The rich in the West are getting richer. Many countries have experienced a sharp concentration of incomes over the last three decades. The top 1% of Americans have doubled their share of national income (from 8 to 17%) since Ronald Reagan was inaugurated 32 years ago – see graph, source here. The elite in other advanced economies, including, Australia, the UK, Japan and Sweden, have also gotten a larger share of the pie. We have been able to understand the concentration of incomes at the national level thanks to the study of tax records by enterprising scholars such as Emmanuel Saez, Thomas Picketty and Sir Anthony Atkinson. But until recently, we didn’t know much about the global concentration of incomes (there’s no global tax collector with a similar database).
It is generally thought that two groups are the big winners of the past two decades of globalization: the very rich, and the middle classes of emerging market economies.
The statistical evidence for this has been cobbled together from a number of disparate sources. The evidence includes high GDP growth in emerging market economies, strong income gains recorded for those at the top of the income pyramid in the United States and other advanced economies, as well as what seems to be the emergence of “a global middle class” and casual observations of the rising affluence of Chinese and Indians.
The rate of change in our world is accelerating and every day there’s a new innovation or promising idea that springs up to provide hope for the "wicked" problems of our time. But development is complex and requires a sustained commitment to bold experimentation underpinned by a commitment to learn constantly. But learning does not happen in isolation. It happens through practice, through reflection, and through meaningful and sometimes unexpected exchanges with peers, practitioners, and colleagues from far flung places.
This is why I am really excited about a new online salon that we have unveiled at the World Bank. Striking Poverty aims to "shine a light and lend a megaphone" to innovations in development to help them percolate, surface, and be widely debated and discussed. The salon is designed to empower innovators by striking up interactive discussions and debate amongst a global community of stakeholders.
Although I have committed much of my career to the global fight against HIV and AIDS, this year's World AIDS Day is a special one for me in two ways. First, there's the remarkable news from UNAIDS that more than 8 million people globally are now on treatment, and 25 countries have achieved more than a 50 percent decline in HIV prevalence. With this progress, I am more optimistic than ever about our ability to end AIDS.
As the US government’s new blueprint for an AIDS-free generation demonstrates, today we have the science, the knowledge, the experience, and the tools to fight the epidemic. I was particularly happy to see that the blueprint included multi-year, sustainability strategies and that it stressed the need to support country leadership. With that leadership, and with a long-term plan owned by countries, these efforts can succeed.
These are some of the views and reports relevant to our readers that caught our attention this week.
“Twenty African media innovators will receive a total of $1 million to develop digital projects that improve the quality of news across the continent, as part of the first African News Innovation Challenge (ANIC).
Many recipients concentrated on enhancing citizen journalism, investigative reporting and source protection.
ANIC is the largest fund for digital journalism experimentation in Africa. It is designed to spur solutions to the business, distribution and workplace challenges facing the African news industry. The contest was organized by the African Media Initiative (AMI), the continent’s largest association of media owners and operators, and managed by Knight International Journalism Fellow Justin Arenstein. The fellowships are administered by the International Center for Journalists.” READ MORE
The World Bank has been tracking the world's progress against poverty since the late eighties, but the release of 2008 data was the first time in which all regions of the developing world showed a decline in the number of people living below poverty lines!
What would you give up to continue using your mobile phone? For most of the six billion mobile subscribers around the world, the sacrifice might be measured in terms of a marginal loss of privacy, or of time.
The World Bank’s classification of economies as low-, lower-middle-, upper-middle-, or high-income has a long history. Over the years these groupings have provided a useful way of summarizing trends across a wide array of development indicators. Although the income classification is sometimes confused with the World Bank’s operational guidelines, which set lending terms and are determined only in part by average income, the classification is provided purely for analytical convenience and has no official status.
Not so long ago, those countries designated as “low-income countries” (LICs) in the World Bank’s World Development Indicators accounted for the bulk of the world’s poor, such as by the $1.25 a day standard. Today many very poor people live instead in what are called “middle-income countries” (MICs). The change seems dramatic. Almost all (94%) of those below $1.25 a day in 1990 lived in LICs. By 2008 the proportion was down to 26%, with the rest in MICs. Andy Sumner attracted much attention to this aspect of how the global profile of poverty has changed in his paper “Where do the Poor Live?.” Amanda Glassman, Denizhan Duran and Sumner dub this emergence of large poverty counts in MICs as the “new bottom billion.”
There has been much discussion about the implications of this change for overseas development assistance (ODA) and development policy more broadly. In particular, there have been calls for concentrating ODA on the LICs, assuming that the MICs can now look after their own poor.
But we need to look more closely at this “LIC-MIC” distinction, to understand why we have seen this change in the global poverty profile, and what relevance it might have for development policy.
As debates on the post-2015 framework gear up, a strong view is emerging that the next development framework must aim at finishing the job that the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) started at the beginning of the 2000s. There are many lessons that the development community has learnt about what worked and what should be improved this time around. A new report by Save the Children published today on the occasion of the second meeting of the United Nations High Level Panel on post-2015 in London, Born Equal: How reducing inequality could give our children a better future, argues that inequality is one of the MDGs’ blind spots that needs to be addressed in the next development framework to accelerate progress towards the MDGs and to deliver the promise to eradicate extreme poverty.