development economics poverty wealth

Why are some countries poor?

Here’s a question that needs to be addressed – why are some countries poor? Often our answers seem to fall into one of two camps. We either believe the rich countries exploit the poorer ones and it’s the fault of the west, or we believe the poor countries are corrupt and pretty much deserve what they get. So we end up thinking of the third world as either helpless victims or money-grabbing scroungers. Neither of these extremes does justice to the third world and the predicament it is in.

In our modern world, wealth depends on trade, in goods or services. Trade depends on infrastructure, and infrastructure in turn depends on investment. This is the essence of development. The more ‘developed’ a country is, the more money it is capable of making. So in talking about poor countries, we are talking about Less Economically Developed Countries (LEDCs – This is a better term than ‘the developing world’, as some poor countries may not actually be developing, but standing still or even shrinking.) In asking ourselves why some countries are poor, what we need to work out is why they are not developing. And there are several reasons, with geographical, political, and cultural factors all coming in to play. I was going to do one entry here, but that would be huge, so I’m going to let this serve as an introduction and you can click on each of these sections to find out more.


    1. Your points of the west exploiting and govermental corruption are both contributing factors, to bring a thrid world out of poverty, its takes massive investment and astute planning, over a long period of time. Human nature is naturally selfish, therefore this is adopted. Tax can only be collected from them able to pay it, in alot of africa, people scrape food daily to survive, they do not have education in the main, this is leading to an epidemic of young africans trying to either educate out of africa, or marry a westerner. i have seen all of this with my own eyes

      1. Well, maybe people can use their nature and help stop the existence of countries. Building borders only holds in chaos.

      2. “Human nature is naturally selfish.”

        That’s absurd. Human nature is to care about one another. Propaganda has taught you to be lethally self-centered.

      1. Taylor, you are the greedy pig here so leave the Western world alone. you have no expertise so you are not a credible source – this deems your comment irrelevant.

    2. Foreign aid without cultural and values transformation of the recipient will just lead to dependence. It’s the case here in the Philippines.

    1. Landlocked countries strugle to develop because they don’t have access to ports. If they want to export anything, they have to ship it through neighbouring countries. That adds all the costs of trucking goods to the port, and then the fees to use the port facilities. This all makes exporting an expensive business.
      What’s even worse is if you’re a landlocked country with neighbours who are at war, as then you have to way to export at all, unless you fly things out at great expense. Ethiopia, for example, borders on two unstable states in Eritrea and Somalia – not places you want to trust with your goods.

      1. Many countries of Europe are landlocked, not only Switzerland! I think that culture is the first cause of poverty but we can no longer say it since being politically correct stops us from speaking freely.

        1. You’re free to say culture is the main cause, but you wouldn’t be correct. It’s definitely a big factor, and I cover it in the series. And there are some countries held back primarily by culture, North Korea or Eritrea for example. If we count corruption as part of culture, which it definitely is, then we could add plenty of others.

          Overall though, geography plays a bigger role. You can have an ambitious, hard-working and forward-thinking culture, and still have everything stacked against you geopolitically: few natural resources, poor farmland, aggressive neighbours, and no access to ports. Good luck with that, no matter what the culture.

          Yes, there are landlocked countries in Europe too, but Europe has a geographical advantage that Africa doesn’t have – navigable rivers. That makes a big difference in getting goods to market. Countries like Austria, Slovakia and Hungary are all technically landlocked, but you can sail ocean ships right up the Danube. Even Switzerland has a container port, on the Rhine in Basel.

  1. I speak the real truth,and would appreciate getting peoples paranoid heads out of thier fearfull asses. There are poor Countries because it is part of the subliminal plan of taxation ! All countries and thier people have resources.Until all is stolen from all people and countries regarding resources and taxes it will continue.Apparently part of the NWO ‘s plan for culling and cleansing is to leave everyone beggingly broke. Every country on the planet has resources,they just haven’t found them.Even if it it’s people that are being stolen as migrant workers.They must utilize what they have,think deep.

    1. Tax becomes government spending and re-circulates into the economy, so I don’t see how it’s possible for taxation to make a country poor. I think you’re tripping on one with the NWO explanation there.

      1. Wow. Just wow. So if the government confiscates all the money in a country via taxes and uses that to build a massive structure that doesn’t benefit anyone but the elite (think pyramids, palace of versailles, etc), that doesn’t make the country poorer? And if government raises taxes to fight unnecessary wars that makes us richer? All it does is add inefficiencies which makes people poorer.

