Myths About Developing CountriesIt’s easy to make assumptions about a “developing” country from the comfort and privilege of a “developed” one. It’s hard to truly understand what it might actually be like to live in a country without everything a developed country is used to. Treading the murky waters of stereotypes, assumptions and clichés, here are some common misconceptions and myths about developing countries:

  1. Africa is a country/is the entire developing world
    Africa is a continent with many countries of different backgrounds and diverse cultures. However, Africa is often the subject of sweeping generalizations and assumptions; for example, every person in Africa is poor and living in a rural area. This disregards the 54 nations in Africa with different histories, cultures and traditions, as well as countries on every other continent that might struggle with poverty.
  2. Developed nations spend a lot of their budgets on foreign aid
    The Borgen Project works specifically to debunk this particular misconception, as the United States spends less than 1% of its federal budget on foreign aid. Norway, the most generous nation, spends 3%. Everyone can do better.
  3. Developing countries are technologically backward
    Not only is this untrue, it disregards all of the middle-class working citizens who have found success in developing countries. The rise of technology use includes the rise of accessibility. Nigeria, for example, is one of many African countries that has embraced new technology and encouraged its spread with a Smart Cities Initiative.
  4. Developing countries are corrupt
    The cause-effect relationship in this misconception is backwards. In terms of myths about developing countries, this one disregards all the corruption present in developed countries. It assumes that corrupt policies and practices are inherently rampant in developing countries, continuing to limit them. However, corruption happens everywhere; it is simply highlighted in developing nations. Furthermore, foreign aid makes developing countries less vulnerable to corruption, not more corrupt.
  5. People are poor because they have too many kids they can’t afford
    “Too many” is a matter of opinion, and the opinion in developed countries is not inherently superior. Because of poverty, families do not have access to sex education or contraception, meaning the decision to have more kids is not really a decision.

These are just a few of the common misconceptions surrounding the developing world. However, all of them are due to be changed.

Ellen Ray

Photo: Flickr

Three Myths About Refugees
In Chinese, the word “crisis” consists of the characters for “danger” and “opportunity.” With more than 20 million refugees in the world and more being added each week, the refugee situation is the worst humanitarian crisis of our time. To many, refugees can appear to be a threat. This kind of mentality is often undergirded by misheard myths about refugees. However, these myths can be dispelled when the refugee crisis is viewed as an opportunity rather than a danger.

  1. Refugees are a burden on the economy. In the most recent election, voters ranked the economy as the most important issue. Naturally, then, the expected effect of refugees on the economy will influence the types of resettlement policies that people support. Though refugees may initially be a financial burden as they resettle, economists have found that the immigrants have a net positive fiscal impact on the countries that receive them. The tax revenue gained from immigrants outweighs the costs of the benefits they consume. Columbus, Ohio is proof positive that pro-refugee policies are economically beneficial. Refugees in Columbus have not only taken jobs, but they have also helped to create them. In Central Ohio, refugees are about twice as likely to start new businesses compared to native residents.
  2. Refugees are more likely to be dangerous extremists. This myth about refugees could not be further from the truth. To be considered a refugee, an individual must have a reasonable fear of persecution due to ethnicity, religion, politics or social class. In the past decade, only 27% of refugees to the United States have been from the Middle East. Of these, more than 60% have been women or children under the age of 14, hardly the type likely to be violent extremists. In the United States, the probability of being killed by a terrorist refugee is one in 3.64 billion. Even in light of such statistics, suspicions about refugees remain, in large part because of another myth about refugees.
  3. Refugees are not adequately vetted. An application for resettlement to the U.S. can take up to two years to process. Individuals seeking resettlement must apply with the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees. UNHCR then refers the individual to the U.S. government, which conducts multiple security checks and interviews. Five separate background checks and three in-person interviews are just a couple of the components of the vetting process. If the government determines the candidate qualifies for resettlement, it assigns the refugee to one of nine agencies that assist with successful integration.

Despite what these myths about refugees might lead one to believe, receiving countries need to see the tremendous opportunity, not the questionable danger, in the refugee crisis.

Rebecca Yu

Photo: Flickr

foreign aid
Over half of the U.S. population believes that about 28 percent of the federal budget is dedicated to foreign aid. The reality is that the U.S. foreign affairs budget is only 1 percent of the national budget. What would it look like if these misguided beliefs were true?

In a study by the Kaiser Foundation, people were asked to define whether the U.S. spends too much, too little or about the right amount on foreign aid. Their answers were 61 percent, 13 percent and 18 percent, respectively. However, when they were asked to vote on the same question, after hearing that it was actually only close to 1 percent, their responses changed to 30 percent, 28 percent and 31 percent respectively.

The results imply that the average American has difficulty assessing a correct estimate of monetary allocation by the government, largely due to the large magnitudes of these sums. Let us consider this, the U.S. national budget for last year was $3.45 trillion, and at 1 percen,t the foreign aid budget comes up to $34.5 billion. For some, hearing that the U.S. spends billions of dollars on foreign aid, it is very unlikely they would place their estimate close to one percent.

