Even wealthy countries such as the United States fall short on the challenges of providing education for all. Jessica Rinaldi / Reuters
Even wealthy countries such as the United States fall short on the challenges of providing education for all. Jessica Rinaldi / Reuters

US must invest in education to break cycle of poverty



A country's economic success depends on the education, skills, and health of its population. When its young people are healthy and well educated, they can find gainful employment, achieve dignity and succeed in adjusting to the fluctuations of the global labour market. Businesses invest more, knowing that their workers will be productive. Yet many societies around the world do not meet the challenge of ensuring basic health and a decent education for each generation of children.

Why is the challenge of education unmet in so many countries? Some are simply too poor to provide decent schools. Parents themselves may lack adequate education, leaving them unable to help their own children beyond the first year or two of school, so that illiteracy and innumeracy are transmitted from one generation to the next. The situation is most difficult in large families (say, six or seven children), because parents invest little in the health, nutrition and education of each child.

Yet rich countries also fail. The United States, for example, cruelly allows its poorest children to suffer. Poor people live in poor neighbourhoods with poor schools. Parents are often unemployed, ill, divorced or even incarcerated. Children become trapped in a persistent generational cycle of poverty, despite the society's general affluence. Too often, children growing up in poverty end up as poor adults.

Governments have a unique role to play to ensure that all young members of a generation - poor children as well as rich ones - have a chance. A poor kid is unlikely to break free of his or her parents' poverty without strong and effective government programmes that support high-quality education, health care, and decent nutrition.

This is the genius of "social democracy", the philosophy pioneered in Scandinavia, but also deployed in many developing countries, such as Costa Rica. The idea is simple and powerful: all people deserve a chance and society needs to help everybody secure that chance. Most important, families need help to raise healthy, well-nourished and educated children. Social investments are large, financed by high taxes, which rich people actually pay, rather than evade.

This is the basic method to break the intergenerational transmission of poverty. A poor child in Sweden has benefits from the start. The child's parents have guaranteed maternity/paternity leave to help them nurture the infant. The government then provides high-quality day care, enabling the mother - knowing that the child is in a safe environment - to return to work. The government ensures that all children have a place in preschool, so that they are ready for formal schooling by the age of 6. And health care is universal, so the child can grow up healthy.

A comparison of the US and Sweden is therefore revealing. Using comparable data and definitions provided by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development, the US has a poverty rate of 17.3 per cent, roughly twice Sweden's poverty rate of 8.4 per cent. And America's incarceration rate is 10 times Sweden's rate of 70 people per 100,000. The US is richer on average than Sweden, but the income gap between America's richest and poorest is vastly wider than it is in Sweden, and the US treats its poor punitively, rather than supportively.

One of the shocking realities in recent years is that America now has almost the lowest degree of social mobility of the high-income countries. Children born poor are likely to remain poor; children born into affluence are likely to be affluent adults.

This inter-generational tracking amounts to a profound waste of human talents. America will pay the price in the long term unless it changes course. Investing in its children and young people provides the very highest return that any society can earn, in both economic and human terms.

Jeffrey Sachs is professor of economics and director of the Earth Institute at Columbia University. He is also special adviser to the United Nations secretary-general on the Millennium Development Goals

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Living in...

This article is part of a guide on where to live in the UAE. Our reporters will profile some of the country’s most desirable districts, provide an estimate of rental prices and introduce you to some of the residents who call each area home.

Plan to boost public schools

A major shake-up of government-run schools was rolled out across the country in 2017. Known as the Emirati School Model, it placed more emphasis on maths and science while also adding practical skills to the curriculum.

It was accompanied by the promise of a Dh5 billion investment, over six years, to pay for state-of-the-art infrastructure improvements.

Aspects of the school model will be extended to international private schools, the education minister has previously suggested.

Recent developments have also included the introduction of moral education - which public and private schools both must teach - along with reform of the exams system and tougher teacher licensing requirements.

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If you had all the money in the world, what’s the one sneaker you would buy or create?

