Fun question

Is there a poor country that speaks English?

Not Indian style English, bit flowery. But something akin to either English or American but is also a poor place with low incomes?

Can’t really think of any myself. Anyone?

46 thoughts on “Fun question”

  1. Fair question – former English colonies have vastly better governance than just about anywhere else, and were founded and run as ‘high trust’ societies. Together this has allowed most of them to become prosperous. But doesn’t excluding India smack of the no true Scotsman fallacy?

  2. Yes, as a second language – Malawi, The Gambia, Sierra Leone, Zimbabwe, Uganda, (Liberia speaks American as a second language).
    As a first language – only “St Helena, Ascension and Tristan da Cunha” is listed as a low income “country”
    (Belize mostly speaks Creole)

  3. “former English colonies have vastly better governance than just about anywhere else”

    Kenya.
    Pakistan.
    North Cyprus.
    Iraq.
    Tanzania.
    Myanmar.
    Yemen.
    Canada.
    Somaila.
    Zimbabwe.

    Care to retract that statement or would you prefer a few more examples?

  4. Off topic but bizarre developments over in Spudland where Murphy reveals he is living with teenagers who are not his children.

    The mind boggles.

  5. @ BiG
    Iraq was never a British Colony, Somalia is mostly Somaliland, an Italian Colony, very little of Yemen was formerly the British colony of Aden; Canada is vastly better than the USA – I’ld rather go into the ring with Justin Trudeau than shake hands with Trump.
    As far as the rest are concerned, including Nigeria, Malawi, Sierra Leone and Uganda, the answer is that they were governed vastly better prior to independence and, in most cases other than Zimbabwe, for several years afterwards.

  6. @ Pcar
    Malta comes 32nd out of 198, ahead of South Korea
    @ Theophrastus
    Jamaica is 115th out of 198, so middle-income
    @ Diogenes
    The Bailiwick of Sark is well-governed having refused a bribe from the Barclay Brothers

  7. “Jamaica is 115th out of 198, so middle-income.”

    Then the term ‘middle income’ is all but meaningless. Jamaica is poorer per capita than economic power houses like Libya, Iraq, Egypt, Swaziland….Any country with per capita GDP in four figures is dirt poor, and Jamaica’s is about $9,300.

    And it’s a shithole.

  8. John,

    There was most definitely a lengthy period of British administration of Iraq. Britain even took time while fighting the nazis to re-establish dominion over Iraq.

    PS – and the US, which you disparage for its poor governance at the hands of Trump, is also a former British colony. Is this really the level of debating skill an MA (Oxon/Cantab) leaves you with? Tsk tsk.

  9. @ BiG
    Thirteen colonies rebelled 242 years ago – a small fraction of the current USA by area and the then population was a tiny fraction of the ancestors of the present inhabitants of the USA.
    Membership of the Oxford Union is not compulsory and attendance at debates – let alone speaking at them – is not compulsory for members.
    I read mathematics not rhetoric.
    Now let’s look at your claim – and point out that the bad governance is, at least in part, due to the rebellion and the takeover of power by power-hungry louts who used the “taxation” argument as an excuse to gain control (and most of the “Indians” and a large minority of the settlers opposed the rebellion which only succeeded thanks to help of a French army which outnumbered both the British and the American armies in the crucial battle). The British never gave fractional voting rights to slaves because we had abolished slavery centuries before we introduced mass suffrage (and a millennium bedfore we introduced universal suffrage).
    Iraq was never a colony. And it doesn’t have English as its first language. It may be a clever trick in rhetoric to change the question but not in mathematics.

  10. @ Theophrastus
    Jamaica has a GDP/head more 13 times the bottom country on the list: only Liechstenstein and Qatar have a GDP/head more than 13 times as much as Jamaica. That makes it middle-income even if it is a shit-hole.
    It was much higher up the list before it gained independence.

  11. I find myself having to side with BiG on this. The victors of the British Civil War, as British as the British they fought, were responsible for setting up the government & legal system that endures to today.
    I’ve never understood the reflexive sneer that the Brit intellectual classes reserve for the most economically successful nation on the planet. Although it’s no doubt prompted by jealousy.

  12. @John,

    I was, and made clear that I was, addressing the comment that:

    “former English colonies have vastly better governance than just about anywhere else”

    Not Tim’s original quesiton.

  13. I’d rather go into the ring with Justin Trudeau than shake hands with Trump.

    Of course you would. You’re a wog.

  14. And as usual John 77 displays a total inability to debate. He knows. He never learns. Isn’t it said that maths students stop learning at 19? No use to me.

  15. As for “Iraq was never a colony”…. Tim was asking about countries. Are you taking too much Night Nurse, John77 ?

  16. Philippines? Not a native language but very widely used indeed in media and education as well as officialdom. There is even quite an industry of students travelling there from other Asian countries specifically to learn English (not sure that’s a great idea, but still). GDP per capita is about $3000, world rank ~160th.

    In a similar region are the likes of Samoa and Tonga? (Fiji is quite a lot richer.)

  17. John77, I’d rather shake hands with Donald Trump than have anything to do with Justin Trudeau’s ring.

  18. Lots of Tongans, Samoans and and Fijians have very poor to no English. At least the ones still on the islands.

    Tonga was an English colony for a long time. It’s internal governance is terrible, with a completely corrupt monarchy in charge. Only outside support and pressure keep it afloat.

    But the uniforms are British, so it must be well-governed!

  19. Is there a low income country where the poor typically speak fluent English? Not quite what Timmy asked but possibly the more interesting question if you don’t want to get bogged down by what counts as a country that speaks English.

  20. @john77 and Diogenes
    on the topic of Sark, it’s the only jurisdiction I know of that’s in the black and, having 20 plus MPs representing 450 residents, not only well governed but well represented….

  21. @ Diogenes
    No I tried Night Nurse a couple of times yonks ago but gave it up when I realised an old-fashioned whisky toddy did a better job.
    re: Iraq I was repying to BiG who was replying to a diversion from the original question.

  22. Bloke in Costa Rica

    john 77: the geometric mean is an odd way to measure income disparity between countries. If country A’s GDP per capita is x, country B’s is 8x and country C’s is 46x, we wouldn’t call B a middle income country because it’s around the geometric mean of 7.17. We’d say A and B were poor and C was rich because the arithmetic mean is 18.3.

  23. @BiCR

    Though economists often prefer to look at log GDP so the geometric mean if the raw numbers is not so odd from that point of view.

    Also, the gap between standard of living on $5k and $10k is very different to the gap between $60k and $65k. But perhaps not so different from the gap between 60 and 120?

  24. @ BiCR
    MBE has given a useful answer but the long one will involve the price of haircuts in Tokyo. It’s not just the income but what you can buy with and PPP does not fully reflect this. Wages in services lag but are influenced by those in manufacturing and the lag decreases as unemployment/underemployment decreases. The staggering standard of living enjoyed by ex-patriate workers whose employers have given them a salary deemed equivalent plus a small addition to compensate for their families being placed overseas demonstrates this. When I had some overseas assignments in my late 40s/50s I followed my first colleague’s example by dining in the best restaurant in whichever town on my last evening of each visit (on the grounds that we had earned it after working up to 17 hours a day, including Saturday for me and Sunday for him) which we could easily afford from our daily allowance which was so modest that HMRC never queried it.
    One reason why some countries are poor is underemployment so (i) wages in the non-export, non-tourism sectors are low and (ii) anyone with a wage can buy services at far below official prices. As prosperity increases underemployment decreases and the gap between official and real prices for services declines so PPP gradually gets closer to relating to what a native can buy with his $.

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