The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) represents the richest countries in the world. It thinks there are many fewer very poor people living alongside the rich. This dramatic graphic shows just how fast the number of poor people is declining except in Fragile States (to use the OECD terminology that lumps 44 countries from the Democratic Republic of the Congo to Pakistan in a rather messy new grouping). Globally, even with these fragile states, there should be only about 600 million people living on less than US$2 per day by 2020.
This equally striking chart shows how the distribution of poor people has changed over the past decade: the biggest concentrations in 2005 were in India and China. By 2015, India’s bubble on the OECD chart will have shrunk remarkably and China’s will have almost disappeared. The discouraging trend is in countries such as Angola and Nigeria which have vast wealth but have delivered almost none of it to the poorest of the poor.
Of course, many will say that this is the way things look from comfortable offices in Paris; the real world of, say, Uttar Pradesh isn’t quite so optimistic. Indeed, an argument over the definition of poverty is raging today in India with a front page story and a scathing editorial in The Hindu suggesting that the country’s Planning Commission is glossing the figures for political reasons. “The Planning Commission must rethink its formal methodology. But politics requires otherwise,” says the grand old paper of India.