(Photo: Ramin Talaie/Getty Images)
By 2035 there will be almost no more poor countries. So says Bill Gates in the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation's annual letter, which was released to coincide with the opening day of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. The letter aims to combat three pervasive myths that Gates believes are hindering the progress of international development. They are:
- Poor countries are doomed to stay poor.
- Foreign aid is a big waste.
- Saving lives leads to overpopulation.
Gates argues that disproving these myths is a crucial step in delivering aid and achieving his foundation's goals. His position is that in his lifetime he's witnessed the world get better — nations that once needed aid relief becoming self-sufficient and populations getting healthier. He writes: "You might think that would be widely celebrated, but in fact, Melinda and I are struck by how many people think the world is getting worse. The belief that the world can’t solve extreme poverty and disease, isn’t just mistaken. It is harmful."
Gates's baseline for 2035 is the World Bank's current definition of low-income, which is any country with a per capita Gross National Product of $1,035 or less. There are 36 countries that are considered low-income today. Gates writes that:
By 2035, there will be almost no poor countries left in the world. Almost all countries will be what we now call lower-middle income or richer. Countries will learn from their most productive neighbors and benefit from innovations like new vaccines, better seeds, and the digital revolution. Their labor forces, buoyed by expanded education, will attract new investments...More than 70 percent of countries will have a higher per-person income than China does today. Nearly 90 percent will have a higher income than India does today.
But not everyone is as optimistic as Gates.
In Bloomberg Businessweek, economics editor Peter Coy writes that Gates's "level of optimism is just this side of delusional," applauding Gates for his vision while remaining cautiously skeptical.
Randall Lane writing in Forbes is similarly cautious, noting that "for all the cash and brainpower, they can only succeed if governments buy-in (or at least don't sabotage progress)."
You can read the full report on the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation website.