Copenhagen, 14 May – Under the auspices of the Copenhagen Consensus Center, a gathering of 60+ prominent economists — including four Nobel Laureates — has produced a ranking of the best investments that are likely to deliver the biggest bang for the buck in terms of improving the lives of the world’s poorest people.
Bjørn Lomborg, head of the Copenhagen Consensus Center, remarked: “It may not sound sexy, but solving the problems of diarrhoea, worms and malnutrition will do good for more of the world’s poor than other more grandiose interventions. That is the conclusion of some of the world’s brightest minds, who came together for this year’s Copenhagen Consensus. If the world’s policymakers and humanitarian charities were to reorient their priorities around adopting these and other smart solutions, the world would be a better place.”
The economists evaluated how the world could prioritise the spending of $75 billion – a 15% increase on current aid spending – on issues such as chronic and infectious diseases, armed conflict, biodiversity, climate change, hunger and malnutrition, among others.
Lomborg explained how this applies to one specific priority, that of improving agricultural output.* Lomborg said “Spending two billion dollars annually to make more productive crops would generate global returns of much more than 1600 percent. Not only would it reduce hunger, but through better nutrition, make children smarter, better educated, higher paid and hence break the cycle of poverty. At the same time, higher agricultural productivity means humanity will cut down fewer forests, for the benefit of both biodiversity and earth’s climate.”
Lomborg concluded, “We live in a world constrained by scarce resources. This year’s Copenhagen Consensus shows how we can achieve the most good today, and tomorrow, by prioritising our spending on the world’s most pressing issues.”
* Immediately following are Copenhagen Consensus 2012 rankings combined with detailed information from the background research papers. The Copenhagen Consensus 2012 priority list, in order of ranking, is included at the end. Background research papers are available at http://tinyurl.com/cc12-research
Copenhagen Consensus 2012 Ranking combined with information from background research papers
|CC12 RANKING||Challenge / Priority||Expenditure||Benefit for each dollar spent|
Today, more than 100 million children start their lives with inadequate nutrition, impairing their mental abilities and causing physical defects. To provide both short- and long-term benefits, this sum of money would provide micronutrients, complementary foods, treatments for wormsand diarrhoeal diseases, and behaviour change programs. This would reduce chronic under-nutrition by 36 per cent in developing countries. It would also improve cognitive functions, increase learning and in adulthood increase incomes 24%.
|$ 3 billion
|Each dollar spent reducing chronic undernutrition has more than a $30 payoff|
These funds would prevent 300,000 child deaths if used to extend the Global Fund’s Affordable Medicines Facility-malaria financing mechanism that makes combination therapies cheaper for poor countries. This approach also safeguards the most effective malaria drug for the future. Later in 2012, donors will decide whether to renew this facility; the Copenhagen Consensus findings add to the case for them to do so.
|$300 million||Each dollar spent generates $35 of benefits|
|3||Expanded childhood immunisation coverage
Spending $1 billion annually would save one million children.
|$1 billion||The benefits would be 20 times higher than the costs|
|4||De-worming treatments for children
This sum could treat 300 million children to rid them of parasitic intestinal worms, which are detrimental to their wellbeing. Free of these parasites, children would be more nourished, more alert, likely to stay in school longer and generate more income as adults.
|$300 million||Each dollar spent generates at least $10 of benefits|
|5||Expand tuberculosis treatment
Spending $1.5 billion annually would spare one million adults from death.
|$1.5 billion||Each dollar spent would generate $15 of benefits|
|6||Increase agricultural output / yield enhancements
By increasing investment in agricultural R&D, this solution potentially could yield many benefits to both people and the environment. Not only would it reduce hunger by increasing food production and reducing food prices, but also it would protect more biodiversity by reducing the need for forest land to be converted into agricultural land. Simultaneously, it would help in the fight against climate change, because forests lock up carbon.
|$ 2 billion annually||For R&D, each dollar spent would have at least $16 return.|
|7||Early warning system for natural disasters
For less than $1 billion a year, the establishment of effective early warning systems for natural disasters in developing countries could alleviate the disaster damage and avoid long-term economic damage resulting from catastrophes.
|Less than $1 billion annually||Each dollar would give up to $35 of benefits, directly and indirectly|
|9||Hepatitis B vaccine
Hepatitis B falls in the category of chronic diseases, which increasingly affect people in the developing world as their lifespan improves. Hepatitis B is the major cause of liver cancer worldwide. For $122 million, we could achieve global coverage and avoid 150,000 deaths.
|$122 million||Each dollar spent generates $10 of benefits|
|10||Low cost heart attack drugs
If these medicines were more widely available in developing countries, up to up to 300,000 heart-attack deaths could be prevented each year.
|$200 million||Each dollar spent would generate $25 of benefits|
|12||Investigate the feasibility of planetary cooling through geo-engineering technologies
This would serve to better understand the technology’s risks, costs, and benefits, but also act as an important potential insurance against global warming.
|Appx $1 billion annually||A rough estimate is that each dollar spent could yield $1,000 of benefits|
|14||R&D for HIV/AIDS vaccine
The AIDS epidemic which threatens every aspect of development for dozens of countries. A vaccine would be the ultimate preventative tool.
|$100 million||Each dollar spent would generate more than $11 of benefits|
Copenhagen Consensus 2012 Priority Ranking
|1||Bundled Micro-Nutrient Interventions||Hunger & Education|
|2||Subsidy for Malaria Combination Treatment||Infectious Disease|
|3||Expanded Childhood Immunization Coverage||Infectious Disease|
|4||Deworming of Schoolchildren||Infectious Disease|
|5||Expanding Tuberculosis Treatment||Infectious Disease|
|6||R&D to Increase Yield Enhancements||Hunger, Education & Climate|
|7||Investing in Effective Early Warning Systems||Natural Disasters|
|8||Strengthening Surgical Capacity||Infectious Disease|
|9||Hepatitis B Immunization||Chronic Disease|
|10||Acute Heart Attack Low ]Cost Drugs||Chronic Disease|
|11||Salt Reduction Campaign||Chronic Disease|
|12||Geo ]Engineering R&D||Climate Change|
|13||Conditional Cash Transfers for School Attendance||Education|
|14||Accelerated HIV Vaccine R&D||Infectious Disease|
|15||Information Campaign on Benefits From Schooling||Education|
|16||Borehole and Public Hand Pump Intervention||Water & Sanitation|
|17||Increased Funding for Green Energy R&D||Climate Change|
|18||Increase Availability of Family Planning||Population Growth|
|19||Heart Attack Risk Reduction Generic Pill||Chronic Disease|
|20||Community Led Total Sanitation||Water & Sanitation|
|21||Sanitation as a Business||Water & Sanitation|
|22||Increasing Tobacco Taxation||Chronic Disease|
|23||Community Walls Against Floods||Natural Disasters|
|24||The Reinvented Toilet||Water & Sanitation|
|25||Protecting All Forests||Biodiversity|
|26||Retrofitting Schools to Withstand Earthquake Damage||Natural Disasters|
|27||Crop Advisory Text Messages||Hunger|
|28||Extension of Protected Areas||Biodiversity|
|29||Strengthening Structures Against Hurricanes and Storms||Natural Disasters|
|30||Elevating Residential Structures to Avoid Flooding||Natural Disasters|