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global poverty and inequality, inclusive growth, structural transformation, the future of foreign aid, Southeast Asia
Andy Sumner is a Professor of International Development at King’s College London.
He is Director of the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) Global Challenges Strategic Research Network on Global Poverty and Inequality Dynamics.
His research focuses on issues of inequality and economic development in middle-income developing countries and Southeast Asia in particular.
He has twenty years’ international research experience using both qualitative and quantitative methods and has published extensively, including 12 books and fifty journal papers and book chapters.
He was appointed at King’s in 2012 and was co-founder of the King’s International Development Institute, which later became the Department of International Development.
He is a Non-Resident Senior Fellow at the Center for Global Development, Washington, DC and at UNU-WIDER; and a Visiting Fellow Padjadjaran University, Bandung, Indonesia and a Research Associate of the Department of International Development, University of Oxford.
After a decade of rapid growth in average incomes, many countries have attained middle-income country (MIC) status, while poverty hasn’t fallen as much as one might expect. As a result, there are up to a billion poor people or a ‘new bottom billion’ living not in the world’s poorest countries but in MIC. Not only has the global distribution of poverty shifted to MIC, so has the global disease burden. The paper describes trends in the global distribution of poverty, preventable infectious diseases, and health aid response to date and proposes a new MIC strategy and components, concluding with recommendations.
Zambia and Ghana are the 27th and 28th countries the World Bank has reclassified as middle-income since the year 2000
Doctors perform cataract surgery at the Lusaka Eye Hospital in Zambia. It's inexpensive and it changes people's lives instantly, so it's a good example of how just a little bit more money can make a huge difference to the world's poorest people. Photograph: Per-Anders Pettersson/Getty Images
Remember the poverty trap? Countries stuck in destitution because of weak institutions put in place by colonial overlords, or because of climates that foster disease, or geographies that limit access to global markets, or simply by the fact that poverty is overwhelmingly self-perpetuating. Apparently the trap can be escaped.
Most of the world’s poor no longer live in low-income countries. An estimated 960 million poor people—a new bottom billion—live in middle-income countries, a result of the graduation of several populous countries from low-income status. That is good news, but it has repercussions. Donors will have to change the way they think about poverty alleviation. They should design development aid to benefit poor people, not just poor countries, keep supporting middle-income countries, think beyond traditional aid to craft coherent development policies, and work to help create space for more inclusive policy processes in new and old MICs.
Global health funders have historically focused their aid on countries with the lowest per capita incomes, on the assumption that that’s where most of world’s poor people live. In recent years, however, many large developing countries achieved rapid growth, lifting them into the ranks of the so-called middle-income countries, or MICs, even though they are still home to hundreds of millions of very poor people. Andy Sumner has called the poor people in the MICs a “new bottom billion,” as distinct from the bottom billion in poor and fragile states that Paul Collier wrote about in his popular 2007 book.