“You Have $75 Billion to Save the World”

A mother feeds her child MANA RUTF in Rwaza, Rwanda.

Photograph: Silent Images 

…How would you spend it? How could you get the most bang for your buck if your goal was to advance human welfare over four years?

Bjørn Lomborg, Danish author, academic, and environmental writer, posed this question to a panel of five top economists, including four Nobel laureates, in the Copenhagen Consensus 2012 project. The panelists found 16 investments to be most worthy of this budget (in descending desirability):

  1. Bundled interventions to reduce undernutrition in preschoolers (to fight hunger and improve education)
  2. Expanding the subsidy for malaria combination treatment
  3. Expanded childhood immunization coverage
  4. Deworming of schoolchildren, to improve educational and health outcomes
  5. Expanding tuberculosis treatment
  6. R&D to increase yield enhancements, to decrease hunger, fight biodiversity destruction, and lessen the effects of climate change
  7. Investing in effective early warning systems to protect populations against natural disaster
  8. Strengthening surgical capacity
  9. Hepatitis B immunization
  10. Using low‐cost drugs in the case of acute heart attacks in poorer nations (these are already available in developed countries)
  11. Salt reduction campaign to reduce chronic disease
  12. Geoengineering R&D into the feasibility of solar radiation management
  13. Conditional Cash Transfers for School Attendance
  14. Accelerated HIV Vaccine R&D
  15. Extended field trial of information campaigns on the benefits of schooling
  16. Borehole and public hand-pump intervention

Of course, the team at MANA was thrilled to read that the team found stepping up the fight against malnutrition to be the most valuable investment. Investments in malnutrition intervention programs lead to faster growth in children’s bodies and muscles, improved cognitive ability, and better performance in schools. Lomborg explains that “studies show that, decades down the line, these children would be more productive, make more money, have fewer kids, and begin a virtuous circle of dramatic development.”

Now that’s a smart investment.

Read Lomborg’s article in Slate Magazine, here.

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