px2280c.jpg
English

The Economics of Disaster

Exactly two years ago, on January 12, 2010, Haiti was struck by a devastating earthquake that killed more than 220,000 people and shattered the country’s prospects. The lesson of that catastrophe was clear: natural hazards are inevitable, but at every level we have the power to ensure that they do not become unnatural disasters.

WASHINGTON, DC – Despite all of the gloomy economic news nowadays, if we thought that things couldn’t get much worse, we had a grim reminder this month that that no country is immune to the forces of nature and the havoc they wreak. Two years ago, on January 12, 2010, Haiti was struck by a devastating earthquake that killed more than 220,000 people and shattered the country’s prospects.

As strange as it may sound, traditional Chinese medicine has much to teach us about dealing with disasters – in particular, to pay more attention to prevention than to therapy. In the same way, it is best to focus on reducing natural-disaster risks through prevention.

According to a recent report released by the World Bank and the United Nations, Natural Hazards, UnNatural Disasters: The Economics of Effective Prevention, an ounce of prevention in planning for disasters is worth a pound of cure. So prevention pays, if done right. And that means getting incentives right.

We hope you're enjoying Project Syndicate.

To continue reading, subscribe now.

Subscribe

Get unlimited access to PS premium content, including in-depth commentaries, book reviews, exclusive interviews, On Point, the Big Picture, the PS Archive, and our annual year-ahead magazine.

http://prosyn.org/53OnYnq;
  1. solana105_JUANMABROMATAAFPGettyImages Juan Mabromata/AFP/Getty Images

    The Lost Spirit of the G20

    Javier Solana

    As Japan prepares to host its first G20 leaders’ summit later this month, little remains of the open and cooperative spirit that marked the first such gathering in 2008. But although the United States will most likely continue its protectionist drift, other G20 countries should use the occasion to make a clear case for free trade.

  2. velasco94_YoustGettyImages_headswithbooksstaring Youst/Getty Images

    The Experts We Need

    Andrés Velasco

    Policy gurus spend too much time with others like them – top civil servants, high-flying journalists, successful businesspeople – and too little time with ordinary voters. If they could become “humble, competent people on a level with dentists,” as John Maynard Keynes once suggested, voters might identify with them and find them trustworthy.

  3. benami152_KiyoshiOtaPoolGettyImages_trumpmelaniaeatinginJapan Kiyoshi Ota - Pool/Getty Images

    Don’t Feed the Donald

    Shlomo Ben-Ami

    For Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, appeasing US President Donald Trump is not so much a choice as a necessity: he must prove to Japan’s people and their neighbors, particularly the Chinese, that he knows how to keep Trump on his side. But Abe's strategy won't work with a US administration as fickle and self-serving as Trump’s.

Cookies and Privacy

We use cookies to improve your experience on our website. To find out more, read our updated cookie policy and privacy policy.