Poverty Traps

Remember the poverty trap? Countries stuck in a rut because of weak institutions put in place by colonial authorities, or because of climates that foster disease, or geographies that limit access to global markets, or simply by the fact that poverty is self-perpetuating. It appears, though, that the trap can be escaped. The World Bank has done its annual assessment of poor countries and defined low-income countries as those with average gross national incomes (GNIs) of less than $1,005 per person per year. There remain only 35 of them out of the countries and economies that the World Bank keeps track of, which is a decrease from 63 in 2000.

Ghana and Zambia have recently joined the new middle-income countries group. Lower middle-income countries are those with per capita GNIs ranging from $1,006 to $3,975 per year; while upper middle-income countries are those with per capita GNIs between $3,976 and $12,275. The remainder of the low-income countries have a combined population of about 800 million. Tanzania, Burma, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ethiopia and Bangladesh account for about half of that total, and there is a population of 350 million surviving on under $1.25 a day in the rest of the low-income countries.


So what’s behind all of this sudden income growth? Is it a story about aid? A prominent Zambian, Dambisa Moyo, believes it is the aid-driven interventions that have directly resulted in a dramatic descent into poverty. Whereas prior to the 1970s, most economic indicators had been on an upward trajectory, a decade later Zambia was in the state of economic disarray. In the 1980s, aid to Zambia averaged about 14% of the country’s GNI. In the 2000s, a decade of strong growth, the same proportion was 17%. If Zambia’s ruin in the 1980s was the result of aid, is Zambia’s graduation to middle-income status in the new millennium a sign that aid now works really well?

Actually neither seems to be applying, since it was the price of copper, Zambia’s major export, that was depressed in the 1980s and saw its price skyrocket in the middle of the last decade as China and India’s economies grew and demand for the metal peaked. But growth among low-income countries in Africa and elsewhere doesn’t all boil down to big mineral exporters. And the continent is fast drawing in more investment. Foreign direct investment to Africa is projected to rise and domestic resources are being mobilized at a faster rate, too.

Even gold and diamond-producing Ghana, which declared itself 63% richer at the end of last year than previously thought, didn’t suggest the newfound riches were the result of mineral exports. Instead, the recalculation was driven by the fact the country’s services sector was a lot bigger than calculated. Part of that will reflect the incredible success of the telecoms sector – 75% of the country’s population are mobile subscribers. And, of course, the expansion of telecoms is a worldwide phenomenon. So a lot of the growth we are seeing in poor countries is broad-based, not just reliant on the current commodity boom – which is good news for the future.

Adapted from www.theguardian.com


Exercise 1

Find the words or expressions in the text which mean the following:

1) to make sth easier: __________
2) powering itself: __________
3) testing sth in order to give a grade: __________
4) per head: __________
5) counted together: __________
6) important: __________
7) before: __________
8) to reach a middle-of-the-range value: __________
9) to increase very fast: ___________
10)to reach the highest value: __________
11)quickly: __________
12)being based on sth heavily: _________


Exercise 2

Match the expressions from the two columns into logical collocations:

1) a poverty                 income
2) to be stuck             a return
3) to limit access       resources
4) gross national       of economic disarray
5) to keep track         boils down to …
6) economic               in a rut
7) in the state            trap
8) a major                  of sth
9) it all                        indicators
10)domestic               export


Exercise 3

Provide English equivalents of these expressions:

1) gospodarka
2) pozostali
3) stanowić
4) skutkować czymś
5) spadek
6) wykazywało tendencję zwyżkową
7) główny towar eksportowy
8) przyciągać inwestycje
9) zamiast tego
10)sektor telekomunikacyjny
12)popyt na towary


Grammar corner…

The text said something about a country that saw the prices skyrocketing. Have you ever thought about what the difference would be if we didn’t use the -ing
ending? Would the meaning change slightly? Well, it would. If you use the verbs of the senses (see, hear, watch, etc.) with the -ing ending, you say that you only
saw, heard, watched a part of the whole thing. Yet, if you use the word without the -ing ending, you mean that you witnessed the whole thing. For instance, I saw
those two men fight (from the beginning to the end) OR I saw those two men fighting (I saw only a part of the fight, but I don’t know what the result may have been).


Exercise 4

Fill in the sentences with a word in the correct form.

1) I heard my parents ____________________ (TALK) in the kitchen, but I don’t really know what they were discussing.
2) My parents are getting a divorce, I heard them ____________________ (TALK) about it in the kitchen!
3) Yes, officer, I saw these two men ____________________ (ARGUE), and I can honestly say that the other one was much more aggressive.
4) Yes, officer, I saw these two men ____________________ (ARGUE) but I have no idea how it ended.
5) I witnessed them ____________________ (GET) married, so I can confirm they are husband and wife.
6) I witnessed them ____________________ (GET) married, but I had to leave during the ceremony so I’m not sure if they got through the whole wedding.
7) I watched my kids ____________________ (DRIVE) off to college and I started feeling very lonely.
8) I watched my kids ____________________ (DRIVE) off to college when I fell down the stairs and lost sight of them.



subscribers – abonenci
to foster sth – sprzyjać czemuś
self-perpetuating – samonapędzające się
an assessment of sth – ocena czegoś
per capita – na głowę / na mieszkańca
combined – łącznie
prominent – ważny / znamienity
prior to – przed
to average – osiągać średnie wartości
to skyrocket – gwałtownie rosnąć
to peak – osiągnąć najwyższe wartości
at a fast rate – w szybkim tempie
a poverty trap – chroniczna bieda
to be stuck in a rut – tkwić w martwym punkcie
to limit access to sth – ograniczać dostęp do czegoś
gross national income – dochód narodowy brutto
to keep track of sth – śledzić coś
economic indicators – wskaźniki gospodarcze
in the state of economic disarray – w stanie ruiny gospodarczej
a major export – główny towar eksportowy
it all boils down – to … wszystko sprowadza się do …
domestic resources – zasoby lokalne
an economy – gospodarka
the remainder – pozostali
to account for sth – stanowić
descent – spadek
on an upward trajectory – wykazywać tendencję zwyżkową
reliant on sth – polegający na czymś
to result in sth – skutkować czymś
to draw investment – przyciągać inwestycje
instead – zamiast tego
telecoms sector – sektor telekomunikacyjny
copper – miedź
commodity boom – popyt na towary


download lesson (pdf)


Ex. 1
1) to foster sth
2) self-perpetuating
3) an assessment of sth
4) per capita
5) combined
6) prominent
7) prior to
8) to average
9) to skyrocket
10)to peak
11)at a fast rate
12)reliant on sth

Ex. 2
1) a poverty trap
2) to be stuck in a rut
3) to limit access to sth
4) gross national income
5) to keep track of sth
6) economic indicators
7) in the state of economic disarray
8) a major export
9) it all boils down to
10)domestic resources

Ex. 3
1) an economy
2) the remainder
3) to account for sth
4) to result in sth
5) a descent
6) on an upward trajectory
7) a major export
8) to draw investment
9) instead
10)telecoms sector
12)a commodity boom

Ex. 4
1) talking
2) talk
3) argue
4) arguing
5) get
6) getting
7) drive
8) driving