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Jeffrey Sachs

Jeffrey Sachs
Born (1954-11-05) November 5, 1954 (age 65)
Detroit, Michigan
Nationality United States
Institution Columbia University
Field Political economics, International Development
School or tradition
Keynesian economics[1]
Alma mater Harvard University
Influences Paul Samuelson, John Maynard Keynes[1][2]
Influenced Nouriel Roubini
Contributions Millennium Villages Project

Jeffrey David Sachs (/ˈsæks/; born November 5, 1954) is an American economist and director of the Earth Institute at Columbia University. Sachs was an adviser to Russia and many Eastern European governments during their transitions from communism to market-based societies in 1990s. During this period, Sachs became perhaps the best known proponent for rapid transition policies for which he coined the term, "shock therapy." Shock therapy policies include the sudden termination of price and currency controls, withdrawal of state subsidies, trade liberalization, and large-scale privatization. As the 1990s wore on, shock therapy became very controversial, with proponents arguing that it helped to stabilise economies and improve economic growth, while critics (like economist Joseph Stiglitz) claimed that shock therapy had deepened crises and created unnecessary social suffering.[3] Sachs has remained controversial[4] as a proponent of economic austerity in the U.S. and Europe during their recessions since the 2008 financial crisis.[5] Sachs has also advocated for policies of environmental sustainability and debt cancellation for very poor countries.

Sachs is the Quetelet Professor of Sustainable Development at Columbia's School of International and Public Affairs and a professor of health policy and management at Columbia's School of Public Health. He is special adviser to United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon on the Millennium Development Goals, having held the same position under former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan. He is co-founder and chief strategist of Millennium Promise Alliance, a nonprofit organization dedicated to ending extreme poverty and hunger. From 2002 to 2006, he was director of the United Nations Millennium Project's work on the Millennium Development Goals, eight internationally sanctioned objectives to reduce extreme poverty, hunger, and disease by the year 2015. He is director of the UN Sustainable Development Solutions Network. Since 2010 he also served as a commissioner for the Broadband Commission for Digital Development, which leverages broadband technologies as a key enabler for social and economic development.[6] Since 1995, he is also a member of the International Advisory Council of the Center for Social and Economic Research (CASE).

Sachs has authored three New York Times bestsellers: The End of Poverty (2005), Common Wealth (2008), and The Price of Civilization (2011). His most recent book is The Age of Sustainable Development (2015). He has been named one of Time Magazine's "100 Most Influential People in the World" twice, in 2004 and 2005.


Academic career

Sachs was raised in Oak Park, a suburb of Detroit, Michigan, the son of Joan (née Abrams) and Theodore Sachs, a labor lawyer.[7] He graduated from Oak Park High School and attended Harvard College, where he received his BA summa cum laude in 1976. He went on to receive his MA and Ph.D. in economics from Harvard with thesis titled Factor Costs and Macroeconomic Adjustment in the Open Economy: Theory and Evidence,[8] and was invited to join the Harvard Society of Fellows while still a Harvard graduate student. In 1980 he joined the Harvard faculty as an assistant professor and was promoted to associate professor in 1982. A year later, at the age of 28, Sachs became a full professor of economics with tenure at Harvard.

During the next 19 years at Harvard, he became the Galen L. Stone Professor of International Trade, director of the Harvard Institute for International Development at the Kennedy School of Government (1995–99), and director of the Center for International Development (1999–2002).

In 2002 Sachs became director of the Earth Institute of Columbia University. His classes are taught at the School of International and Public Affairs and the Mailman School of Public Health, and his course "Challenges of Sustainable Development" is taught at the undergraduate level.

In his capacity as director of the Earth Institute, he leads a university-wide organization of more than 850 professionals from natural science and social science disciplines, in support of sustainable development. Sachs has consistently advocated for the expansion of university education on sustainable development, and helped to introduce the Ph.D. in sustainable development at Columbia University, one of the first Ph.D. programs of its kind in the U.S. He championed the new Masters of Development Practice (MDP), which has led to a consortium of major universities around the world offering the new degree. The Earth Institute has also guided the adoption of sustainable development as a new major at Columbia College. The Earth Institute is home to cutting-edge research on all aspects of earth systems and sustainable development.

