Thursday, January 11, 2007
Will seamstresses in Guatemala or poor farmers in India pay $3 for a pair of reading glasses? It seems unlikely. Such people are among the three billion or so who earn only a dollar or two a day. And yet Scojo Vision, an American optical firm, is betting that they will pay that princely sum for its spectacles.
The notion that only subsidies or handouts can provide the world’s poorest with essential services such as health care is wrong, says Jordan Kassalow, Scojo’s co-founder and a health expert affiliated with the Council on Foreign Relations, a think-tank. Years of treating river blindness and other developing-world diseases as part of charity campaigns convinced him that such schemes often falter when the money or political will dries up. He believes the ?bottom of the pyramid? would be better served by campaigns that involve some payment, so that costs are covered and the schemes are financially self-sustaining.