Among developing countries, Brazil is increasingly seen as a model for social development. Its achievements over the past two decades are impressive. The share of the population living in extreme poverty fell from 16.4 percent in 1995 to 4.7 percent in 2009. Inequality as measured by the Gini coefficient fell more than 10 percent in the same period, to 0.53, where 0 represents perfect equality of income distribution and 1.0 perfect inequality. Growth has been an important driver for these trends, particularly because over the past decade Brazil’s growth has been distinctly pro-poor: Personal income among the poorest 10 percent […]

By most measures, the income gap between urban and rural households in China is one of the largest in the world, with urban residents’ incomes more than triple those of their rural counterparts. Not surprisingly, then, improving rural incomes has become the main target of social welfare policies in China today, though it is too early to tell whether such policies will be enough to reduce the rural-urban income gap. The new social policies have also been introduced in the context of two long-term demographic trends of great significance: China’s high-speed urbanization and the rapid aging of its population. China’s […]

India’s sheer size and poverty have meant that addressing the needs of its hundreds of millions of poor and vulnerable citizens has preoccupied Indian policymakers since independence. Unsurprisingly, the mix of strategies, the resulting policy instruments to undergird them and their relative effectiveness have been a matter of contentious debate. As with other poor developing countries, India’s efforts to improve the welfare of its vulnerable populations have, at least in principle, involved three major components. The first, given the abysmally low income of the average Indian household, has been to try to raise incomes through growth with the assumption that […]

Venezuela was historically a reliable U.S. ally in Latin America, if always aspiring to more autonomy and a larger role in the region. This relationship was based on oil commerce and the fact that Venezuela was democratic during a period in which most other Latin American democracies broke down. During the 14 years of the Hugo Chavez government, of course, this changed. After assuming the presidency in 1999, Chavez developed an antagonistic relationship with Washington and sought to develop alternative regional relationships and leadership, all while maintaining robust commercial exchange with the U.S. During the government of Chavez’s successor, Nicolas […]

The West’s perception of Myanmar’s problems is often limited to the image of Aung San Suu Kyi’s struggle for political opening against the country’s ruling military junta. But Myanmar, or Burma as it is still known by many in the West, is ethnically and religiously complex, and the inability to reconcile those many differences led to decades of civil war with multiple ethnic insurgencies. While outright hostilities have for the most part ebbed, the grievances that have historically driven these conflicts are by no means resolved. As Myanmar now emerges from isolation, the challenges facing it are numerous and can […]

In Brazil, organized crime is a difficult subject to tackle. This is at least in part because the dynamics of organized crime and violence in Brazil have been changing dramatically in recent years. Historically, violence and crime have been synonymous with Rio de Janeiro’s favelas: marginal parts of the city where poor migrants settled, building their own homes piece by piece and outside the relative safety of urban services and regulation. Beginning in the early 1990s, images, stories and local and international headlines of poor, gun-toting young black men, often shirtless but otherwise wearing soccer jerseys, were ubiquitous. The favela-covered […]

In the decades after its independence in October 1960, Nigeria periodically found itself at a series of crossroads. The 1960s were characterized by a devastating civil war and internal tensions that nearly drove the country apart; the 1970s saw a burgeoning oil and gas industry as well as governance achievements—notably efforts to develop a national identity and the adoption of a new constitutional framework that ushered in a government with an executive president at its center and, ultimately, a handover to civilian rule, albeit a short-lived one, in 1979. Indeed, in a large and complex country with a population consisting […]