WASHINGTON, DC – The poorest countries are in desperate straits, and the rest of the world is looking the other way. Doing so comes easy, because low-income countries (LICs) matter little to the fate of the world in the near term. At the end of June, the combined GDP of the 28 countries in this group was roughly $500 billion – a drop in the $100 trillion ocean that is the global economy. The world’s poorest countries are also nobody’s ideal export markets: the average annual income is barely $1,000, and conflict and instability are the norm for about half.
Nonetheless, 700 million people live in these countries, and about half of them are in extreme poverty. Very poor people have long been accustomed to neglect from their own governments, which often have other priorities. For example, they spend about 50% more on war and defense than they do on health care. Nearly half their budgets go toward public-sector wages and interest payments on debt, while a mere 3% of total government spending across LICs goes to support the most vulnerable citizens. That is one-tenth the average for developing economies more broadly.