Thursday, May 25, 2006

How Would You Spend $50 Billion to Improve the World?

In his work with the Copenhagen Consensus, which took place in May 2004, Lomborg collaborated with some of the world’s top economists, including three Nobel laureates, to attempt to prioritize solutions to some of the ills facing humanity. Together, they examined ten challenges: climate change, conflicts, communicable diseases, education, financial instability, corruption, migration, malnutrition and hunger, trade barriers, access to water. Three views were offered on each issue, then the expert panel revealed how they rate each problem, producing a ranking.

The panel was asked to address the ten challenge areas and to answer the question, “What would be the best ways of advancing global welfare, and particularly the welfare of developing countries, supposing that an additional $50 billion of resources were at governments’ disposal?”
Interesting idea this Copenhagen Consensus. Get some of the best minds together, think about the world's greatest problems and rank what solutions would be the most effective for the money spent. And what were their top two proposals?
The panel assigned the highest priority to new measures to prevent the spread of HIV/AIDS. Spending assigned to this purpose would yield extraordinarily high benefits, averting nearly 30m new infections by 2010. Costs are substantial, estimated at $27 billion. Even so, these costs are small in relation to what stands to be gained. Moreover, the scale and urgency of the problem—especially in Africa, where AIDS threatens the collapse of entire societies—are extreme.

Policies to attack hunger and malnutrition followed close behind. Reducing the prevalence of iron-deficiency anaemia by means of food supplements, in particular, has an exceptionally high ratio of benefits to costs; of the three proposals considered under this heading, this was ranked highest at $12 billion. The expert panel ranked a second proposal, to increase spending on research into new agricultural technologies appropriate for poor countries, at number five. Further proposals, for additonal spending on infant and child nutrition, and on reducing the prevalence of low birth-weight, were ranked eleventh and twelfth, respectively.

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