Third World

Better All the Time

Third-world development


"By almost any measure the world is better than it has ever been," begins Bill Gates' annual letter to his philanthropic Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Though countries like Syria, Egypt, and most recently Ukraine have struggled with violence and bloodshed, Gates points out that the economic condition of most poor countries across the world has improved significantly since 1960.

Gates notes the rise of several countries into a mid-level area where-while they were not as wealthy as first-world nations-personal incomes had dramatically increased. "Per-person incomes in Turkey and Chile are where the United States level was in 1960," he writes. "Malaysia is nearly there, as is Gabon. And that no-man's-land between rich and poor countries has been filled in by China, India, Brazil, and others. Since 1960, China's real income per person has gone up eightfold. India's has quadrupled, Brazil's has almost quintupled, and the small country of Botswana, with shrewd management of its mineral resources, has seen a thirty-fold increase."

Gates includes a bold prediction with his myth-busting. By the year 2035, he guesses, there will be "almost no poor countries left in the world." He attributes the likely growth to free trade and "innovations like new vaccines, better seeds, and the digital revolution."