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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
on July 10, 2013
Once again Sachs spends most of his writing talking about his wonderful life,globetrotting, telling stories of his sage advice to the powerful (if not at all effective) "leaders" of the world. IMHO he has created an industry of himself. None of what he says has not been said before or more clearly by others. Frankly, I don't know what he has actually done to rate any kind of fame, except if you think single handedly destroying the post Soviet Russian chance for a truly free economy counts as a positive, which I don't. I am always amazed how many people know the Emperor isn't wearing any clothes but don't speak up.

Buy the book if you don't read Easterly, Diamond, Friedman, Moyo or any of the other originators of most of the theories and suggestions in this book. It is a good primer for the uninitiated and certainly for big government "white people with money have the answers" crowd. Nice jacket, though.
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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
on October 5, 2007
This book covers some concepts that at face value and first read - especially people like me who are not economists - seem quite enlightening. But the more you read, the more you have to question how it seems that the view he presents is a seemingly simplistic solution to what is in reality a complex problem. One of the reviews on here talked about how it is not "infrastructure" that is key to solving the problems, but rather an access to market. I'd have to agree. Companies are not flocking to sub-Saharan Africa to utilize the labor there. Companies are moving to China and India. This is not a simple matter of infrastructure, but a matter of economic policy and much more.

The book points to some villages in rural Africa where things appear to be improving - a choice village or two where Jeffrey Sachs and the Earth Institute at Columbia pour in their resources (these are subsequently called Millennium Villages to coincide with the Millennium Development Goals) - and it makes you think that he might possibly be making some sense. However, what about generalization to a whole country? Of course if you take all your resources, all the scientific knowledge accessible to you from the Earth Institute, and then some, and pour these into a village, what village will not transform? But is it sustainable? Is it generalizable to the whole country? Change needs to occur at the policy/governmental level concurrently, in order for real success and improvement.

While this book may be interesting, it is important to remember that it is not THE way; it is A way, and along with it, it has its flaws. Ask some other economist what they think - I did, and got an earful. The opinion was that Jeffrey Sachs is just recycling his ideas that he used decades back during the 80s, and that to counter this viewpoint, I must read William Easterly. I'm sure there are others out there to read. But again, one good read does not solve all the world's ills. If you don't have access to an economist, read ALL the reviews on here because there are some other points that need to be considered. And I don't appreciate the impression I get that ideas for solving poverty in places like sub-Saharan Africa comes from a simplistic seemingly-enlightened Westernized view of "this is what is wrong with Africa".
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99 of 124 people found the following review helpful
on March 17, 2005
I would just like to clarify 2 issues regarding Mr. Zxerce's comment on U.S. development assistance.

First, using numbers from 2000 (as Mr. Zxerce does), the OECD reports that the U.S. gave only $7.4 billion in net official development assistance. Mr. Zxerce claims the government gave $22.6 billion (a number from a USAID report) which includes all money going to developing countries, most of which does not go towards development purposes (a lot goes to Israel; military education, training, and loans; and antiterrorism). The issue is not to focus on total government flows to developing countries, but to report how much of it is actually going towards development (to make investments in health, education, and infrastructure, for example). Prof. Sachs' recent Foreign Affairs piece "The Development Challenge" takes a very detailed look at how U.S. aid is used, showing how little actually makes it to the ground for real development. The article will help clarify most of these points, and can be downloaded at [...] under "Publications"

Second, the USAID report that Mr. Zxerce's numbers come from claims that private giving to developing countries was $33.6 billion in 2002. However, this is misleading because $18 billion of this amount is individual remittances, which are not development aid at all but income transfers between family members in the United States and abroad. Counting remittances as development assistance would be tantamount to counting incomes of American expatriates sent back to the U.S. as international assistance from the rest of the world to the U.S.

