At this year’s spring meetings of the World Bank and IMF, the world’s global finance ministers signed up to an ambitious target for progress against poverty. “We believe that we have a historic opportunity to end extreme poverty within a generation,” they declared, pledging to reduce the percentage of people living on less than $1.25 a day worldwide to 3 percent by 2030.
That would be a huge achievement. After all, for most of history, most of humanity has lived on less than $1.25 a day. As recently as 1990, more than two-fifths of the population of the developing world lived in extreme poverty, and even today, the proportion remains close to one-fifth. Yet even lifting all the world’s poor above the $1.25-a-day line would hardly constitute victory in the war against extreme poverty. If anything, we need to get a lot more ambitious.