Thursday, August 30, 2007

Interview: Paul Collier

The latest dialogue at Author Interviews: Paul Collier responds to a set of queries from the political scientist J. Tyler Dickovick.

Collier's new book is The Bottom Billion: Why the Poorest Countries are Failing and What Can Be Done About It.

One exchange from the interview:
Dickovick: You argue that the poorest countries where the world’s bottom billion live are caught on one of four traps: the conflict trap, the natural resource trap, the “landlocked with bad neighbors” trap, and the “bad governance in a small country” trap. While the traps share features in common, some seem more driven than others by exogenous factors or natural endowments, such as geography. Do the different traps demand different responses from policymakers, and how so?

Collier: Yes, very much so. Indeed, the point of diagnosing these four very different traps is precisely that they will require very different remedies. People have been saying for years that a 'one size fits all' approach does not work, but I am specific in why it won't, and why on the other hand we don't have to go to the other extreme of every country being utterly unique. To give you one example, the trap of resource riches cannot be solved by 'downsizing' the state because it should indeed tax the resource revenues, the key focus needs to be on accountable government spending. In contrast, in some other situations, small and lean government might be a very effective approach to harnessing opportunities. [read on]
Paul Collier is Professor of Economics and Director of the Centre for the Study of African Economies at Oxford University. Former director of Development Research at the World Bank and advisor to the British government's Commission on Africa, he is one of the world's leading experts on African economies and is the author of Breaking the Conflict Trap, among other books.

J. Tyler Dickovick is an Assistant Professor of Politics at Washington and Lee University; he specializes in the politics in developing countries with a focus on Latin America and Sub-Saharan Africa. Read more about his research and publications at his faculty webpage.

Visit the Oxford University Press website to learn more about The Bottom Billion, and read more about Paul Collier's research at his faculty webpage.

The Page 99 Test: The Bottom Billion.

Author Interviews: Paul Collier.

--Marshal Zeringue