose the possibility of the eradication of poverty for my generation. Some folks might have a hard time adjusting to this reality. Regardless of the comfortability of some folks with this potential reality, I think it’s great that the Gates’ have wrote a letter helping to debunk some of the myths in developmental economics:

  1. Poor countries are doomed to stay poor.
  2. Foreign aid is a big waste.
  3. Saving lives leads to overpopulation.

I definitely recommend checking out the whole letter, which you can read here.


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