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The Bottom Billion: Why the Poorest Countries Are Failing and What Can Be Done About It
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The Bottom Billion: Why the Poorest Countries Are Failing and What Can Be Done About It

3.81 of 5 stars 3.81  ·  rating details  ·  3,297 ratings  ·  251 reviews
In the universally acclaimed and award-winning The Bottom Billion, Paul Collier reveals that fifty failed states--home to the poorest one billion people on Earth--pose the central challenge of the developing world in the twenty-first century. The book shines much-needed light on this group of small nations, largely unnoticed by the industrialized West, that are dropping fu ...more
Hardcover, 205 pages
Published June 1st 2007 by Oxford University Press, USA (first published April 27th 2007)
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Community Reviews

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Praj

On July 9th 2011, the people of South Sudan took to the streets jubilant, celebrating their country’s independence. Alas! The euphoria was short-lived as the newly independent, strictly landlocked country fell into the cyclic trap of civil war; ethnic annihilation and mass starvation taking the centerstage. The recent signed peace deal between President Salva Kiir and the rebel leader Riek Machar, dashed all hope of tranquility as the ceasefire deal was broken through a couple of violent attacks
...more
Kerry
I read this for a book club. I will share the poem I wrote about the book:

Trapped at the bottom of the economic ladder
Per capita income, GDP, what does it matter?

A failing state after four years or more of stagnation,
Often includes bad governance, conflict & hyperinflation,
Natural resource shocks and bad neighbors can lead to marginalization
There is a reason tourists don't choose the Central African Republic as a destination.

Can something be done to prevent a downward trend?
Can aid and capac
...more
Bojan Tunguz
This is one the best policy books that I have read and an example of what a good policy book should be all about. It deals with the subject that is often in public spotlight and yet it seems as intractable today as it was decades ago. This sad state of affairs may in at least part be attributed to some of the misunderstanding of what global poverty is all about, who is most affected by it, and what sort of traps those most affected find themselves incapable of escaping. As this book clearly argu ...more
Jennifer
Really fascinating book about why countries like Haiti, Somalia, Chad and the Central Asian "Stans" have failed to develop towards middle income status, whereas the rest of what we call the "developing world" has made real progress. Collier is better on the problems, I think, than on the solutions, but not bad on either. This is the best, clearest explanation I've ever read about why oil and mineral wealth can be so detrimental to a country's growth. (Because it crowds out all other export activ ...more
J
I was disheartened to learn this book is highly regarded and then sickened to discover it was not published 10 years ago. Collier's ideas are hardly contributive to any insightful analysis of the problem of "development", and even his myopic vision is ill-served by his bland and threadbare solutions.

How could a man as who once served as director of research for the World Bank be so appallingly estranged from the complex realities of Africa? Oh wait, never mind...

I feel oddly embarrassed that thi
...more
Ericka
Poor scholarship
Lacks critique of objections to his proposed solutions
Lacks evidence--debunks failed policies based on his word with no supporting evidence
Fails to address health and education issues
Obvious bias towards capitalism and free market economies being the solution to world problems
Lacks citations of any data rather uses a "based on previous research" approach which nullifies any empirical claims of this particular book
Jan
-If you consider to read just one book about poverty and aid this one is well written, 190 pages, inexpensive, gives insights other books not necessarily give you - a good choice. Be warned that you might want to read more on the topic after finishing this book.

-This book analyzes scientifically why the bottom billion countries remain the poorest while countries as China and India experiences rapid growth, to what extent anything can be done about their situation and to what extent existing poli
...more
Lester
I'll start with what I did not like. I did not like that Paul Collier assumes that growth is a good tihng, and that it is the main thing required for the bottom billion to get going. There are (for me) numerous disadvantages with continuous (not to mention double-digit) economic growth, and to assume that the consequences of such growth in 20% of the worlds population will not be diastrous for the world ecosystem (economic and ecological) is irresponsible.



