This book’s first chapter looks at global development patterns and explores why some countries and regions have developed so much faster than others, over the last 50 years.

In many ways, the world’s population is doing really well. Globally, the infant mortality rate is lower, life expectancy is higher, and people are more literate than ever before. Gender gaps are slowly narrowing, and extreme poverty has been on an uninterrupted decline for decades. However, some countries do far better than others. Why?

First, some obstacles will render development nearly impossible. Countries don’t do well without a degree of peace and stability, if their business environment is truly awful, or if wasteful government spending has led to crippling debt burdens.

Second, a government’s investment choices and trade policies can either facilitate or impede development. The relative size and state of a country’s labour force is important too, as is the nutritional status and the level of health and education of its residents.

Progress in some Asian countries has been particularly fast. They avoided unserviceable debt burdens. They resolved conflicts and excessive bureaucracy, and they changed policies that killed entrepreneurialism. They also invested heavily in their rural regions, and that’s what kick-started strong positive spirals of socio-economic development.