Tag Archives: Poverty

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.”

WOW!

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.

Poorest Canadians Spend More Than Half of Income on Food & Shelter

Just over a week ago, I saw this photo retweeted by Gerald Butts, who happens to be a senior advisor to Justin Trudeau (the Leader of the Liberal Party of Canada). As I’ve spent most of my adult life in the US, I’m used to hearing and writing (here, here, and here) about some of the sobering statistics in that country (approximately 50 million American live in poverty — right now!) As a result, I thought it’d be enlightening to take a closer look at some of the inequalities in Canada. This graph seemed like a good place to start.

For instance, I had no idea just how large the disparity was between the richest 20% and poorest 20%, with regard to food and shelter. Looking at the numbers, we can see that the poorest 20% spend approximately 56% (!) of their income on food and shelter. Fifty-six percent! While the richest 20% spend just 32%. I chose these categories because of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. Food and shelter are some of the most basic needs we have and if the poorest 20% has to spend so much of their income on — essentially — surviving, it’s going to make it that much harder to “climb the economic ladder.” Of course, some might say it’s misleading to look at the numbers in aggregate like this.

With that being said, this holiday season, I hope you’ll remember this graph when you’re out at holiday parties and issues of politics and/or charities arise. It may add an important layer of perspective to the conversation.

What Will Medicine Look Like in the 22nd Century?

Every now and then, I like to watch some old episodes of Star Trek. I should clarify: I watch “The Next Generation.” I’m a little young for the original series. The Next Generation aired during my younger formative years (and how grateful I am for this). I often think that my strong sense of morals has a lot to do with the fact that I was often presented with ethical dilemmas through the vehicle of this show.

A few weeks ago, I happened to catch an episode from near the end of the final season: Thine Own Self. One of the two featured plot lines for this episode is Data‘s visit to a ‘primitive’ village. Data, suffering from amnesia, is taken in by this village. Maybe I should back-up and tell you how he got there. Data was sent on a mission to recover some radioactive material from a probe that crashed on the planet. Having suffered injuries during this recovery attempt, Data walks to this village (miles and miles away), carrying a box that says radioactive.

As I said, this village welcomes Data — at least for a little while, but I won’t get into all of that. The parts I want to focus on are those that occurred with the town’s healer. Because Data doesn’t know who he is, he is taken to see the town’s healer. Listening to her assessment of Data’s injuries and the like is a real treat. The way the healer reasons that this is causing that because of something unforeseen is just what you might expect from a pre-industrial society. That’s not meant to sound pejorative — societies do the best they can with what they’ve got.

I looked and looked for a clip of the healer diagnosing Data or of the healer diagnosing the members of the village (as some of them get radiation poisoning), but couldn’t find it. However, I was able to find a clip of the healer teaching some of the children about the elements.

Strange, eh?

After seeing this episode again, I had to think to myself, what are our assumptions in medicine today that will seem laughable in 100 years. What about in 300 years? What about in other fields? Will we laugh that we ever used to think that we weren’t able to communicate telepathically? What about seeing things at a distance? Will there still be poverty? Hunger?

Whenever we start to take ourselves and our assumptions too seriously, it’s important to remember the humble beginnings from which we come.