Thursday, October 21, 2010

Ask not what your country can do for you: China edition

With China and India's growth into the league of middle income countries, many of the poor people in the world are now classified as living in middle income countries. Three-fourths, in fact.
So much for Paul Collier’s ‘bottom billion’, living in Africa and/or fragile states. In fact most of them live in stable, middle-income countries, and that finding applies across economic, nutritional and multi-dimensional poverty measures (although intriguingly, not to education, where underperformance remains more weighted towards the LICs).
Since aid donors have less influence in middle-income than low-income countries, Green predicts they will have less and less to do with poor people in those countries as they continue growing. India's saying thanks but no thanks to DfID is only one example. So what is China doing?

For one thing, they are having a debate about just that. China's version of JFK's "ask not" dichotomy:
Mr Qin, who retired on September 21st after nine years as chairman of China Merchants, the country’s sixth-largest bank, said recognition of universal values was at the heart of big issues facing China’s development, from urbanisation to the provision of public services and the ownership of state assets. “Universal values tell us that government serves the people, that assets belong to the public and that urbanisation is for the sake of people’s happiness,” he said. Supporters of the “China model”, he added, believe the opposite: that people should obey the government, the state should control assets and the interests of individuals are subordinate to those of local development.
How about a new China pension? The government will put up a payment roughly equal to the poverty line for people who contribute for 15 years or more. They hope to be able to expand the program to all rural areas by 2020. The requirement to contribute for 15 years means it will have much less impact than it might otherwise.

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