John Grunsfeld, former NASA Chief Scientist and veteran of five Space Shuttle flights, had several chances to look down at Earth, and noticed how poverty can be recognized from far away. Unlike richer countries, typically lined in green, poorer countries with less access to water are a shocking brown color. During the night, wealthier countries light up the sky whereas nations with less widespread electricity look dim.
Dr. Grunsfeld’s observation might have important implications. Pictures from satellites could become a tool to help identifying where poverty is, by zooming in to the tiniest villages and allowing a constant monitoring that cannot be achieved with traditional surveys.
Low-income countries facing a hangover as the commodity cycle turns
Until recently, confidence and expectations for low income countries (LICs) were soaring – with good reason. After all, for most of the 2000s, many LICs managed to consistently post growth rates that were much higher than in the previous three decades (Figure 1).
For metal and mineral exporting LICs – these account for almost two-thirds of LICs – robust global demand for copper, iron ore, oil and high commodity prices filled government coffers and lifted investment and exports. This resulted in a broad based improvement in growth (Figure 2). The 2000s also marked a decade of discoveries, with major oil and gas discoveries in East and West Africa that transformed long term prospects for some LICs.
We have learned much over the past several decades about the connection between gender inequality and economic growth, particularly when we talk about inequalities in education and employment. Inequalities in education, for instance, artificially reduce the pool of talent which societies can draw from; by excluding qualified girls from the educational stream and promoting less qualified boys, the average amount of human capital in a country will be reduced and this will have an adverse impact on economic performance. We also know that the promotion of female education leads to lower births per women, not only because educated women will have greater knowledge about family planning but also because education creates greater opportunities for women that may be more attractive than childbearing.