It is customary to bemoan the intractability of global poverty and the lack of progress against the Millennium Development Goals. But the stunning fact is that, gone unnoticed, the goal to halve global poverty was probably reached three years ago.
We are in the midst of the fastest period of poverty reduction the world has ever seen. The global poverty rate, which stood at 25 percent in 2005, is ticking downwards at one to two percentage points a year, lifting around 70 million people – the population of Turkey or Thailand – out of destitution annually. Advances in human progress on such a scale are unprecedented, yet remain almost universally unacknowledged.
Official estimates of global poverty are compiled by the World Bank and stretch back 30 years. For most of that period, the trend has been one of slow, gradual reduction. By 2005, the year of the most recent official global poverty estimate, the number of people living under the international poverty line of $1.25 a day stood at 1.37 billion – an improvement of half a billion compared to the early 1980s, but a long way from the dream of a world free of poverty.
Homi Kharas delivered the keynote address at IFPRI’s annual staff retreat on September 12, 2018. He explored the evolving development agenda and its implications for policy research.