Sachs's policy and academic works span the challenges of globalization, and include the relationship of trade and economic growth, the resource curse and extractive industries, public health and economic development, economic geography, strategies of economic reform, international financial markets, macroeconomic policy, global competitiveness, climate change, and the end of poverty. He has authored or co-authored hundreds of scholarly articles and several books, including three bestsellers and a textbook on macroeconomics that is widely used around the world.

In 2011 Sachs called for the creation of a third U.S. political party, the Alliance for the Radical Center.[9]

Advising in Latin America and postcommunist economies

Sachs is known for his work as an economic adviser to governments in Latin America, Eastern Europe, and the former Soviet Union. A trained macroeconomist, he advised a number of national governments in the transition from communism to market economies.

In 1985 Bolivia was undergoing hyperinflation and was unable to pay back its debt to the International Monetary Fund (IMF). Sachs, an economic adviser to the Bolivian government at the time, drew up an extensive plan, later known as shock therapy, to cut inflation drastically by liberalizing the Bolivian market, ending government subsidies, eliminating import quotas, and linking the Bolivian economy to the U.S. dollar. After Sachs's plan was implemented, inflation fell from 11,750 percent to 15 percent per year from 1985 to 1987.[10]

In 1989 Sachs advised Poland's anticommunist Solidarity movement and the government of Prime Minister Tadeusz Mazowiecki. He wrote the first-ever comprehensive plan for the transition from central planning to a market economy, which became incorporated into Poland's reform program led by Finance Minister Leszek Balcerowicz. Sachs was the main architect of Poland's successful debt reduction operation. Sachs and IMF economist David Lipton advised the rapid conversion of all property and assets from public to private ownership. Closure of many uncompetitive factories ensued.[11] In Poland, Sachs was firmly on the side of rapid transition to "normal" capitalism. At first he proposed U.S.-style corporate structures, with professional managers answering to many shareholders and a large economic role for stock markets. That did not fly with the Polish authorities, but he then proposed that large blocks of the shares of privatized companies be placed in the hands of private banks.[12] As a result, there were some economic shortages and inflation, but prices in Poland eventually stabilized.[13] The government of Poland awarded Sachs with one of its highest honors in 1999, the Commander's Cross of the Order of Merit. He also received an honorary doctorate from the Cracow University of Economics.

Sachs's ideas and methods of transition from central planning were adopted throughout the transition economies. He advised Slovenia (1991) and Estonia (1992) in the introduction of new stable and convertible currencies. Based on Poland's success, he was invited first by Soviet president Mikhail Gorbachev and then by Russian president Boris Yeltsin on the transition to a market economy. He served as adviser to Prime Minister Yegor Gaidar and Finance Minister Boris Federov during 1991–93 on macroeconomic policies. He received the Leontief Medal of the Leontief Centre, St. Petersburg, for his contributions to Russia's economic reforms.

Work on global sustainable economic development

More recently, Sachs has turned to global issues of economic development, poverty alleviation, health and aid policy, and environmental sustainability. He has written extensively on climate change, disease control, and globalization, and is one of the world's leading experts on sustainable development[14] and the fight against poverty.

Since 1995, Sachs has been deeply engaged in efforts to alleviate poverty in Africa. He has worked in more than two dozen African countries and has advised the African leadership at several African Union summits. In the mid-1990s he worked with senior officials of the Clinton administration to develop the concept of the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA). He has engaged with dozens of African leaders to promote smallholder agriculture and to fight high disease burdens through strengthened primary health systems. His pioneering ideas on investing in health to break the poverty trap have been widely applied throughout the continent. He currently serves as an adviser to several African governments, including Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Malawi, Mali, Nigeria, Rwanda, Senegal, Tanzania, and Uganda.

