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Donald, P. (1986). Worlds Apart: The development gap and what it means Reviewed by Abraham Deng

12/8/2005 6:52 am

Donald, P. (1986). Worlds Apart: The development gap and what it means
Reviewed by Abraham Deng

In his 1986-second edition book Worlds Apart, Peter Donald is able to draw attention to the present alarming scale of the international economic inequalities. It is important, as he said, to see the present economic gulf between nations in historical perspective for it is essentially a modern phenomenon, the product of roughly the last two hundred years. For him, this very brief time span in the economic history of mankind has witnessed changes so profound as to render it radically different from all that had gone before. In the mid eighteenth century the world as a whole was economically much poorer. But the distribution of income and wealth between nations was then far more even. Some were richer than others, but seldom more than twice as rich that is very different from the economic distance, which now exists between the rich and the poor.
If the development gap is the product of only one or two hundred years, what needs explanation is how some nations managed to pull away and achieve their present affluence. What lay behind this process, which opened up the present massive gulf between Rich and Poor? The answer, as Donald put it, lies in the process of modern economic growth; the ability of an economy to generate higher levels output year after year. But as he mentioned, the poor are unlikely to remain content with a situation of irrevocable and possibly growing disparities. For, although poor countries are those in which modern economic growth failed to take hold, they were nonetheless profoundly by it. The Rich world and the Poor World today are joined by modern communications. No longer do the poor remain in miserable ignorance of what is going on elsewhere. The cinema, the radio, and other mass media have opened the eyes of the two thirds of the world to the levels of affluence achieved elsewhere.
The book is a fascinating projection of what dose it mean to be poor in which Mr. Donald explain that “it mean, first of all, that during your working life you will produce little by way of output, and earn little in the way of income” one of the first problems of being born poor is how to survive infancy. In Britain, ninety-nine children of every hundred born are still alive on their first birthday. But nine Indian babies out of every hundred never reach that age. Twelve of every hundred born in Ethiopia die in their first year of life. He also noted that born poor, the likelihood is that you will be ill-educated or even unable to read and write.
Mr. Donald, the well-known broadcaster and author of 10 X Economics and A Question economics, shows how the tragic development gap arose and how all the underlying problems have not changed. He looks at trade and aid distorted markets and international finance, cartels, agriculture and neo-colonialism and explained how development have taken place in a handful of instances during the postwar period. The list is a short one, and contentious. Often quoted examples are Taiwan, South Korea, Hong Kong and Singapore on the one hand; and on the other, China, Cuba, and North Korea. It is a list, which, according to the author, suggests that there are still alternative paths to quite different sorts of development. One is the communist course, in which individual freedoms are in many ways restricted but which results in a widening of horizons for general mass of people. The other, for him more similar to that plotted by the earlier developers, “is essentially capitalistic and inegalitarian”.
In the introduction of Worlds Apart, Donald admitted that this book is not a specialist approach to an audience already aware of the pressing nature of development problems. World Apart, as he noted, aims at highlighting, for a wider and perhaps less committed readership, what surely must be the outstanding issue of our time- the already immense and rapidly widening gulf between the Rich and the Poor nation of the world. Therefore, is an effort to communicate the urgent need to reverse forces which are dividing the world in two to an extend which is both morally intolerable and fraught with political implications which we may neglect at our peril.
The book is quick and lively; it flies. It gives some reasons for optimism; a growing feeling among people in the richer nations that something should be done. To act on such a feeling in a way, which actually promotes development, people need to know the facts; they are presented clearly and concisely in this book.

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