The paper is aimed at reviewing Jeffrey Sach’s book, Common wealth: The Economics for a crowded planet. In the book, Sach gives numerous solutions to achieve global economic development. First sustainable green technologies should replace the conventional sources of energy that contribute to global warming. Developing countries should increase their exports of agricultural production in order to earn revenue to import various technologies and machinery from developed countries. Foreign aid should be used to improve healthcare, literacy levels and Agriculture in developing countries. Developed counties also need to cut on military spending and allocate funds to humanitarian aid. Some of these solutions are inappropriate as will be evaluated in this paper.
I disagree with the solutions proposed by Sach, to eradicate poverty in developing countries. Increasing foreign aid and concentrating on agricultural production at the expense of various technology sectors, such as green technologies, will not uplift developing countries to become self sufficient nations. Moreover, a cut on military spending in developed countries is likely to undermine security.
In light of global warming, Sach cites the need for sustainable technologies. He proposes solutions to stop the emission of green house gases. One of the solutions entails an increase in public financing for research on green technologies (Sach, 2008). However, a lot of funds have been spent in the research and development of green technologies. To date there are so many inventions in the field. These include solar panels, solar lamps, biofuel, hybrid cars etc. A more suitable proposal would be the implementation of green technologies. There is a need to apply the findings of scientific research. As it stands, research scientists receive funds to carry out research and the findings are published and archived. Not much follow up is done in the implementation of these green technologies. Research grants should yield practical innovations. It is a waste of public funds to conduct research where findings are archived, but not applied. Public funds need to be spent on the implementation of green technologies. The government may engage in the distribution of solar lamps and encourage the use of biofuel. Thus, public funds should be spent on the research and implementation of green technologies
Sach also proposes that developing countries need to intensify exports to developed countries, in order to earn foreign exchange that will be utilized in the importation of technologies. Sach fails to address the nature of exports from developing countries. These countries mainly export raw farm products such as coffee, tea and other cash crops. These crops are processed in developing countries, and their worth is much greater after processing. Developing countries need to have the technologies to process crops prior to importation. After value addition, their products will fetch better world prices. In addition, there is a need to empower developing countries to invent and innovate technologies. This is via education and appropriate capacity building. Developing countries are rich in minerals that can be used as raw materials in industrial processes. The citizens need to have the ability to apply various forms of technology. Developing countries have the ability to invent technologies in such fields as information technology, biotechnology and industrial chemistry. Due to lack of empowerment, developing counties continue to import technologies. Unlike Sach’s suggestion for developing countries to intensify on agricultural production, these countries also need to diversify and engage in the formulation and application of advanced technologies, to bolster economic development.
In the book, Sach suggests, “intelligently targeted aid” to developing countries will help in alleviating poverty. He further adds that sustained aid will effectively transform these countries to sustainable economies. Sach gives examples of success stories following disbursement of foreign aid. “Foreign aid has contributed to the economic development of Asia and Latin America through the Green Revolution of increased agricultural productivity; the control of infectious diseases, such as small pox; the vast rise of literacy and school attendance; and much more” (Sach, 2008). However, foreign aid has had detrimental effects on the economic stability of African nations.
To a large extent, foreign aid is responsible for economic instability in developing countries. Some of the conditions that come with foreign aid have been detrimental to citizens in developing countries. The World Bank and International Monetary Fund (IMF) are major aid donors that have required recipient developing countries to execute drastic retrenchment of employees in the public service. This strategy has heightened poverty in the affected developing countries. The retrenchment packages are not sufficient to sustain many of the employees who had more that 20 years remaining in public service. Another condition for recipient countries is the mandatory purchase of services and goods from the donor countries. These products from donor countries are overpriced, and developing countries lack revenue for economic development. In addition, donor countries use the opportunity to use recipient countries as markets for their products. However, developing countries are denied markets in these donor countries. Thus, trade treaties that are only beneficial to donor countries have been established. In addition, structures are not set up for the utilization of foreign aid. Consequently, the aid is not utilized to uplift the lives of the poorest. Most of these donor funds are embezzled, and the poor citizens continue to become more impoverished. The recipient countries sink into debt and the donor funds do not contribute to significant economic development. Sach disputes and, somewhat, downplays this embezzlement of donor funds. “The second fallacy is the implication that $ 23 trillion is so gargantum as to prove obviously, and without further calculation, that aid has been a massive waste on a global scale. I dare say that most people before making the calculation would have a time knowing whether the sum is actually gargantum or not. It is not easy to judge, since it signifies all aid to all countries from all donors over a fifty-year period! That’s a hard sum to contemplate accurately” (Sach, 2008). Sach goes further to make a comparison with the estimated $500 billion that has been spent by the United States military in the Iraq war.
Sach needs to address the problems that arise due to foreign aid in developing nations. In addition, he is too vague and needs to expound on what he refers to as intelligently targeted aid. In most cases, donor aids is given to increase agriculture production in developing countries. The Millennium Village project, United Nations initiative spearheaded by Sach seeks to promote crop yield (via use of superior seeds and fertilizer) and school attendance in villages. This is essential to bolster food security, but there are other important sectors. Sach describes four priority areas where improved technologies are already widely used around the world but not by the extreme poor: high-yield agriculture (including improved seed varieties, chemical fertilizers, and small-scale irrigation), educational technologies (as basic as classrooms and sanitary facilities for girls, but also connectivity for distance learning), health care technologies of all sorts, and modern infrastructure (Sach, 2008). Donor aid should also be used to increase capacity building in technology. This will empower developing countries to invent sustainable technologies. They will become economic giants that are not reliant on developed counties for technology. Foreign aid needs to be utilized in the funding of tertiary education. More students from developed countries need to attend college and university. It does not help much to use foreign aid in the provision of elementary education.
With the advent of terrorism, governments need to streamline security in order to protect citizens. This includes increased military spending, intensified border patrol and increased surveillance by law enforcement agencies. However, Sach rebukes increased surveillance and advocates for cuts in military spending. Instead, the money allocated to the military should be used as humanitarian aid (Sach, 2008). Military sending is essential, and Sach does not appreciate the importance of stringent security. There is a need to appreciate the role played by security agencies in protecting the nation. Without security forces, the nation would be porous to terrorism attacks, and this will hamper economic development. Intelligence efforts by security forces are crucial in preventing terrorism events. The problem of terrorism cannot be wished away, and there are grave repercussions that would result from cutting on military spending. The US military needs funds to maintain troops in the war zone. Aside Iraq and Afghanistan, the US military is deployed in numerous peacekeeping missions.
In conclusion, economic development in developing countries will be achieved via technological advancement. For many years, foreign aid is targeted towards improving medical care, elementary education and agriculture. Developing countries have the ability to develop sustainable technologies. This can be achieved via capacity building, and funding advanced education.