Academic journal article Journal of International Affairs

An Interview with Jeffrey D. Sachs

Academic journal article Journal of International Affairs

An Interview with Jeffrey D. Sachs

Article excerpt

JEFFREY D. SACHS is the Director of the Earth Institute, Quetelet Professor of Sustainable Development, and Professor of Health Policy and Management at Columbia University. He is also Director of the UN Millennium Project and Special Advisor to United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan on the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). Sachs is internationally renowned for his work as economic advisor to governments in Latin America, Eastern Europe, the former Soviet Union, Asia and Africa, and his work with international agencies on problems of poverty reduction, debt cancellation for the poorest countries, and disease control. He is a Research Associate of the National Bureau of Economic Research. Sachs has been an advisor to the IMF, the World Bank, the OECD, the World Health Organization (WHO), and the United Nations Development Program, among other international agencies. During 2000-2001, he was Chairman of the Commission on Macroeconomics and Health of the WHO, and from September 1999 through March 2000 he served as a member of the International Financial Institutions Advisory Commission, established by the U.S. Congress. Dr. Sachs spoke with the Journalon March 10, 2005.

JOURNAL: Your report "Investing in Development: A Practical Plan to Achieve the Millennium Development Goals" presents some very detailed prescriptions in its nearly 3,000 pages (with supporting volumes). Some of the recommendations suggest a fairly radical departure from the way things are currently done, yet you seem confident that such shifts in approach would put the MDGs within reach for 2015. If donor nations are not yet prepared to follow all of your recommendations, will the Goals still be reachable? What would the impact on development progress be if your plan was followed in a limited way? What are the most important aspects of the plan that would need to be followed to achieve the greatest results?

SACHS: Basically, we're advocating a change from business-as-usual that can be summarized as a big scaling-up of investments in three critical areas: 1) investment in people, which means investments in health, education, nutrition and family planning; 2) investment in the environment, mainly investment in soils, land, water and biodiversity conservation; and 3) investment in infrastructure--power, roads, motor transport, port facilities, communications. We think that if these scaled-up investments are made, this should enable the poorest countries to break out of the "poverty trap," to begin self-sustaining economic growth within the decade and to achieve the MDGs in particular by 2015. These are not expensive interventions, in that the cost of doing this would be within the 0.7 percent of GNP that the rich countries have long promised the poor countries but haven't yet delivered. So these are affordable investments, but they are not free. It's realistic to say to the poor countries, do these things. They require help--much more help than is being offered right now. And so we are looking for a breakthrough in donor assistance this year.

The March 2005 report by Prime Minister Tony Blair's Africa Commission calls for essentially the same approach for Africa as we do--more development aid, financing, a significant step-up of investments. I think we're going to see a number of countries on the donor side follow through on these recommendations--so far mainly in Europe, but I've just come back from Japan, where I see a renewed sense that development assistance needs to be raised, and I am hoping that the US, which is the biggest lagger of all the donor countries, will finally begin to get its act together as well.

Of course the US's lack of adequate assistance is one of the biggest barriers to the success of the MDGs. This country definitely has its mind on other things, and that's quite regrettable in my mind, because I think American foreign policy is not properly attuned to the challenges of extreme poverty I am still hoping that I could say even the US is going to come around and follow through on its own commitments to contribute much more to development assistance. …

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