Paul Collier Bottom Billion Summary

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Paul Collier, in his non-fiction work entitled The Bottom Billion, explores the reasons why fifty-eight developing countries are faced with stagnant or declining economic growth rates. These countries house the bottom one billion people in the world—the poorest of the poor—and are subject to “fourteenth-century conditions” while existing in a twenty-first century world (Collier 3). Collier argues that these countries, which are primarily in Africa and Central Asia but also exist in other world regions, are subject to four traps that perpetuate poverty and are inherently difficult to overcome: the conflict trap, natural resources trap, landlocked with bad neighbors trap, and the bad governance trap. Development traps are not impossible to overcome,…show more content…
In this paper, two of the four development traps that Collier presents will be examined, and his discussion on aid will be analyzed. Collier first discusses how the conflict trap comes about and its resulting consequences. 73% of people in the bottom billion are involved in civil wars (Collier 17), which is indicative of how pervasive grievances and dissatisfaction is among the people in these nations. Grievances over how a government runs are eventually translated to violence, repression, and ultimately, death. Collier discusses this very phenomenon—he purports that stagnant, slow, or declining economic growth leads to low per capita income, which in turn creates little hope among the masses (20). Hopelessness drives young men in particular to join anti-government rebel groups in an effort to make an income; for these men, the “small chance of riches” outweighs the risk of getting killed in rebellion (Collier 20). An example of this is shown in an episode of Al Jazeera’s Fault Lines, in which the manager of a prominent drug trafficking gang in Brazil states, “Nobody goes to school. We live in poor conditions. The…show more content…
In this chapter, it is clear that Collier encourages a very pro-democracy, pro-capitalist framework to his audience. He states that the “heart of the resource curse is that resource rents make democracy malfunction” (42), thereby insinuating that democracy is the solution that developing countries need. By stating that democracy is the solution, he assumes a neoliberal bias, ultimately making his work closed to the idea of economic and government systems that exist outside of capitalism and democracy. Nevertheless, Collier asserts that large resource rents “radically reduce the need to tax”, hindering citizens holding their governments financially accountable (46). Resource rents also “gradually erode checks and balances” (Collier 46), allowing for government officials to practice patronage politics, embezzle government funds for their own needs, reduce transparency of budget appropriation and spending, and move away from ethical and democratic practices. Ultimately, the natural resource trap can be summed up as a country having a heavy dependency on one natural resource, resulting in excessive resource rents. High revenues in developing countries can be volatile and unchecked, allowing for government officials and rulers to engage in unethical activities that undermine democracy. The natural resource trap can extend further to a political development trap; with unsound political practices, governments forego

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