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24 of 26 people found the following review helpful
on May 9, 2011
Format: Hardcover
After so many years of development-bashing, it began to feel like there was just no hope for sorting out the problems in the developing world. Even more depressingly, authors like Dambisa Moyo managed to court global fame, peddling views which were not only highly partisan, but poorly researched and ignored any contrary evidence.

So Charles Kenny's book is certainly a ray of sunshine; an island of hope in the sea of negativity. So of course the temptation is to hold this up and say 'ha! we knew we were right all along. development does work!' The book - which trumps the aforementioned Moyo on almost every level in terms of research, clarity of thought, balanced argument and all the rest, certainly does offer a new perspective on the progress of the poorest in the world. But 'poorest' is perhaps the wrong word to choose, as the central conceit of the book is that the relentless measurement of income as an indicator of quality of life - the 'dollar a day' epidemic - is misleading, because as his research shows, there is almost no link at all between growth in income and improvement of quality of life. In countries where there has been no growth at all, certain indicators like life expectancy have improved by as much as 50%, and conversely in countries where there has been steep economic growth such as China or Botswana, there is often a decrease in life indicators.

Kind of seems illogical doesn't it? One can buy into it fully, and accept that it takes someone with a totally new take and perspective to blow apart orthodoxies, and Charles Kenny is that man. One can put the shutters up, and just say no way, one man can't change the tide of all the other naysayers. But perhaps the middle ground, and which i felt, was that my pleasure at the positive measure was mixed with a slight discomfort that exactly matches how i feel when i read a negative book on development, written econometrically.

The thing is that econometrics doesn't, to me, seem to really capture the subtelties of development, nor the human dimension. It looks at national statistics, often over decades, and from times when collection methods were patchy and unreliable at best. Just because the data show a correlation, does it mean that this is positive evidence? The outcome of Kenny's analysis too, is potentially dramatic. If, as he suggests, we simply don't know how to foster economic development and growth, should we stop trying, and simply allow the hugely complex and context driven forces do their work? He suggests africa's time will come, as have all other regions, but is this enough for the people in africa who are struggling today?

But, like all development books, this should not be read alone. All the different theorists add their ideas into the development mix, and it is up to us to decide which parts we feel are right. There is no one answer, nor will there ever be; those who suggest there is are wrong. But this is an intelligent, well researched book that hopefully will be the start of a trend of analysis that looks beyond cliche, sees the bigger picture and the longer term, and most of all is positive and hopeful. People's lives depend on it.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
Format: Paperback
Author Kenny's message is an important one - that while Africa and many other areas have lagged in terms of income growth over recent decades, they have also seen unprecedented improvement in health and education, security, and human rights. The problem with this message is, that after presenting a few overall statistics in documentation, he goes on and on and on for another 200+ pages. Simply put, the book should be condensed to about two pages.

Here's the 30,000' overview: Since 1960, global average infant mortality has more than halved. The percentage of sub-Saharan Africans who could read and write doubled between 1970 and 1999, from less than one-third to two-thirds. Between 1962 and 2002, life expectancy in the Middle East and North Africa rose from 48 to 69 years. The percentage of the world's infants vaccinated with DPT rose from 20% to nearly 80% between 1970 and 2006.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on January 10, 2012
Format: Hardcover
I read an earlier draft, but this is an excellent antidote to the widespread pessimism about the world. Much of the pessimism about economic development is due to mutilitarianism: an overemphasis on measuring GDP. This book puts development into a fuller context. And it isn't as pie-in-the-sky as Sachs' books.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on June 24, 2014
Format: Kindle Edition
While the author has some excellent points on how development is getting things right, and what can be done to improve where we are getting things wrong. I felt this book could have gotten all of those points across in about 30 pages. The author simply repeats the same points over and over for most of the book.

Additionally, the author structures sentences in a way that makes you have to re-read them to understand what he is trying to say. Several times I caught myself wondering why he would phrase a sentence in such an unusual way, when a simpler sentence would get the point across. It made the reading very sluggish at times.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on September 15, 2013
Format: Kindle EditionVerified Purchase
While this book is a little repetitive, it certainly has a fresh take on how aid to developing countries can help, and what kind of aid works well, and what doesn't work. As a returned Peace Corps volunteer, it certainly rings true with what I saw and observed in my three years in Africa.
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10 of 15 people found the following review helpful
on April 17, 2011
Format: HardcoverVerified Purchase
Charles Kenny is a distinguished economist whose optimism is well grounded in reality. He skillfully debunks the myth that development aid is doomed to failure and a waste of money. This is an excellent supplement to the 2010 U.N. Human Development Report. Both books bring the little-recognized good news that over the last 40 years and more the world, in most places and on average, has indeed become much better. If we look past the dire headlines to the less widely reported truth, we come to understand that in fact the human race has achieved great things over the last generation or so. We are living in a goldent age, even if the New York Times does not choose to report it.

I'll quote some vital statistics from the latest UN HDR--Since 1970 (a) average life expectancy at birth has increased from 59 years to 70; (b) percentage of enrollment in school of high school aged kids has increased from 55% to 70%; and (c) per capita annual income has doubled from $5,000 to $10,000 (purchasing-power-adjusted).

Much of this amazing progress was possible (and will continue to be possible), as Kenny points out, because the costs for basics are or have become cheap. It doesn't cost much in local currency to staff a basic educational system, and low cost medical interventions can have a huge effect in raising the performance of developing world health systems.

Yes, there are still hundreds of millions who live in terrible poverty, there is extreme inequality, and the environmental sustainability of tthe world economy is in doubt. Nevertheless, as Kenny argues, there is reasons to hope that even the children of the poorest families will live better lives than their parents.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on September 7, 2011
Format: Hardcover
This book presents the case for why the world is getting better despite all the negativity we can see and read. Even Africa is improving. Kenny does of lot of historical comparisons to make his case. Certainly life is better for most people, even those in poor places, now as compared to several hundred years ago. Kenny says that the increasing disparity between income in the developed world and in the underdeveloped world is not really a serious problem because the things that really matter for a quality life--health, education, human rights--are all getting better for the poor as well as the rich. Good news, but sometimes his news is too good. For example the fact that many countries have signed various human rights documents does not mean that actually practice human rights.

Another good thing about the book: it is written in clear, simple language that anyone can understand.

Worth reading for anyone who wants to understand the world as it really is.
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on September 12, 2014
Format: Hardcover
quick delivery. as describe.
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0 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on September 6, 2012
Format: Kindle EditionVerified Purchase
up tp the 30%, it's interesting. got an impression that it was well written. backing up the point nicely.

but it gets a bit boring, cuz the author continues on repeating the same essentials in different points. it's awesome that s/he has evidences for every single point he makes except that it really boils down to the point s/he made in the beginning. and the later part gets not so much realistic or just feels like a pretty words.

for me, who haven't read any books about the 3rd world development, it was interesting.
i would recommend this to someone who's interested in this field but not so quite familiar and would recommend to read some parts of the book
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