Bottom Billion Essay

2676 words - 11 pages

The Bottom Billion by Paul Collier is an interesting study of the problems and possible solutions for the one billion poorest people on the planet. He defines the bottom billion countries that house these people as not just poor, but adrift and failing to grow (Collier, p. x). He goes on to talk about four traps that these bottom billion get caught in and suggests four instruments to help get them escape. What Collier fails to realize is that he is defining what is poor, creating an unequal dichotomous relationship between the developed and underdeveloped, and promoting a neo-colonialist mandate.
Paul Collier suggests that countries in the bottom billion fall into one or more traps; either conflict, natural resources, being landlocked, and bad governance (Collier, p. 5). His research shows that seventy percent of the bottom billion poorest people in the world come from sub-Saharan Africa where life expectancy is low, infant mortality is high and malnutrition is common (Collier, p. 7-8). Other countries fall into the bottom billion as well, such as Bolivia, Laos, Yemen and Haiti, but the problem is most concentrated in Africa. He goes on to talk about the middle four billion who reside in rapidly growing countries like India and China. He states that these countries broke free of their traps in time to penetrate the global markets, but now it will be much harder for others to follow in their footsteps (Collier, p. 9-10). He postulates that change for the bottom billion will have to come from within, but developed countries can do things differently to make it easier for developing countries to reform.
In this opening section his argument sounds a lot like World Systems theory. His splitting of countries into three distinct groups is similar to the classifications of core, semi-periphery, and periphery of that theory. Both discuss about how a country can move between categories and both talk about how there is trade and influence between them (Klak, p 103). The issue with both of these frameworks is that it paints the world is very broad strokes. All nations in the bottom billion, or periphery, are said to be in at least one of four traps and, as we’ll see later, need at least one of four solutions. Collier has over simplified countries, their problems, and his solutions by only looking at the economic aspects and by treating an entire continent as roughly the same.
There are four traps that countries can get caught in that prevent or hinder them from growing and a country may be caught in multiple traps at the same time. The first trap discussed was the conflict trap where low income, slow growth and dependence on primary commodity exports all increase the likelihood of civil war (Collier, p. 32). Civil wars reduce income and make the country less desirable for investment which in turn leads to low incomes and slow growth, raising the risk of more civil strife (Collier, p. 27). As we’ll see in other traps, this is the cyclical nature of...

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