I also am surprised that Collier seems t
...more
Frank Stein
I thought this book might be an effective counterpoint to William Easterly's "The Elusive Quest for Growth," but instead of focusing on foreign aid, Collier focuses on the internal problems in poor countries that inhibit economic growth, and thus he largely complements rather than contradicts Easterly's analysis. This work is based on an entire career of rigorous scientific research, and Collier puts it to good use in a book that is both dense and fast-paced.

Collier has identified four main "tra
...more
Sherry
This is one smart, caring and thoughtful man--and an economist to boot! I really enjoyed this read and it makes me even more excited about the possibility of maybe becoming a Peace Corps Country Director in Africa for this is where most of these billion live and to be closer to development there at the grassroots and with the frame Collier provides would be great. I love his advocacy for international charters and budget transparency. A few highlighted quotes as a sample of his work:

"This book i
...more
Jason
Collier loves his research. He also loves the research of people who have studied under him. Finally, he loves the research of people he works with.

While I have no doubt that his research has produced some fruitful insights into poverty, I don't think his book is the amazing must-read development book of the year - or even a book really worth reading. Here's the nutshell version, that will save you some money:

The bottom billion people out there (part of a number of countries Collier won't name
...more
Justin Campbell
I have just finished reading Paul Colliers book the Bottom Billion. http://www.amazon.com/Bottom-Billion-...? ie=UTF8&qid=1323505577&sr=8-2 Now at this point this review could easily turn into a sales pitch about how good the kindle app on my android tablet is and how it brings books that would be $30 or more in an Australian store to my tablet for the cost of $9. However, today I will review the book.

Paul Collier is Professor of Economics and Director of the Center for the Study of Afri
...more
Tim Benoit
Collier's economics background in conjunction with his work with the World Bank makes him a prominent figure in the international development field. "The Bottom Billion" address the inherent 'traps' associated with development in an approachable and readable format suitable for readers of all demographics. This book is one of those books that provides a gut-wrenching look into the stagnant, underdeveloped nations (with a focus on Africa) and their perpetuating inability to break their respective ...more
Erik
A great, thoughtful and surprising look at the poorest countries, why they are so poor, and what we can do about it.

