Friday, December 01, 2006

Who are the poorest people in the world?

Who's asking: Sue Schulz, Herrsching, Germany

Sue asked me this question a while back, so Sue, I'm sorry for taking a while to get to it.

Past a given point, poverty's academic: you either have enough to eat, or you don't. You have a roof over your head, or you don't. You have confidence that you'll continue to eat and to sleep indoors, or you don't.

Millions of people don't get enough to eat every day, and have no permanent place to live. Most of these people live south of the Equator; a disproportionate number of them live in Africa.

The nation with the world's lowest GDP, however, is in not in Africa, but between the South China Sea and the Indian Ocean. East Timor (pop. 947,000) comprises all or part of four islands in the Indonesian archipelago, and has a per-capita gross domestic product of only $400/year. Its colonial history makes East Timor the only Portuguese-speaking country in Asia; it was a Portuguese colony until 1975, then fought Indonesia for independence until 2002. As part of its efforts to put down the insurgency, the Indonesian government destroyed farmlands, blocked the distribution of food, and obstructed basic medical care.

Riots over internal military issues split the country again earlier this year, and a U.N. peacekeeping force led by Australia currently occupies the country.

Economic development, investment and growth are the only longterm cures for global poverty. If you want to buy goods produced in lesser-developed countries at prices that are fair to the makers, check out the Global Exchange gift shop.

This week I read three massive manuscripts for clients who pay me for discretion, as well as for any expertise I may have. I only finished one published book, which had sat on my to-be-read pile for much too long.

What I Read This Week

Judy Clemens, To Thine Own Self Be True. Dairy farmer and motorcycle aficionado Stella Crown is having a tattoo done when the tattoo artist disappears, and his wife is murdered. People who won't talk to the police don't mind talking to Stella, but Stella -- unlike some amateur sleuths -- keeps the cops in the loop from beginning to end. With her third book, Judy Clemens seems to be pulling off the impossible: a realistic, engaging amateur detective series that is not inappropriately light-hearted, and does not minimize the effects of violence on its victims. Well done.


Judy Clemens said...

Wow, reading about East Timor reminds me again to be thankful that I can feed my children each meal, and keep them warm on these cold, wet days. Thanks for the reminder.

Glad you enjoyed my book! And thanks lots for the kind words about it.

Anonymous said...

well, India is certainly up there...thanks for the answer to my question (can't even remember asking it, but then again, I'm over 40!).
Of 1.2 billion (approx. 1/6 of the world's population), 250 million earn less than $1 a day!
Although India occupies only 2.4% of the world's land area, it supports over 16% of the world's population. Currently it is the second most populous nation on Earth, though if current trends persist, India will replace China as the most populous nation in less than 40 years. Almost 40% of Indians are younger than 15 years of age.
It was staggering, overwhelming, exhausting and fascinating to see.