In economic terms, the human race has never been richer, or better armed with the medical knowledge, technological prowess and intellectual firepower needed to beat poverty. In rich countries, it has been possible to shift the focus of domestic policy from absolute poverty (now a rarity) to the relative sort — a giant step forward. In poorer countries, too, the past couple of decades have seen an unprecedented rise in the income and standard of living of hundreds of millions of people, mainly in Asia, who no longer struggle just to survive from one day to the next.
From "Making poverty history", the Economist's argument that the world could take big steps towards eliminating poverty in 2005. (If you feel that inequalities are actually increasing in developing countries like India, please do read my earlier post on this subject, "The myth about the rich and the poor".) They identify three big policy areas that could accelerate this process, and the third one that they name is the most crucial: trade liberalisation. The more we cut down on tariffs and subsidies, the closer we'll get to eliminating poverty. But how long will it take?