Nearly half the world's population - some 2.8 billion people - lives on less than two dollars per day. The gap between the rich and the poor is vast. There are two overarching reasons for those fortunate enough to reside in the more affluent West to be concerned about poverty in the developing world. One is humanitarian. The other is self-interest. Poverty triggers violence. In the over one hundred large civil wars that have engulfed many parts of the world since the Second World War, the leading cause of insurgency is poverty - not ethnicity or religion. The lesson could not be more stark: reducing the incidence and intensity of violence within the developing world will require a major effort to alleviate poverty.
Our understanding of the developmental process has deepened in recent years. But large gaps in our knowledge remain, particularly in identifying the sources of, and remedies for, underdevelopment. Further research is essential if we are to fill these gaps and offer useful policy guidance. The focus on improving ways of doing business in the developing world will be the primary focus of the Program on Economic Performance, whose three core objectives are to:
The goals - analysis, action and outreach - reinforce one another. The findings should be presented in such a way as to ensure their broad circulation and consideration. Why some nations are rich while others are mired in poverty is, after all, the oldest and biggest question in economics. Original insights from the research should, therefore, find a receptive audience.