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The phrase Third World was initially used in the Cold War period to represent those countries that were neither on the West – NATO nations referred to as the first world countries, nor on the East-Communist bloc referred to as second world countries (World Book Inc. 2000, 212).
The term in the contemporary world is now mainly to represent countries that are economically superior and underdeveloped. These countries are mainly in the African continent, Middle East Arab world, Latin America and those in the Oceania regions.
All of these countries have more or less the same characteristics. These include extreme poverty, high birthrates, high illiteracy levels, and economic inclination and dependency on the advanced countries. Poverty has been the main menace facing third world countries. These countries have been unable to escape poverty and in fact are getting poorer by the day the main causes being poor governance, corruption, wars, poor policies, illiteracy, diseases, brain drain among others.
The system of government is the key to development. Government organs are in charge of many crucial key sectors of the human life. Governance directly affects social and economic sectors. Almost all over the world, it is the work of the government to provide security, health care, business permits and licensing, education, infrastructure and other crucial services.
The services under the government dossier are so important that the system of government can make or break a nation (Mittal 1995, 68). In Third World Countries, most of the systems of government are not properly functioning. Most of the Third World Governments have aspects of dictatorship.
Those, which have been democratically elected to office, refuse to leave office and abuse their powers immensely. They are like gods and idols as their decisions do not entertain any for of contradiction or challenging and those that dare are either detained or assassinated.
This is evident in many countries like Zimbabwe where the president has ruled since independence. He has been oppressing the opposition, detaining and publicly battering the leader of the opposition. In Libya, it is the same case as the president there; Muammar Gadhafi took power through a military coup and has since ruled for forty-two years.
Neither, elections are held in Libya, nor any political tolerance. In Egypt, the former president Hosni Mubarak had ruled for thirty years and only left office after a revolution by the masses. In the Far East like Myanmar, military coups have been the order of the day; those that oppose the government of the day being detained without trial. In Latin America like Venezuela, the leaders are dictatorial and oppress the freedom of expression.
It is also in these Third World Countries that political monarchs still exist. There are no democratic elections rather succession of families rule for generations. The leaders in power are thus not qualified to lead nor competent and accountable. All of the politically active monarchs are in the third world countries like Swaziland, Morocco, Jordan, Oman, Brunei, Tonga and Kuwait. Some of these countries like Swaziland are the poorest in the world while the others have the highest political dissatisfaction.
In fact, most of the monarchs in the Arab world are experiencing political rebellion and mass demonstrations. This diverts attention from economic development and the many riots lead to destruction of property and scare away investors. Most of the monarchs are conservative and never embrace the change in technology, thereby making their nations lag behind in terms of development.
The dictatorial and monarchical systems in third world countries have no interest in poverty eradication or economic developments. They only care about themselves. They illegally enrich themselves through corruption, nepotism, and stealing of national resources. They take resources that meant for economic development and eradication of poverty. In these regions, power is associated with wealth.
The richest people in these regions are in political offices and their wealth not legitimately acquired. In fact, some of richest people in the world are from these third world countries. The royal families of Middle East are, listed as some of the richest people in the world. Many of the leaders are not in the list, as they hide their wealth.
However, estimates are made which put them among the richest, for example the richest man according to Forbes is Carlos Slim of Mexico with an approximate wealth of 54 billion US dollar yet the former Egyptian President’s wealth was projected to be 70 billion US dollars, which if verified would make him the richest person on earth. However, his Egyptian counterparts are very poor and unemployed.
The authenticity of the leadership of third world countries is also much contested. In countries that claim to follow democratic elections, the elections are marred with malpractices and claims of rigging. Many countries have witnessed violence due to claims of rigging; Ivory Coast in Africa has two sworn in presidents because of election rigging. Kenya and Zimbabwe in Africa have power sharing governments because of disputed elections. In Iran and Pakistan, the elections have as well attracted contest resulting in demonstration.
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Poor governance have hindered development projects as the leaders in power are not there on merit thus unfit to rule (Dutt 1979, 27). Politicking has thus become the major focus in these countries shifting attention from development. The leaders lack patriotism and only end up plundering the resources of the countries enriching themselves while the majorities are languishing in poverty.
The leaders are not visionary and never embrace development changes like technology as they view this as a challenge to their authority. The poor governance scare away investors especially long term investors. The investors fear that political turmoil might jeopardize their investment. With no investors, there are no job creations or revenues thus unable to free from poverty.
Wars and Negative Ethnicity
Wars have also hindered the eradication of poverty in Third World Countries. When there is war no major economic activity can take place, people become displaced as refugees robbing off a country, money in form of taxes, labor and markets. War also creates anarchy and destruction of property. Existing systems that have taken ages to erect and millions of taxpayers’ money destroyed in an instance. Due to political instability and ethnicity, religious conflict and clan battles, wars in third world countries have become common phenomena.
Civil wars in countries like Sierra Leone, Côte d’Ivoire, Somalia, Burma, Uganda, East Timor and Sudan have had a major draw back in the economies of these countries. Instead of children engaging in learning activities, children are becoming child soldiers to kill fellow people.
They are psychologically disoriented and disturbed, and this creates a missing generation even after the war. Family, which is the basic social unit for all human beings, is broken down. People witness their loved ones killed, gang raped, amputated and other cruelties. This creates wounds that are hard to heal and mostly leads to more violence.
War hinder economic development and war in one region can affect the whole region and sometimes the whole world (Deger 1982, 98). This is evident in Somalia, which is located at the horn of Africa. Clan battles have turned the country into a battlefield.
his in turn has created a habitable environment for terrorist groups like Al Shabab, which have links with international terrorist organizations like Al Qaeda. The anarchy in Somalia has also seen the rise of an empire of pirates. Pirates from Somalia have invaded that part of the Indian Ocean, which has one of the busiest routes in world business (Farid 1982, 32).
