Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Disasters and Development

I was going to post on today's Public Policy Analysis class, but little else seems to matter relative to the disaster in Haiti. To be sure a 7.0 magnitude earthquake would be a disaster in any built environment and yet it is so much worse in a poor developing country like Haiti due to poor construction, poor infrastructure, and poor services including emergency response.

The reality of the world is that while even developing countries have come a long way, the inequality among nations continues to grow. Here is a chart of some selected countries which illustrates this point.

Haiti's GDP per capita is about $1700, compared to the US's which is about $43,000. Over time this difference has grown and continues to do so. Here is a graph that illustrates the growth in inequality in the world.

Most policy that has any real affect (outside of trade policy) is national in nature, so transfers to developing countries are essentially voluntary charitable donations. And while much effort has been spent to try and improve developing country economies so that they too can enjoy rapid sustained growth, the reality has been dismal - especially in Africa.

Events like the earthquake in Haiti serve as stark reminders how much of the world is being left behind and how many people are living lives characterized by poverty and risk.

Update: Nicholas Kristof has a nice blog post on the same topic.

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