The twenty-first century began on an inspiring note when the countries that belong to the United Nations adopted the goal of cutting the number of people living in poverty in half by 2015. And as of 2005, the world is ahead of schedule for reaching this goal. There are two big reasons for this: China and India. China's economic growth of 9 percent a year over the last quarter-century and India's acceleration to close to 6 percent a year over the last decade are together lifting hundreds of millions out of poverty.
In China, the number of people living in poverty dropped from 648 million in 1981 to 218 million in 2001, the greatest reduction in poverty in history. India is also making impressive progress on the economic front. Under the dynamic leadership of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, who took office in 2004, poverty is being attacked directly by upgrading infrastructure at the village level. Targeted investments are aimed at the poorest of the poor. If the international community actively reinforces this effort in reform-minded India, hundreds of millions more could be lifted out of poverty.