In his 2005 work, The End of Poverty, Sachs wrote, "Africa's governance is poor because Africa is poor." According to Sachs, with the right policies and key interventions, extreme poverty—defined as living on less than $1 a day—can be eradicated within 20 years. India and China serve as examples, with the latter lifting 300 million people out of extreme poverty during the last two decades. Sachs has said that a key element to accomplishing this is raising aid from $65 billion in 2002 to $195 billion a year by 2015. He emphasizes the role of geography and climate, as much of Africa is landlocked and disease-prone. However, he stresses that these problems can be overcome.[15]

Sachs suggests that with improved seeds, irrigation, and fertilizer, the crop yields in Africa and other places with subsistence farming can be increased from 1 ton per hectare to 3 to 5 tons per hectare. He reasons that increased harvests would significantly increase the income of subsistence farmers, thereby reducing poverty. Sachs does not believe that increased aid is the only solution. He also supports establishing credit and microloan programs, which are often lacking in impoverished areas.[16] Sachs has also advocated the distribution of free insecticide-treated bed nets to combat malaria. The economic impact of malaria has been estimated to cost Africa $12 billion per year. Sachs estimates that malaria can be controlled for $3 billion per year, thus suggesting that antimalaria projects would be an economically justified investment.[17]

From 2002 to 2006, Sachs was the director of the UN Millennium Project and special adviser to then secretary-general Kofi Annan on the Millennium Development Goals. Sachs founded the Millennium Villages Project, a plan dedicated to ending extreme poverty in various parts of sub-Saharan Africa through targeted agricultural, medical, and educational interventions. Along with philanthropist Ray Chambers, Sachs founded Millennium Promise, a nonprofit organization, to help the Earth Institute fund and operate the Millennium Villages Project.

The Millennium Villages Project, which he directs, operates in more than a dozen African countries and covers more than 500,000 people. The MVP has achieved notable successes in raising agricultural production, reducing children's stunting, and cutting child mortality rates, with the results described in several peer-reviewed publications. Its key concepts of integrated rural development to achieve the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) are now being applied at national scale in Nigeria and Mali and are being used by many other countries to help support national antipoverty programs. He works closely with the Islamic Development Bank to scale up programs of integrated rural development and sustainable agriculture among the bank's member countries. One such project supports pastoralist communities in Eastern Africa, with six participating nations: Djibouti, Ethiopia, Somalia, Kenya, Uganda, and South Sudan.

Since the adoption of the (MDGs) in 2000, Sachs has been the leading academic scholar and practitioner on the MDGs. He chaired the WHO Commission on Macroeconomics and Health (2000–01), which played a pivotal role in scaling up the financing of health care and disease control in the low-income countries to support MDGs 4, 5, and 6. He worked with UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan in 2000–01 to design and launch The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria. He worked closely with senior officials of the George W. Bush administration to develop the PEPFAR program to fight HIV/AIDS, and the PMI to fight malaria. On behalf of Annan, from 2002 to 2006 he chaired the UN Millennium Project, which was tasked with developing a concrete action plan to achieve the MDGs. The UN General Assembly adopted the key recommendations of the UN Millennium Project at a special session in September 2005. The recommendations for rural Africa are currently being implemented and documented in the Millennium Villages, and in several national scale-up efforts such as in Nigeria.

Now a special adviser to current secretary-general Ban Ki-moon, Sachs is still a leading advocate for the Millennium Development Goals, frequently meeting with foreign dignitaries and heads of state. He has also become a close friend of international celebrities Bono and Angelina Jolie, both of whom have traveled to Africa with Sachs to witness the progress of the Millennium Villages.[18]

In August 2012, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon announced the launch of the UN Sustainable Development Solutions Network, which will mobilize scientific and technical expertise from academia, civil society, and the private sector in support of sustainable-development problem solving at local, national, and global scales. The network convenes 12 global expert thematic groups on key sustainable development challenges that will identify common solutions and highlight best practices, and over time will launch projects to pilot or roll out solutions to sustainable development challenges and assist countries in developing sustainable long-term development pathways.

Sachs has been a consistent critic of the International Monetary Fund and its policies around the world. He has blasted the international bankers for what he sees as a pattern of ineffective investment strategies.[19]


Sachs's economic philosophies have been the subject of both praise and criticism.