The central conceit of this book is that since the 1970s, most of the poor countries in the world have seen enough growth that they appear to be slowly pulling themselves out of the worst poverty. There are a set of countries, though, which have not seen any growth in the last 30 years, or have even moved backwards. These countries represent the 1 billion poorest people in the worl
...more
Pooja
This is an important book for anyone interested priorities of mainstream development economists. Philosophically, I disagree with the prescriptive parts, which focus (unsurprisingly) on GDP growth and stability, but I found the diagnosis/analysis poverty and instability useful. And the prose is good for an economist
Gregg
Extremely dense and Collier missed the golden opportunity to summarize his findings. He is all over the map. He lays out problems but couches the solutions, if you can find them, in "it may work but might not because they are different markets." He may be a great economist but he is a poor writer.
Rebecca
This book was such a disappointment; I expected an intelligent analysis, and some thoughtful solutions. What I got was a lot of repetition from an author who assumed his audience was going to forget every statement he made!
Will(a)
I read this for one of my classes and we spent the whole time critiquing Collier’s rhetoric. He fails to provide sources and evidence (or ANY citations) for many of the claims he makes in this work, and fails to even address any opposing views to what he proposes as solutions (none of which are very good). He has a very clear bias towards free market capitalism in being a solution to the world’s problems without addressing our increasingly interdependent and globalizing world as a contributor to ...more
Paddy
Oct 06, 2008 Paddy rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommended to Paddy by: TED
Shelves: economics, world
Clear, specific, and based on tons of empirical data - everything that the development discourse is missing. Gives a very coherent plan for making the world's poorest less poor.
Rosemary
Great insights into the problems. However, I disagree with the solutions. Too many generalisations. Disagree with the idea that we shouldn't train and build up skills of citizens for the fear of brain drain but instead bring in skilled workforce from overseas. Skills are important - and can help bring initiative into local communities. The saving has to start from within those countries, not outside, and that's where you will find the essential information. That is another reason why many of the ...more
Forgottendreamr
An interesting commentary on economic policy. The writing was a little dry at times.
Katherine
A stunning exercise in stating the obvious.
Alex
Best of the 'how to save the poor' genre so far.
Amy
The author brings up new points to why the poor countries are poor. However, I did not like his writing style. I often had to retread
Paragraphs because I could not understand the message he was trying to convey. Not only that, his writing style is dry. I feel like I'm sitting in college listening to a boring professor lecture. Then in the middle of the book, it seemed like another person was writing the book because it used simpler writing and anecdotes. I thought if the book was written with mo
...more
Gabe William Mcgarry
Reading The Bottom Billion was an extreme eye opener to how much poverty really effects family's in Africa. Many children are born into poverty and never experience what most Americans do. They struggle for food during the hardest times, and some teenagers, or younger, are forced to take complete care of very small children. Some countries in Africa are landlocked and cannot participate in global economy affairs, leaving many in the dust and out of any possible reconstruction of their deteriorat ...more
Pete
The Bottom Billion (2007) is Paul Collier’s look at the poorest parts of the developing world. Collier is a Professor of Economics and Public Policy at Oxford and director of Centre for the Study of African Economics.
Collier thinks that the world can be divided into the developed world, the developing world and the Bottom Billion, which is 58 countries that have grown very slowly over the years since 1970. He identifies 4 traps that stop these countries developing. They are Conflict, natural re
...more
Kat
Jan 17, 2010 Kat rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Anyone and Everyone
I really enjoyed reading this book. It was fast, informative, well-written, and full of information put together in an extremely logical manner. It's the book that answers all the "Oh, Jesus, what the heck are we supposed to do about this crap?" questions I had while reading THE FATE OF AFRICA. I grant you, I didn't necessarily agree with all of Collier's asides--and in some cases, they were just completely unnecessary--but they did help, at least, to keep his voice fresh and to make the book in ...more
Sarah Norman
Subtitled: Why the Poorest Counties are Failing and What Can Be Done About It

Basically, this guy thinks that most peoples' lives in the developing world are getting better (eg Brazil etc). However, there are about a billion people in the poorest countries whose lives are not improving at all and show no signs of improving. He thinks aid etc should be focused almost entirely on this relatively small group of countries, and its a matter of habit/culture that development assistance is not focused t
...more
Gordon
There are many wonderful things about Powell's Bookstore in Portland, but the best thing that I personally found there this summer was this book. It's one of those rare books that has dramatically changed my thinking in some fundamental ways. If you have any interest in what to do about the poorest countries on the planet, this is the best thing on the subject that I've ever read. And all contained in a slim package of less than 200 pages.

As Collier says in the opening sentence of his book, "the
...more
Nate
Written in 2008, this book offers a fresh, honest, and well researched look at international development. Specifically, Dr. Collier separates out the states that exist in abject poverty and political failure from the rest of the developing world. He points out that the previous tendency to lump the whole of the developing world together gives us an inaccurate view of the situation. While there are many nations growing, there are some, at the very bottom, who are stuck. Dr. Collier does not just ...more
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International Aff...: Thoughts? 3 10 Jul 29, 2014 05:48PM  
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Paul Collier, CBE is a Professor of Economics, Director for the Centre for the Study of African Economies at the University of Oxford and Fellow of St Antony's College. He is the author of The Plundered Planet; Wars, Guns, and Votes; and The Bottom Billion, winner of Estoril Distinguished Book Prize, the Arthur Ross Book Award, and the Lionel Gelber Prize.

More about Paul Collier...
Wars, Guns, and Votes: Democracy in Dangerous Places The Plundered Planet: Why We Must--And How We Can--Manage Nature for Global Prosperity Exodus: How Migration Is Changing Our World Breaking the Conflict Trap: Civil War and Development Policy Exodus: Immigration and Multiculturalism in the 21st Century

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