“There are a few shoes that have ‘grail’ status for me. But the one I have always wanted is the Nike x Patta x Parra Air Max 1 - Cherrywood. To get a pair in my size brand new is would cost me between Dh8,000 and Dh 10,000.” Jack Brett

“If I had all the money, I would approach Nike and ask them to do my own Air Force 1, that’s one of my dreams.” Yaseen Benchouche

“There’s nothing out there yet that I’d pay an insane amount for, but I’d love to create my own shoe with Tinker Hatfield and Jordan.” Joshua Cox

“I think I’d buy a defunct footwear brand; I’d like the challenge of reinterpreting a brand’s history and changing options.” Kris Balerite

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Company name: Klipit

Started: 2022

Founders: Venkat Reddy, Mohammed Al Bulooki, Bilal Merchant, Asif Ahmed, Ovais Merchant

Based: Dubai, UAE

Industry: Digital receipts, finance, blockchain

Funding: $4 million

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Max touring range: 628km
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Top speed: 210kph
Price: From Dh360,000
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1799 - First small pox vaccine administered

1846 - First public demonstration of anaesthesia in surgery

1861 - Louis Pasteur published his germ theory which proved that bacteria caused diseases

1895 - Discovery of x-rays

1923 - Heart valve surgery performed successfully for first time

1928 - Alexander Fleming discovers penicillin

1953 - Structure of DNA discovered

1952 - First organ transplant - a kidney - takes place 

1954 - Clinical trials of birth control pill

1979 - MRI, or magnetic resonance imaging, scanned used to diagnose illness and injury.

1998 - The first adult live-donor liver transplant is carried out

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1pm: departure by plane from Rome / Fiumicino to Abu Dhabi
10pm: arrival at Abu Dhabi Presidential Airport


Monday, February 4
12pm: welcome ceremony at the main entrance of the Presidential Palace
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Mercer, the investment consulting arm of US services company Marsh & McLennan, expects its wealth division to at least double its assets under management (AUM) in the Middle East as wealth in the region continues to grow despite economic headwinds, a company official said.

Mercer Wealth, which globally has $160 billion in AUM, plans to boost its AUM in the region to $2-$3bn in the next 2-3 years from the present $1bn, said Yasir AbuShaban, a Dubai-based principal with Mercer Wealth.

Within the next two to three years, we are looking at reaching $2 to $3 billion as a conservative estimate and we do see an opportunity to do so,” said Mr AbuShaban.

Mercer does not directly make investments, but allocates clients’ money they have discretion to, to professional asset managers. They also provide advice to clients.

“We have buying power. We can negotiate on their (client’s) behalf with asset managers to provide them lower fees than they otherwise would have to get on their own,” he added.

Mercer Wealth’s clients include sovereign wealth funds, family offices, and insurance companies among others.

From its office in Dubai, Mercer also looks after Africa, India and Turkey, where they also see opportunity for growth.

Wealth creation in Middle East and Africa (MEA) grew 8.5 per cent to $8.1 trillion last year from $7.5tn in 2015, higher than last year’s global average of 6 per cent and the second-highest growth in a region after Asia-Pacific which grew 9.9 per cent, according to consultancy Boston Consulting Group (BCG). In the region, where wealth grew just 1.9 per cent in 2015 compared with 2014, a pickup in oil prices has helped in wealth generation.

BCG is forecasting MEA wealth will rise to $12tn by 2021, growing at an annual average of 8 per cent.

Drivers of wealth generation in the region will be split evenly between new wealth creation and growth of performance of existing assets, according to BCG.

Another general trend in the region is clients’ looking for a comprehensive approach to investing, according to Mr AbuShaban.

“Institutional investors or some of the families are seeing a slowdown in the available capital they have to invest and in that sense they are looking at optimizing the way they manage their portfolios and making sure they are not investing haphazardly and different parts of their investment are working together,” said Mr AbuShaban.

Some clients also have a higher appetite for risk, given the low interest-rate environment that does not provide enough yield for some institutional investors. These clients are keen to invest in illiquid assets, such as private equity and infrastructure.

“What we have seen is a desire for higher returns in what has been a low-return environment specifically in various fixed income or bonds,” he said.

“In this environment, we have seen a de facto increase in the risk that clients are taking in things like illiquid investments, private equity investments, infrastructure and private debt, those kind of investments were higher illiquidity results in incrementally higher returns.”

The Abu Dhabi Investment Authority, one of the largest sovereign wealth funds, said in its 2016 report that has gradually increased its exposure in direct private equity and private credit transactions, mainly in Asian markets and especially in China and India. The authority’s private equity department focused on structured equities owing to “their defensive characteristics.”


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