Paradigm Lost

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By Helmut Reisen, Scientific Advisor to the Perspectives on Global Development 2019


This blog is part of an ongoing series evaluating various facets
of Development in Transition. The
2019 “Perspectives on Global Development” on “Rethinking Development Strategies” will add to this discussion


lost-paradigmEconomics has adopted an introspective mindset since the global financial crisis erupted ten years ago. The ´markets-work-wonders´ formula of the 1980s embraced such characteristics as state withdrawal from public services, curtailment of social benefits, deregulated and borderless finance, privatised pensions, and weakened workers’ bargaining rights. At times imprecisely dubbed ´neoliberalism´1 it had a bland aftertaste. Growth in advanced countries was slow, crisis prone and unjust, failing the bottom third. Today, absolute poverty by global standards hits more than 12 million people in the European Union and the United States alone.2

The free market paradigm had been oversold as the only way to achieve prosperity, resulting in liberal delusion. The ´End of History´3 — Western civilisation as the natural order of the modern world — didn´t materialise. Instead, we witness state-led prosperity in Asia, but backlash against globalisation and rising populism in market democracies4. Middle-income class concerns in advanced countries have identified bottlenecks, particularly with respect to research and development, upgrading, and skills development. Industrial and place-based regional policies are back on the table.

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Normatively weak institutions can be functionally strong: A surprising lesson from China

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By Yuen Yuen Ang, Associate Professor of Political Science at the University of Michigan and the author of “How China Escaped the Poverty Trap


This blog is part of an ongoing series evaluating various facets
of
Development in Transition. The 2019 “Perspectives on Global Development” on “Rethinking Development Strategies” will add to this discussion


 

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Guangzhou, China. Photo : shutterstock.com

For the past decades, policymakers and development practitioners have clung to the idea that “good governance” is the solution to poverty. If only poor countries could eradicate corruption, enforce laws, hold leaders accountable and achieve a checklist of best practices, their economic and social problems would be resolved.

This thinking, however, runs into a chicken-and-egg problem: in the first place, it’s hard for poor countries to quickly and meaningfully establish good governance. Indeed, if it were easy to achieve good governance, poor countries would have done it long ago.

But if insisting on one-size-fits all good governance is not the solution, then what is the alternative? My research on China’s development reveals a surprising lesson: normatively weak institutions can be functionally strong. Seen through first-world lenses, the norms and structures found in low-income, pre-industrialised countries are often regarded as “weak” or “backward,” that is, as impediments to development. In fact, these institutions can be creatively adapted or repurposed to kick-start development.
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Development in transition

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By Alicia Barcena, Stefano Manservisi and Mario Pezzini


This blog is part of an ongoing series evaluating various facets
of
Development in Transition. The 2019 “Perspectives on Global Development” on “Rethinking Development Strategies” will add to this discussion


 

3Understanding and supporting the development trajectories of countries have long been the driving force behind all of our careers. If we, as a global community, are serious now about ensuring prosperity for all through the universal and comprehensive 2030 Agenda and its Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), then we must close all remaining gaps. And this means changing the way we think about development policy.

We can all agree we should continue to focus primarily on those left the furthest behind. However pockets of fragility also remain in those economies that have succeeded in climbing the economic ladder. While income inequality between countries may have reduced, inequality within countries has in fact risen. More than 75% of people in developing countries are living in societies where inequalities are higher today than they were 25 years ago. In Namibia, for example, which is considered an upper middle-income country, just over a quarter of its poorest inhabitants are covered by social protections, whereas Malawi, considered a low-income country, covers over 40%.

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