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Global Commitment From Public, Private Sectors Can End Extreme Poverty

Noting the “proportion of households in developing countries below the extreme-poverty line (now measured as $1.25 per person per day at international prices) has declined sharply” since 1980, Jeffrey Sachs, special adviser to the U.N. Secretary General on the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and director of Columbia University’s Earth Institute, writes in a New York Times opinion piece, “While the recent gains are undoubted, the question is how to ensure that progress on incomes, health and other dimensions of poverty eradication (including access to schooling, safe water, electricity, sewerage) continues until extreme poverty is vanquished.” He adds, “Debates rage on this question and often shed more heat than light.”

In Africa, Sachs says the introduction of cellphones and a reduction in malaria incidence through proven control strategies have “played a vital role in reducing poverty in Africa.” He continues, “In both cases, the private sector has been essential, not only in developing breakthrough technologies but also enabling them to spread in a short time,” but “the public sector is also critical.” He notes “[p]ublic funds finance crucial scientific and technological breakthroughs,” citing the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria as an example. Sachs concludes, “One can say that the fight to end poverty is helping to forge a new kind of mixed capitalism. Old debates of public versus private are being superseded by new strategies that involve both the public and private sectors. … A global commitment to ending extreme poverty will spur creativity and action” (9/24).