29. Paul Collier
for showing that natural resources don't have to be a curse.
Economist, Oxford University | Britain
Plenty of people have wrung their hands over the fate of the world's poorest, but few have thought more deeply and systematically than Paul Collier about how they got that way. In the 2007 book that first brought his ideas to wide attention, The Bottom Billion, the Oxford University professor offered a powerful antidote to the fatalism that often permeates discussions of global poverty: It's all about attacking bad governance.
In The Plundered Planet, Collier this year returned to his theme. Offering tough love for both preservation-minded environmentalists ("romantics") and free market economists ("ostriches"), Collier argues provocatively that natural resources offer the single best route out of misery for the global poor -- provided they are used responsibly rather than plundered by crooked officials and their accomplices in the international business community.
Collier is not just a theorist; he has worked to put his ideas into practice with new and struggling governments from Africa to the Caribbean. Collier's 2009 report for the United Nations has practically been the line-by-line blueprint for Haiti's rebuilding post-earthquake -- even though he wrote it a year before the disaster happened. Collier was credited with prescience, but as he has said for years, the problems of countries like Haiti are hiding in plain sight -- and the longer we pretend they aren't, the worse they'll get.
"[T]he problem of the bottom billion will not be fixed automatically by global growth," Collier has written, "and … neglect now will become a security nightmare for the world of our children. We can crack this problem; indeed, we must."
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