The term “poor countries” may have an expiration date, at least according to Bill Gates, who predicts there will be no such thing as a poor country in the future.
In an annual letter from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the billionaire attempts to dispel three myths surrounding poor countries: that they’re doomed to stay poor, that foreign aid is a waste of money and that saving lives in poor countries just means more starving mouths to feed. (Via Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation)
Gates addressed those first two points in a video, saying over the last half-century, poor countries have seen:
“…huge progress on health and incomes, and aid generosity has been a big part of it. So it’s a myth that we haven’t made progress and that aid hasn’t helped.” (Via Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation)
And Gates predicts that by 2035 there will be almost no poor countries left in the world.
Gates clarified that statement in a footnote, saying, “Specifically, I mean that by 2035, almost no country will be as poor as any of the 35 countries that the World Bank classifies as low-income today, even after adjusting for inflation.” (Via Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation)
And that raises the question – if more countries are reaching middle-income status, does that mean they’ll no longer need foreign aid?
Quartz asked Gates just that, and he said, “Except for the bottom of the middle-income category, you typically become self-sufficient. Nigeria has moved into low-middle-income, but their north is very poor and the health care systems there have broken down. India is right on the bottom edge of middle-income, and I’d see us for another decade giving to India, despite it’s characterization.” (Via Quartz)
Melinda Gates addressed the third point, saying the belief that poor countries will overpopulate if they aren’t starving is a backwards way of thinking: it’s because of the high child mortality rate that countries like, say, Afghanistan have high birth rates, and those rates go down as income improves. (Via Los Angeles Times)
A writer at Forbes notes the letter had another message — a specific deadline for the Gates’ work: “That 2035 date also coincides with the year Bill Gates turns 80, a fact not lost on him. It’s the third underlying message of the letter: a personal blueprint for the next two decades.” (Via Forbes)