It’s Not Too Late for the MDGsNov 21st, 2011 | By Claire Pritchard
Delfin S. Go and Jose A. Quijada
World Bank Working Paper. 2011.
Opinions vary within the policy community about whether developing nations are disappointingly off-track to meet the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) by the 2015 deadline set by the United Nations. The goals relate to a consensus framework designed to motivate efforts to improve the lives of the world’s poor and include halving extreme poverty and providing universal primary education. But the findings of “Assessing the Odds of Achieving the MDGs,” a working paper released by the World Bank Development Economics Prospects Group in October 2011, are generally positive.
The authors of the paper, Delfin S. Go and José Alejandro Quijada, ask why progress seems to vary among goals and countries despite steady economic improvement in many developing nations. They argue that data from large countries, particularly India and China, have obscured the results of smaller nations. In contrast to other reports, the authors assert that two thirds of all countries are on target or close to being on target to meet the 2015 deadline. Among those falling short, the average gap between the actual and optimal targets is approximately ten percent.
The authors calculate a growth trajectory for each developing country, though the calculations are hampered by a lack of available data in some cases. They then compare each trajectory with that needed to meet the MDGs by the 2015 deadline. The authors concentrate on the approximately one third of countries that are significantly off-track. Even among this lowest tier, however, the results are encouraging. As Go and Quijada state, “[a]lthough the variation among lagging countries is large, the average gap is not.” They examine how these lagging countries are faring in relation to the individual MDGs, such as access to primary education, sanitation, and child and maternal mortality. The authors conclude that lagging countries fall behind their set target by an average of 23 percent, which puts them, in Go and Quijada’s estimation, “within striking distance” of achieving their goals.
Given this information, what will it take for these countries to actually “strike” their targets by 2015? Go and Quijada find that economic growth plays the biggest role in improving a developing country’s trajectory, aided by good policy and institutions and trade sophistication. The authors are optimistic that improved economic growth will continue to increase lagging countries’ chances of reaching their 2015 goals.
Although economic growth in some cases will need to be quite significant, the authors are confident that continued growth is a strong possibility. Many developing countries have a good chance of attaining the MDGs and, Go and Quijada believe, can take hope in the economic growth of Saharan African countries between 2000 and 2007.