I hope people take time to read the book carefully, as it will help clarify the issues of how much the United States actually gives, and how an increased American effort could help meet the Millennium Development Goals and make a safer and more prosperous world.
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45 of 55 people found the following review helpful
on October 22, 2007
Sachs is pompous and self-important to the point of distraction. It's amazing to have to say that about a book about ending poverty, but it's true. This book is a travelogue of adventures in high-level negotiations, focusing on Sachs' experience advising governments about problems infinitely less complex than the one he wants to address: ending extreme poverty. If you want to feel good about Jeffrey D. Sachs, this is the book for you; if you want a rigorous introduction to the issues, look someplace else.
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23 of 27 people found the following review helpful
on September 8, 2006
I really wanted to love this book. It came strongly recommended by a good friend who is very interested in development work. Whenever I read a review I always try and figure out what angle the reviewer is coming from, so for the record I'm deeply interested in development work and I have a background in economics and environmental science, but mostly I'm just really well read.

The book immediately starts off on the wrong foot when Sachs, for some reason, decides to set 1820 as the base year for determining world poverty and decides that in 1820 the world is universally poor and on an even playing field. In doing so, he ignores European colonization of virtually all of South America, All of North America, and most of Africa and the resulting poverty that occurred among the indigenous populations as they were thrown off the best plots of land. He brushes aside the argument that colonization had a great deal to do with the rapid development of the west by pointing out that the colonies economies grew even during colonization. This is true, however, there's a reason for that: the colonizers had installed local populations. Some of the money was staying put, the vast majority was going to the "mother country." He also cites longevity statistics (40 years in Western Europe) and says that applies globally and says that disease was a major problem. Prior to the European settlement of the America's the people were taller, and lived longer than their European counterparts. They also didn't have any of the Western Diseases (small pox, measles etc) because they lacked beasts of burden and the population density of Western Europe. Anyone who starts off a book playing fast and loose with History and with Economic theory can't be trusted to create an accurate model; and it's true. His model is riddle with flaws that other reviewers have pointed out. People like his theories because it absolves them of developed world guilt and makes the solution seem easy without much in the way of self-sacrifice. Like too many economic models, however, reality and the ideal are not the same.
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26 of 31 people found the following review helpful
on February 21, 2012
For all his fame as a development economist, Jeffrey Sachs has no understanding of his subject. He cites the failure of people to purchase a $5 anti-malaria mosquito net as evidence that they don't have $5, when these same people spend much more than that on mobile phone communications, transportation, and other things of importance to them. What Sachs doesn't understand is that A) People don't buy the net because malaria is not their primary concern; B) They don't believe it will solve the problem; C) They don't buy it because they know some donor-funded project will soon come along and give it to them for free; or D) All of the above. And lo and behold, Jeffrey Sachs has a program to distribute them for free! So much for any local entrepreneur who might have provided them on a sustainable basis.

This is an illustration of all of Sachs' "solutions" - just pump enough money into a place and development will happen. Anyone who has visited the boondoggles of his Millennium Development villages has seen the waste and the futility. This was all tried back in the 1960s and 1970s, and the reasons it didn't work haven't changed. Outsiders like Sachs who have never spent time on the ground implementing projects in the field go around unwittingly deepening dependency and corruption with these wasteful programs, while African economists advocate for trade and investment and improved terms of commerce as the solution to underdevelopment.
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29 of 35 people found the following review helpful
on November 30, 2006
Sachs proceeds from the assumption that every human being on the planet, in virtue of having been born, has a fundamental right to clean water, food, clothing, housing, health care and education, even if neither he nor his parents ever make any attempt to work. He then says that if we ensure that everyone on the planet has all of these things, they will naturally save enough, and therefore invest enough, to grow their local economies. He notes with dismay that most rich countries have given up on aid to the extreme poor, saying "trade not aid" and generally pinching pennies.

One reason this 396-page book isn't more convincing is that Sachs cannot come up with a single example of a country that has been lifted out of poverty by foreign aid. He talks about saving Russia with financial engineering, but Russia's clever people were making jet fighters, atomic bombs, and helicopters long before they ever met Sachs. He talks about the Marshall Plan for post-WWII Germany, but Germany didn't suffer from overpopulation and the lack of education that plague modern poor countries; investing in folks that had conquered France in six weeks probably did not seem very risky, particularly when one aim was to build up Germany's power as a bulwark against the Soviets.

