December 4th, 2012

A Project in Every Port

IT IS HARD to imagine a more accomplished—and more varied—career than that of Jeff Sachs. Harvard University granted him tenure in 1982 when he was only 28. In his early thirties, he helped Bolivia end its hyperinflation and restructure its debt. Only a few years later, he was drafting the Polish government’s blueprint for transition from communism to capitalism. Stints as advisor to the governments of Russia, Estonia, Burkina Faso, and India—among many others—followed. Sachs campaigned for debt relief for poor countries and, as an advisor to UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, developed a plan to achieve the Millennium Development Goals. Since 2002, as director of the Earth Institute at Columbia University, Sachs has set his sights even higher. The Institute, an interdisciplinary group of 850 people, addresses some of the world’s most difficult problems, from eradication of disease to global warming.

All this has given Sachs a superstar status few economists enjoy. In 2005, MTV aired a documentary of Sachs traveling in Africa with the actress Angelina Jolie. Earlier, he had toured with Bono, the lead singer of the band U2, as part of a campaign for debt relief. One of Sachs’s Harvard colleagues at the time, noted economist Robert Barro, recalls that Sachs once invited him to lunch with Bono to discuss the campaign. Barro says his “instinct was to decline,” but he was overruled by his teenage daughter, who said: “Dad, this is the coolest thing imaginable . . . Of course you have to go.”

Read full article at IMF Finance and Development


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