Type to search

Jeffrey Sachs v. President Obama

GB Geo-Blog

Jeffrey Sachs v. President Obama

Jeffrey Sachs, the director of the Earth Institute at Columbia University, criticized President Obama for failing to lead in Copenhagen. Sachs claims that Copenhagen ended as a farce. He seems to be particularly upset that the Copenhagen summit did not produce any meaningful and binding commitments to transfer hundreds of billions of dollars from the rich countries to the poor ones.

He stated that “Mr. Obama has never once discussed with the American people their responsibility under the UN Framework Convention to help poor countries adapt to the impact of climate change.”

As I noted in a previous blog, Mr. Dia-Ping of Sudan, the current chairman of the Group of 77, declared: “The deal locks the developing countries and the poor of the developing countries into a cycle of poverty forever.”

Personally, I am pleased that there is no commitment to waste money by sending it to the Group of 77 (consisting of 130 countries), especially under the auspices of the UN.

Among the members of this Group are a number of the major oil producing countries, three of the BRIC countries, and such favorites of the U.S. as Cuba, North Korea, Iran, Myanmar, Syria and Venezuela. Does anyone believe that the American people have a moral responsibility to help any of these countries?

But it gets even worse when we look at the Group through the lenses of the Economist’s Intelligence Unit’s (EIU) index of democracy; Transparency International’s (TI) corruption perception index; or the Heritage Foundation’s index of economic freedom.

There are 167 countries in the EIU’s latest index of democracy. Only 28 countries are classified as democracies, and only three of these are members of the Group of 77. At the other end of the spectrum, 55 countries are classified as authoritarian (and they are fully voting members of the UN), and 49 (or89%) are part of the Group of 77. In all likelihood, there are more authoritarian countries in this Group, but the EIU did not report data for all countries.

There are 53 countries in Africa, all of them members of the Group. More than half, 29 in all (although there likely are more), are authoritarian. Mr. Dai-ping’s Sudan ranks 141 out of the 167 countries.

Among the top third most corrupt ountries (60 in total), 52 are part of the Group of 77. TI in highlighting sub-Sahara Africa made the following observations:

“Of the 47 countries, 31 scored less than 3 (out of 10) indicating that corruption is perceived as rampant, while 13 scored between 3 and 5, indicating that corruption is perceived as a serious challenge by country experts and businessmen. Only three countries scored more than 5: Botswana, Mauritius and Cape Verde.”

All three, but in particular Botswana and Mauritius, had income per capita levels well above the mean for all of sub-Sahara Africa. By the way Sudan scored 1.5 and ranked as the fifth most corrupt country.

Among the bottom third of countries in terms of economic freedom (59 in total), 51 are part of the Group. There are at least 25 African countries among the bottom third. Mauritius and Botswana are among the top third in terms of economic freedom. Sudan was not included in this survey.

In gender development, 28 of the bottom 34 countries are in Africa. The other six also are members of the Group of 77. The bottom five, all in Africa, have annual income per capita ranging between US$100 and US$420. On the human development index, 34 of the bottom 36 are African countries. The bottom five, again all of them in Africa, have annual income per capita ranging between US$180 and US$460.

So Jeffrey Sachs wants Obama to explain to Americans why they should transfer US$20 billion or more each year to such countries. Perhaps, President Obama could give Professor Sachs a quick lecture on politics and morality.

Maybe the Group of 77 should look inwards to see the enemy before they have the audacity to look outwards to blame the West and demand reparations.

The opinions expressed in this blog are personal and do not reflect the views of Global Brief or the Glendon School of Public and International Affairs.



  1. forex robot December 24, 2009

    Hi, I found your blog via Yahoo while searching for something else but your post / blog looks very interesting for me.

  2. amused December 25, 2009

    Well isn’t it lucky for us that everyone’s government represents the citizenry and there is no such form of aid other than cash transfers. Great analysis. Please note the dripping sarcasm.

Leave a Comment

Next Up