Sachs fails to devote even one sentence to the modern fact that labor is mobile and global. Transportation and communication costs fall every decade. An ambitious, hard-working, intelligent, and well-educated person has never had an easier time moving from a poor country to a rich country. Sachs talks about building medical schools in Africa so that doctors and nurses will be plentiful, not noting that the U.S. has jobs for perhaps 200,000 more doctors than U.S. medical schools are going to graduate in the next decade or so. If Sachs is going to pay doctors in poor countries a U.S. doctor's salary, his program to deliver high quality health care to every poor person is going to cost a lot more $250 billion/year. If he isn't going to pay a competitive salary, why wouldn't these smart educated folks simply emigrate to where the good jobs are?

This book may provide some cheer to people who already believe in foreign aid, but it won't convince the skeptics who are currently holding the purse strings.
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
on April 30, 2007
I just finished a book that was as much a page-turner as it was an eye-opener: The End of Poverty: Economic Possibilities for Our Time by Jeffrey Sachs. If you pick up this book, you won't be able to put it down. And after you're done, you'll never look at global poverty, history, and politics the same way again. When Sachs talks about ending poverty, he is specifically talking about ending extreme poverty, which he defines as the over 1 billion people who live on less than a dollar a day, by the year 2025. I came away from this book believing that it is entirely possible within our lifetimes.

Sachs is uniquely qualified to write such a book. Here is the book cover introduction, "Hailed by TIME as one of the world's 100 most influential people, Jeffrey Sachs is world renowned for his work around the globe advising economies in crisis. He has advised a broad range of world leaders and international institutions on the challenges of hyperinflation, disease, post-communist transition, and extreme poverty." He is now director of the Earth Institute at Columbia University and a leading advocate of debt relief and aid for developing countries.

The first two chapters take us on a tour of global poverty starting with the current situation followed by a brief history of development. Chapters 3 and 4 do away with the status quo and simplistic answers to why some economies fail to thrive, and give us a road map for diagnosing "sick" economies.

Chapters 5-10 are country specific chapters based on Sachs' own experience working with government leaders and education as an economist. He served as an adviser to Bolivia's government during the hyperinflation crisis of the mid-80s, Poland's government as the budding democracy freed itself from Soviet rule, Russia's government after the fall of the Soviet Union, China's government as the fastest growing economy increasingly opens up to free-market reforms, and India's government as it leads the world in an IT revolution. Thought the entire thrust of the book constantly directs the reader's attention toward Africa, there is also a specific chapter dedicated to its unique problems and development.

The final chapters discuss the political situation in the U.S. in the wake of 9/11, the actual on the ground solutions and financing need to end extreme poverty, how the rich can afford to help the poor, common "myths and magic bullets" used to argue against aid, and a final philosophical challenge to our generation.

Three observations come to mind specifically that I either learned from the book or were solidified by it. First, letting democracy and free-market capitalism run their course is not sufficient. While this is a necessary ingredient, poverty is a multi-faceted problem that doesn't have such a simple solution. Sachs does fine job describing how the poorest of the poor are not even on the ladder of development due to disease, lack of education, poor infrastructure, adverse climate conditions, and geopolitical issues. People at this lowest level (less than $1 per day) cannot begin to climb the ladder of development as they have no disposable income. They merely subsist.

Second, the solution to this is a comprehensive effort which addresses each of the obstacles to development. Opening up a market to free trade is not enough. Fixing the roads is not enough. Feeding the hungry is not enough. Providing security alone, providing education alone, or providing health care alone is not enough. In fact, even if we provide all of these at the same time, it may not be enough if we don't provide it in sufficient quantity to lift them onto to the first rung of the development ladder. The idea is that once they are on this first rung, then they have the ability to climb on their own.

To take the analogy of giving someone a hand up, it is not enough to just grab someone's hand and slightly tug (an illustration of small aid packages) or to just tug with our arm and not use our leg strength to lift (an illustration of just focusing on one aspect of the problem). As Sachs describes, what we need is the 21st century equivalent of The Marshall Plan.

