A growth sceptic classic

In: Uncategorized

11 Dec 2008

Yesterday I went to the launch of the International Growth Centre at the London School of Economics (LSE). The international network of scholars is a joint venture between LSE and Oxford University with funding of £42m from Britain’s Department for International Development (DFID).

Superficially the tone was incredibly pro-growth. This was reflected in a DFID booklet (PDF) handed out at the event called Growth: Building Jobs and Prosperity in Developing Countries. It opens with the sentence: “Economic growth is the most powerful instrument for reducing poverty and improving the quality of life in developing countries”. Much of the rest of the text is in a similar vein.

However, numerous caveats to the initially upbeat assessment of growth are subtly introduced including:

* An emphasis on “poverty reduction” rather than all-rounded development.

* An emphasis on the importance of climate change.

* References to “environmental sustainability” and “low carbon” growth.

The whole approach is also technocratic. It emphasises “growth diagnostics” – experts identifying the barriers to growth – rather than mass participation in development. Although it discusses “ownership” of projects by third world nations this conception only seems to take in a narrow elite of government officials, business leaders and non-governmental organisations (“civil society”).

I also notice that Paul Collier, one of the directors of the centre and a speaker at yesterday’s event, has a forthcoming book, Wars, Guns and Votes (Bodley Head), out on development. It evidently extends his call for United Nations intervention in troubled areas (see 14 May 2007 post) – an initiative that can only make matters worse for the world’s poorest countries.