NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Many Nations Still Face Economic Despair

August 7, 2003

For many countries, the 1990s were years of despair, the recently released Human Development Report 2003 of the United Nations Development Program concludes.

The latest report emphasizes goals established by the United Nations in its Millennium Declaration of 2000, which ideally are to be met by 2015. They include halving poverty and hunger rates and reducing child mortality by two-thirds.

So how has the world done since 1990?

  • Fifty-four countries are poorer, as measured by per capita Gross Domestic Product (GDP).
  • Sub-Saharan Africa is worst off, with per-capita GDP falling in 20 nations.
  • It fell in 17 nations in Eastern Europe, six in Latin America, and six in East Asia and the Pacific.
  • The rate of hunger has increased in 21 nations.
  • The proportion of children who die under the age of 5 has risen in 14 nations.

Still, some countries, even poor ones, have done well by many measures. China and India stand out, of course. Ghana reduced its hunger rates greatly in the 1990s, and conditions in Vietnam improved significantly.

And some take solace in the fact that only 23 percent of the global population lives on less than $1 a day, compared with 30 percent in 1990. But most of this improvement has to do with the stunning economic progress in China. In absolute numbers, more people are now extremely poor than in 1990 if China is excluded.

The bottom line is that at this rate, some crucial goals set for 2015 will not be met by many regions for several decades, and in some cases not until the next century.

Source: Jeff Madrick, "Grim Facts on Global Poverty," New York Times, August 7, 2003.

 

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