Third, and speaking of The Marshall Plan, it is in the best interest of national security, our own economic development, and world peace that we take up this challenge. Poverty breeds failed states, and failed states breed terrorism. Take Afghanistan for example or look further back in history to the rise of Hitler, which was due, in part at least, to the demand of the victor nations of World War I of war reparations and debt repayment. This sent Europe into the economic depths and fueled hatred and ultimately World War II. Contrast this with our economic response after WWII, no reparations, no debts forgiven, and in fact an amount of aid greater than 1% of U.S. GDP. The Marshall Plan was one of the most successful foreign policy initiatives in the history of the U.S. and helped to contribute to a lasting peace in Europe through shared economic prosperity.

In addition to the main thesis, there are many juicy tidbits and valuable pieces of information throughout the book about topics as broad as the failures in U.S. development history, including the Clinton and Bush administrations, information on AIDS and Malaria, successful movements such as smallpox eradication, the civil rights movement, and the shaking off ("intifada" in Arabic, by the way) of the chains of colonial powers by Gandhi-led India and others.

There is also information about agriculture, technology that can be used to end poverty, the anti-globalization movement, practical economic theory, a fascinating inside look into Sachs' work with government leaders on solving financial crisis, corruption, the industrial revolution, and positive steps we can take to lead the campaign.

What I've said above barely scratches the surface of value found in this book. All in all, Sachs message is not one of continued charity and throwing money at problems but rather justice and economic development through efficient aid and effective policies.
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32 of 39 people found the following review helpful
on June 29, 2010
I'm Polish and I recall very well the "shock therapy" advised by Jeffrey. I have a very strong negative opinion about the plan because of the pain it induced during its execution and its result. I was just curious how Jeffrey will sell his "work" in Poland and therefore I managed to waste my time only to the chapter devoted to my country. Lots of hand-waving about the glorious path of Jeffrey!

Well, as far as I know, Russian citizens (excluding maybe the richest 15%) feel the same about the "shock therapy" . I was just laughing about his description of himself as a savior of nation. The book is laughable and plainly factually incorrect (Martial law ended in 1983, not in 1989 and Poland regained independence in 1918, not 1919).

But yes, Bono's introduction adds a lot of credibility!
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon January 14, 2006
Sachs covers a lot of ground: a bit of world economic history, a bit of travelogue, moral arguments for foreign aid, and ... The Plan (to end world poverty by 2025).

The Plan itself, while mostly fascinating to read (with patches of exhausting technical detail), has its challenges. The biggest problem is that, while the investments he outlines will theoretically jump-start growth, it has never been tested, and the West has a long history of failed development ideas. Among other more technical points, Sachs either underestimates the inefficiencies in the aid agencies and in governments, or he overestimates the ease of overcoming them.

But the plan (and how to pay for it) makes up only four out of eighteen chapters. Here is what else awaits you: a brief economic history of the world and characterization of the rich-poor divides in the world today (chapters 1 and 2), a primer on growth economics (chapter 3), Sachs's prescription for how development economics should be practiced (chapter 4), tales of Sachs's very high level consulting in Bolivia, Poland, and Russia (chapters 5 through 7), economic histories of India and China (chapters 8 and 9), an overview of the economic and health situation in Africa (chapter 10), Sachs's views on how the West should respond to terrorism (chapter 11), The Plan (and how to pay for it (chapters 12 through 15), dispelling myths about why aid doesn't work (chapter 16), and the pep talk (chapters 17 and 18). The book can largely be read piecemeal. I particularly enjoyed chapters 1, 5 through 9, and 16.

One wearisome feature is the self-promotion. Sachs is the center of everything good that happens in this book. He has only praise for organizations he still works with (the UN and Columbia University's Earth Institute) but ample criticism for others (the World Bank, Western governments).

For more in this field, William Easterly's The Elusive Quest for Growth gives an excellent account of trends in development aid for Africa and why they haven't worked. Robert Klitgaard's Tropical Gangsters is an entertaining and insightful memoir of a World Bank economist advising in Sub-Saharan Africa.
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