While one can be frustrated by the gap between perception and reality, Dylan Matthews at The Washington Post, posed the question what if we actually allocated what people estimated on foreign aid spending? What if we spent 28 percent of the national budget on foreign aid?

Using the estimated 28 percent the average American believes is allocated to foreign aid spending, according to the Congressional Budget Office latest projection the 2015 national budget is to be close to $3.77 trillion, America would be putting approximately $1.1 trillion toward foreign aid, which translates into a foreign assistance budget of $1.1 trillion.

With this amount of money, the possibilities of foreign aid would essentially be limitless. It could be used to improve and expand upon current education and health programs. It could be allocated as cash transfers to those who need it the most, and to those with the ability to invest in their communities and generate economic growth.

A newly released study by The World Bank shows that when people are given cash directly, it is spent on things they actually need, more so than when it comes through foreign aid workers. Also this would be a good way to cut through the red tape and corruption in developing nations.

Coming back to reality, this theoretical course of action would be very unpopular, especially for those in public office. But perhaps, continuing to educate people about the facts of foreign aid would help create better awareness. At the very least, this thought experiment serves to remind Americans of the reality behind foreign aid investment.

– Sahar Abi Hassan

Sources: The Washington Post, The Week
Photo: New Security Beat

Myths about Global Poverty
1. Poor Countries Will Always Stay Poor
Once a country is deemed “poor,” it’s almost impossible for it to turn around, right? Wrong! Take Mexico City, for example. In 1987, when Bill Gates first visited, the conditions “reminded him of rural Africa,” proliferated with incredible smog and a lack of running water. Yet, 27 years later, the city gleams with high-rise buildings, cleaner air and new roads and bridges. Today the mostly middle class Mexico City is a prime example of a country’s ability to turn around from even the most drastic conditions.

2. The Eastern World is Mostly Impoverished
Per-person income in Turkey and Chile are where the US was in 1960. Malaysia and Gabon are almost there. China’s per-person income has gone up eightfold since 1960. India’s has quadrupled, Brazil’s has quintupled. Even tiny Botswana has seen a 30-fold increase due to its shrewd management of mineral resources.

3. All of Africa is Poor
While there are pockets of poverty in all areas of the world, our vision of Africa is incredibly tainted. Today, per-person income in Africa has climbed by two-thirds, and seven of the 10 fastest-growing economies in the past five years are in Africa.

4. If it weren’t for all the foreign aid we give, developing countries wouldn’t have access to AIDS treatments.
Foreign aid, while incredibly important, only funds less than half of global AIDS programs. In 2012, for the second year, low and middle income countries were responsible for funding more than half of these programs. South Africa, home to more HIV-positive people than anywhere else in the world, funds 80 percent of its AIDS treatments and is on track to take over full funding and management of the problem by 2017.

5. We Already Spend Way Too Much on Foreign Aid
On average, Americans believe we spend 20 percent of our federal budget on foreign aid. In reality, only .2 percent of the U.S. Gross National Income goes toward improving living conditions for the world’s poor. Compared to other wealthy countries, the United States ranks one of the lowest in foreign aid spending. Spending money on foreign aid is an investment. Alleviating poverty doesn’t just save lives, it lays the groundwork for long-term economic progress.

– Nick Magnanti

Sources: Real Clear WorldHuffington Post
Photo: Big Think

Bill Gates is widely known as the richest man in the world. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation he started aims to end global poverty. Every year, Bill and his wife Melinda send out a letter detailing how the Foundation failed or succeeded in its annual goals and what the organization should focus on in the coming year.

For 2014, Bill Gates decided his letter would focus not on the successes of his foundation but on disproving misconceptions about the issue of poverty as a whole. Taking an in-depth look into false reasons why global poverty is not yet solved proves to be an interesting read in this year’s Gates letter.

Poor people are destined to remain poor. False. With increased incomes and innovative social business models, those struggling with poverty can increase their incomes and sustain future generations. Using business helps to educate communities on how to successfully generate revenue through mutually beneficial exchanges of services.

Increasing income leads to better quality of life and ability to reinvest money back into the economy, which is good for everyone. This example also serves as evidence towards a second falsehood about global poverty; that foreign aid is a waste of money.

Foreign aid gives refugees of natural disaster the necessary means of food, shelter, and medical care. Economies spiraling into debt and devastation are rejuvenated by foreign aid and essentially given a second chance to provide jobs and continue positive production in society. Bill and Melinda gates have been known to double the amount of aid given by the United States government to poor peoples of the world.

Over their collective time together to date, the Gates have given nearly $30 billion to charity and underdeveloped countries. Bill has forecasted the absence of poor countries by the year 2035. He writes in his letter that it is shocking to him how many people think the world is getting worse instead of better when compared to 20 years ago, almost everyone living in Mexico City is now middle class.

This is a huge change from the 1980’s, when Bill visited and watched people walking miles and miles just to retrieve water since their homes had none. The eradication of poverty all over the world should be a priority in every country, and people need to remember that billions of dollars or $1 can make a huge difference in this battle.

– Kaitlin Sutherby

Sources: Forbes, Gates Foundation, Gates Foundation
Photo: Barton Adkins