One of Sachs's strongest critics is William Easterly, a professor of economics at New York University. Easterly reproached The End of Poverty in his review for The Washington Post, and Easterly's 2006 book White Man's Burden is a response to Sachs's argument that poor countries are stuck in a "poverty trap" from which there is no escape except by massively scaled-up foreign aid. Sachs himself has emphasized the need for a multifaceted approach to economic development, of which increased and responsible foreign aid is nearly always a necessary part.[20] Easterly presents statistical evidence that he claims proves that many emerging markets attained their higher status without the large amounts of foreign aid Sachs proposes.[21]

Nina Munk author of the 2013 book The Idealist: Jeffrey Sachs and the Quest to End Poverty says that poverty eradication projects endorsed by Sachs, although well intended have, years later "left people even worse off than before".[22] Author Paul Theroux, commenting on Sachs's $120 million effort to aid Africa, says these temporary measures failed to create sustaining improvements but only "created dependence".[23]

While dubbed an economic success, the transition orchestrated by Sachs and an associate in Poland has been met with criticism and undesirable results.[11]

Awards, praise and affiliations

Sachs has received many awards and honors. In 2004 and 2005, he was named one of the 100 Most Influential People in the World by Time Magazine. He was also named one of the "500 Most Influential People in the Field of Foreign Policy" by the World Affairs Councils of America.[24]

In February 2002, Nature Magazine stated that Sachs "has revitalized public health thinking since he brought his financial mind to it." In 1993 he was cited in the New York Times Magazine as "probably the most important economist in the world". In 1994 Time Magazine called him "the world's best-known economist". In 1997 the French magazine Le Nouvel Observateur cited Sachs as one of the world's 50 most important leaders on globalization.[25]

In 2005 he received the Sargent Shriver Award for Equal Justice. In 2007 Sachs was awarded the Padma Bhushan, a high civilian honor bestowed by the government of India. Also in 2007, he received the Cardozo Journal of Conflict Resolution International Advocate for Peace Award as well as the Centennial Medal from the Harvard Graduate School of Arts and Sciences for his contributions to society.[25]

In 2007 Sachs received the S. Roger Horchow Award for Greatest Public Service by a Private Citizen, an award given out annually by Jefferson Awards.[26]

From 2000 to 2001, Sachs was chairman of the Commission on Macroeconomics and Health[27] of the World Health Organization, and from 1999 to 2000 he served as a member of the International Financial Institution Advisory Commission established by the U.S. Congress. Sachs has been an adviser to the World Bank, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, the World Health Organization, the International Monetary Fund, and the United Nations Development Program. He is a member of the Institute of Medicine, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, Harvard Society of Fellows, the Fellows of the World Econometric Society, the Brookings Panel of Economists, the National Bureau of Economic Research, and the Board of Advisers of the Chinese Economists Society, among other international organizations.[25]

Sachs has received honorary degrees from Connecticut College, Lehigh University, Pace University, the State University of New York, Cracow University of Economics, Ursinus College, Whitman College, the Mount Sinai School of Medicine, Ohio Wesleyan University, the College of the Atlantic, Southern Methodist University, Simon Fraser University, McGill University, Southern New Hampshire University, St. John's University, Iona College, University of St. Gallen in Switzerland, the Lingnan College of Hong Kong, the University of Economics Varna in Bulgaria,[25] Bryant University,[28] and the University of Michigan.

Sachs is first holder of the Royal Professor Ungku Aziz Chair in Poverty Studies at the Centre for Poverty and Development Studies at the University of Malaya in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia for 2007–09. In addition, he holds an honorary professorship at the Universidad del Pacifico in Peru. He has lectured at the London School of Economics, the University of Oxford, and Yale University, as well as in Tel Aviv and Jakarta.[25]

In early 2007, the Sachs for President Draft Committee was formed to encourage Sachs to run for president of the United States in the 2008 election.[29]

In September 2008 Vanity Fair magazine ranked Sachs 98th on its list of 100 members of the New Establishment.

In July 2009 Sachs became a member of the SNV Netherlands Development Organisation's International Advisory Board.[30]

In 2009 Princeton University's American Whig-Cliosophic Society awarded Sachs the James Madison Award for Distinguished Public Service.[31]


Sachs is the author of hundreds of academic articles and many books, including three New York Times bestsellers: The End of Poverty: Economic Possibilities for Our Time (Penguin, 2005), Common Wealth: Economics for a Crowded Planet (Penguin, 2008), and The Price of Civilization: Reawakening American Virtue and Prosperity (Random House, 2011).

He writes a monthly foreign affairs column for Project Syndicate, a nonprofit association of newspapers around the world that is circulated in 145 countries.[32] He is also a frequent contributor to such major publications as the Financial Times,[33][34] Scientific American, Time Magazine, and The Huffington Post.

