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Oral Bac 2012 G1-G2

Are countries poor because they are violent because they are poor?

YESTERDAY it was Afghanistan and Congo. Today it is Cote d'lvoire and Libya. Violence, it seems, is always with us, like poverty. And that might seem all there is to be said: violence is bad, it is worse in poor countries and it makes them poorer.
But this year's World Development Report suggests there is a lot more to say. Violence, the authors argue, is not just one cause of poverty among many: it is becoming the primary cause. Countries that are victim violence are often caught in it. Those that are not are escaping poverty. This has profound implications both for poor countries trying to pull themselves together and for rich one trying to help.

Many think that development is mainly by what is known as a "poverty trap". Farmers do not buy fertilizer even though they know it will produce a better harvest. If there is no road, they reason, their good harvests will just rot in the field. The way out of such a trap is to build a road. And if poor countries cannot build it themselves, rich
donors should intervene.

Yet the World Development Report suggests that the main constraint on development these days may not be a poverty trap but a violence trap. Peaceful countries are managing to escape poverty-which is becoming concentrated in countries affected by civil war, ethnic conflict and organised crime. Violence and bad government prevent them from escaping the trap.

To see the impact, compare two small African states. Until 1990 Burundi and Burkina Faso had similar rates of growth and levels of income. But in late 1993 civil war erupted in Burundi after the assassination of the president; 300,000 people died in the next dozen years, most of them civilians. Peaceful Burkina Faso is now two-and-a-half times richer.

That may sound like a special case. Civil wars are obviously damaging, and not many countries suffer them. True, but a lot of others are trapped in persistent, violence. The report finds that 1.5 billion people live in countries affected by political violence, organized crime, exceptionally high murder rates or low-intensify conflicts. All this is not necessarily civil war, but the effects can be as bad.

Many of these people are caught in cycles of violence. Almost all the 39 countries which have suffered civil wars since 2000 also had one in the previous three decades.

To hamper: entraver.

The Economist April 16th 2011

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