This in turn has seen capturing of ships by the pirates who in turn demand very high ransom prices. This has made international vessels to avoid this route negatively influencing the poor countries of the region. Ethnicity has also been rampant in third world countries. Tribal animosity led to genocide in Rwanda, Africa in 1994 where almost eight hundred thousand people lost their lives. The effects of the genocide are, still felt up to date.
War and ethnicity have divided the people of the third world countries. Instead of focusing on how to stamp out poverty, they have been focusing on their tribal affiliations and in the process hampering unity. Wars have seen loss of many lives, destruction of infrastructures, towns and nations. This has taken these countries many years back.
Corruption is perhaps the biggest barrier in combating poverty in these Third World Countries. At least there is a form of corruption in all of them. Corruption practices have been, experienced in all sectors and in all areas. From the low ranked officer, the highest office holder, to the person on the street. This malpractice has siphoned billions of dollars from these economies. Corruption cases have, to some extent involved international companies. They have to bribe the contracting officers for them to be awarded lucrative contracts.
Corruption is so widespread that the people no longer consider it as a vice. Almost all sensitive sectors are corruption riddled. Police officers receive bribes in public. This encourages smuggling, unroadworthy vehicles, and neglecting of security measures. Criminals buy their freedom by bribing the judges and magistrates.
Foreigners are able to acquire passports and stay in various countries illegally by bribing those in authority. Culprits who have money and power walk freely without prosecution. Impunity and disregard to the law becomes a common phenomenon. There are no medicines in hospitals as individuals in charge have already taken them. Many development projects remain unfinished due to embezzlement of funds.
Many university-qualified graduates cannot find jobs as they have been reserved or given to those with money to bribe. The level of production has thus sharply dropped or the production quality is below par for any meaningful development.
Corruption has discouraged hardworking and innovations. This is so as there is the general belief that one would not get value for money on their efforts. This has in turn led many learned, innovative, and qualified people to flee their countries heading to the developed economies for better life. This mass movement has created another problem in form of brain drain.
The best brains migrate to the western world, as these people feel not given equal, promising opportunities neither appreciated by their countries. The brain drain effect has left many Third World Countries without qualified personnel to cater and oversee development projects like in building of roads.
With the modern world moving towards globalization facilitated by the advancement in IT, many people in third world countries remain uneducated and illiterate. Some have never been to school and cannot even write their own names. Illiteracy limits these people to only doing manual, demanding physical work and since man is mortal, this becomes a big challenge. Many cannot use the internet. This was clear in the first FIFA world cup staged in Africa that is South Africa, 2010.
Ticket sales remained down as one was required to purchase online and many people in the region were computer illiterate. This forced FIFA to distribute tickets for sale in supermarkets and this is when massive purchasing took place in the region. Illiteracy has thus become a major barrier in the efforts to tackling poverty.
Diseases have also been affecting the population in the Third World Countries. Tropical diseases like Malaria have continued to affect and kill many Africans in large numbers. In Asia, diseases like bird flu continue to trouble the poor people. HIV/AIDS pandemic has hit the whole world with the majority of the affected in Third World Countries (Nordquist 2003, 123). The pandemic has negatively hit the economy as young, energetic, and productive members of the society are succumbing to the disease leaving a void in the economy.
Neo colonialism has also hindered development and innovations (Cassen 1982, 45). Former colonial masters and new imperialists like the US do not let the Third World Countries to govern themselves independently without their interference. They tend to force these countries to sign contracts, for them to exploit the natural resources.
They also pressurize them to liberalize their markets so that multinational companies can continue their dominance leading to death of local companies. The profits, from multinational companies, taken back to the mother country and no major developments initiated in the countries of conducting business.
The languages of western countries dominate the educational systems of third world countries, which further complicate education for them. The Third World Countries are therefore, torn on whether to follow their systems or the western systems, cultures, and policies. Those who do not follow are alienated and reasons to impose sanctions on them fetched. Neo colonialism and new imperialism has left the countries confused and without identity, which in turn drifts them deeper into poverty.
Third World Countries are all countries in the world that experience economic underdevelopment. They exhibit almost similar characteristics like high birth rates, poverty, poor infrastructure, poor IT facilities, and poor education backgrounds.
These countries are mainly in Africa, Middle East, Oceania, Caribbean and Latin America. Although they experience high poverty levels, they have been unable to escape the high poverty because of many reasons like those discussed above and many more like high rate of births placing the existing resources on high pressure, natural disasters, poor policies, inferiority complex mainly instigated by racism among others (Smith 2003, 29).
Cassen, R .1982. Rich Country Interests and Third World Development. New York: Taylor& Francis.
Deger, S. 1986. Military Expenditure in Third World Countries: The Economic Effects. New York: Taylor & Francis.
Dutt, k. 1979. Third World Countries: Struggle for New Economic Order. Michigan: Sterling.
Farid, M. 1981. Oil and Security in the Arabian Gulf. London: Arab Research Centre.
Mittal, M. 1995. Economic Policies in Third World Countries. Delhi: Anmol Publications.
Nordquist, J. 2003. AIDS in Third World Countries: A Bibliography. New York: Reference and Research Services
Smith, B. 2003. Understanding Third World Politics: Theories of Political Change and Development. Indiana: Indiana University Press.
World Book Inc. 2000. The World Book Encyclopedia volume 19. Michigan: World Book Inc.