Selected works


Sachs lives in New York City with his wife Sonia Ehrlich Sachs, a pediatrician. They have three children: Lisa, Adam, and Hannah Sachs.

See also


  1. ^ a b June 7, 2010 (2010-06-07). "Janet Shan, "Keynesian Economist, Jeffrey Sachs Says President Obama’s Stimulus has Failed", June 7, 2010". Retrieved 2014-02-19. 
  2. ^ Simon Zadek, "Sustainable finance is the way out of crisis", 29 August 2011 at
  3. ^ "Globalization and Its Discontents". 2015-05-04T22:54:00Z.  Check date values in: |date= (help)
  4. ^ Krugman, Paul. "New York Times". Professors, Politicians, and Moments of Truth. 
  5. ^ "Paul Krugman has got it wrong on austerity". the Guardian. Retrieved 2015-06-01. 
  6. ^ Archived May 14, 2010 at the Wayback Machine
  7. ^ "Theodore Sachs Labor Lawyer, 72 – New York Times". 2001-03-13. Retrieved 2014-02-19. 
  8. ^ "Factor Costs and Macroeconomic Adjustment in the Open Economy: Theory and Evidence". Harvard University Library. 
  9. ^ Sachs, Jeffrey R. (2011). The Price of Civilization: Reawakening American Virtue and Prosperity. Random House, pp. 247–48. ISBN 978-0-8129-8046-2.
  10. ^ International Monetary Fund (April 2011). "Inflation, average consumer prices (%)" (FLASH). International Monetary Fund, April 2011 World Economic Outlook. Google. Retrieved 14 August 2011. 
  11. ^ a b Hardy, Jane (2009). Poland's New Capitalism. London: Pluto Press. 
  12. ^ Doug Henwood. "Left Business Observer #111, August 2005". Retrieved 2014-02-19. 
  13. ^ Jeffrey Sachs and David Lipton (1990-06-01). "Lipton, David and Sachs, Jeffrey. Foreign Affairs, 1990". Retrieved 2014-02-19. 
  14. ^ "The Earth Institute, Columbia University, 2008". Retrieved 2014-02-19. 
  15. ^ "United Nations Millennium Project, 2006". 2007-01-01. Retrieved 2014-02-19. 
  16. ^ Booth, Mindy. UN Capital Development Fund, 2005 at the Wayback Machine (archived June 8, 2007)
  17. ^ "Medical News Today, 2007". 2007-06-24. Retrieved 2014-02-19. 
  18. ^ "Purcell, Myrlia. Look to the Stars: The World of Celebrity Giving, 2006". Retrieved 2014-02-19. 
  19. ^ "Sachs, Jeffrey. The Financial Times, 1997". Retrieved 2014-02-19. 
  20. ^ Sachs, Jeffrey (2005). The End of Poverty
  21. ^ "A Modest Proposal". 2005-03-13. Retrieved 2014-02-19. 
  22. ^ "Anna Maria Tremonti, "The Quest to End Poverty: Nina Munk", CBC Radio, 2013-09-10". 2013-09-10. Retrieved 2014-02-19. 
  23. ^ Paul Theroux (Nov 30, 2013). "Africa's Aid Mess". Barron's. 
  24. ^ "British Broadcasting Company, 2007". 2007-04-11. Retrieved 2014-02-19. 
  25. ^ a b c d e The Earth Institute at Columbia University, 2008 at the Wayback Machine (archived February 5, 2009)
  26. ^ "National Winners | public service awards". Jefferson Retrieved 2014-02-19. 
  27. ^ "WHO | Commission on Macroeconomics and Health (CMH)". Retrieved 2014-02-19. 
  28. ^ Economist Jeffrey Sachs receives honorary degree, calls Bryant’s blend of business and liberal arts ‘truly pathbreaking’, Bryant University News and Media Relations, May 19, 2012
  29. ^ "TruthDig, 2006". Retrieved 2014-02-19. 
  30. ^ Archived July 28, 2011 at the Wayback Machine
  31. ^ Archived May 9, 2009 at the Wayback Machine
  32. ^ Project Syndicate, 2014
  33. ^ i.e. April 29, 2013: Austerity exposes the global threat from tax havens
  34. ^ "List of articles". 2013-12-02. Retrieved 2014-02-19. 

External links

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