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Third World poverty is on the run

By Geoffrey Lean, Telegraph

Here’s a forecast that brought me up short this week. Within 20 years, on present trends, dire poverty will have been eliminated in Bangladesh – and others among the world’s poorest countries.

It seems incredible. The South Asian nation – the most densely populated sizeable country on earth – had long been written off. But the prediction is based on exhaustive, if pioneering, Oxford University research and backed up by other authoritative reports.

In a study published this month, covering 22 developing countries with two billion people, the university’s Poverty and Human Development Initiative concludes that half – including Bangladesh, Nepal and Rwanda – will have “eradicated” destitution within two decades if they “continue reducing poverty steadily at the current absolute rate”. Another seven, including India, will achieve it “within 41 years”.

And this is just one indication among many that the poor may not, after all, always be with us, in what is one of the great under-reported developments of our time. Last week the UN’s blue-chip Human Development Report confirmed that governments have surpassed their target, three years early, of halving the share of the world’s population living in extreme poverty between 1990 and 2015.

“Never in history,” it concludes, “have the living conditions and prospects of so many people changed so dramatically and so fast.” And that could be just the beginning: other researchers have even estimated that by the end of the target period, the proportion could be as low as 16 per cent of the world’s people, compared with 43 per cent just 25 years before.

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