        With all due respect I think you were tripping.

        Really old post but just had to respond anyway.

        1. Well actually no, because building the pyramids would create thousands of jobs in quarrying, moving stone and construction. Wars create jobs in the arms industry, logistics, and the military. So it’s not a foregone conclusion that the country would end up poorer.

          I’m not in favour of that approach, before you start jumping up and down, but the economics of it aren’t so ridiculous. Plenty of countries have done it in the past, from those aforementioned pyramids, to the US military-industrial complex, to China’s ghost cities – all arguably unnecessary large scale ventures to create economic activity.

          As for tripping, I was responding to a comment suggesting there’s a new world order whose express purpose is to make everyone broke – ironically posted by someone using the name G.U.R Dumb.

  2. Jeremy, Uganda does not border Eritrea or Somalia. Many landlocked nations are wealthy, i.e. Austria, Switzerland.

    The article was a good attempt but broadly inaccurate and misleading. Generally, countries are poor for a wide variety of different reasons. While in Africa many nations can closely attribute their dire situations with colonialism, South American nations which exist in poverty are poor as a result of political instability and mismanagement. Europe is rich for a wide variety of reasons and the same goes for east Asia and north America.

    Generally a good effort but I am assuming this was written by a young student.

    1. Did you read the whole series? This is the introduction, you realise, and the whole four posts give multiple reasons why countries are poor, including colonialism and political instability. Geography is one minor aspect, and the series reflects that. Please read the whole thing before dismissing it as misleading.

      thanks for pointing out the typo, that should of course be Ethopia and not Uganda. Corrected accordingly.

      1. Well i donot think landlocked courntries are deemed to be poor; think of it like this, one has a fortune, and another a curse just for the same thing. and what is important is not what you have or not have but what you do with what you have or with what you have not. there are many countries having a boarder with the coastal areas having ports, but yet economically divastated. And there are countires like Ruwanda lanlocked yet growing at fast speed than others in the region. So i donot see it is an issue for economic development. Yes everyone needs everything to get what we aspire, however, that is not the fact how we develop, it is working with what we have. There are much more important polictical, social, cultural and economic factors that led countries on the path of development.

        1. Being landlocked is a disadvantage, not an insurmountable obstacle. It’s just one of the things that makes it harder. It also matters who your neighbours are. If they are stable, cooperative and prosperous, it’s not a problem. If you have no access to ports and neighbouring countries don’t let you through, it’s a much bigger issue.

          That’s all reflected in the full series of posts.

  3. Why some countries are continuing to be poor?Is that because of political intability,low level of education,bad leadership,geographical problemsand poor utilization of natural resources?
    It might be sometimes,but what I think poverty is not a problem at all because it can be combated by using different strategies.And the best strategy is by working hard in our daily economic activities and balancing our consuption with available production.that is we must consume less or only near to equal to our total production

  4. is it the first world nation fault that there are third world nation?
    I am in the affirmative side we will have a debate

    1. Yes and no! It’s too easy to make it a matter of blame, but there’s no doubt that the first world plundered natural resources from poorer countries under colonialism. And many of our international institutions hold the third world back.

      But those things need to be balanced with other factors, including the geographical challenges of desert or tropical countries, especially those that are landlocked; the natural resources available, and the political culture / corruption, etc. So we have to look broadly at the issues, and not jump to any one single factor.

      That’s why this is a series of blog posts, rather that just one!

  5. Its all a cultural and genetic thing, some civilizations where happy to keep chucking spears while others progressed, leading to the creation of wealth.
    Opinions are like assholes everyones got one.

  6. I love this information it increase my knowledge as student who focuses on how to develop the states that is experience developing economy

  7. after reading your write up, i am of the view that the Wealth is in the Brain especially if the Country have and take advantage of large population,in fact there are Countries with more Natural Resources as a Result of Geographical Location but are poor, also if a Country have geographical advantage but have bad Leaders or Leaders with bad leader Styles, like many Countries in Africa where the few that are Powerful are crushing the poor and the weak such country shall poor.

  8. Why is it that Iceland enjoys a better standard of living than Hungary? They have less population, poor weather, nearly zero natural resources. Are they 3-time smarter or 3-times more productive? Or is it just US military base at Keflavik? 🙂 What are the contributing factors here?

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