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Publication(World Bank, 2010) Kanbur, Ravi ; Spence, MichaelThe commission on growth and development was established in April 2006 in response to two insights: people do not talk about growth enough, and when they do, they speak with unearned conviction. The workshops turned out to be intense, lively affairs, lasting up to three days. It became clear that experts do not always agree, even on issues that are central to growth. But the Commission had no wish to disguise or gloss over these uncertainties and differences. And it did not want to present a false confidence in its conclusions beyond that justified by the evidence. While researchers will continue to improve people's understanding of the world, policy makers cannot wait for scholars to satisfy all of their doubts or resolve their differences. Decisions must be made with only partial knowledge of the world. One consequence is that most policy decisions, however well informed, take on the character of experiments, which yield useful information about the way the world works, even if they do not always turn out the way policy makers had hoped. It is good to recognize this fact, if only so that policy makers can be quick to spot failures and learn from mistakes. In principle, a commission on growth could have confined its attention to income per person, setting aside the question of how income is distributed. But this commission chose otherwise. It recognized that growth is not synonymous with development. To contribute significantly to social progress, growth must lift everyone's sights and improve the living standards of a broad swath of society. The Commission has no truck with the view that growth only enriches the few, leaving poverty undisturbed and social ills untouched.
Publication(World Bank, Washington, DC, 2010) Kanbur, RaviA central question for policy makers concerned with helping the poor through a macro crisis is how to target scarcer resources at a time of greater need. Technical arguments suggest that finer targeting through tightening individual programs or reallocation resources towards more tightly targeted programs uses resources more efficiently for poverty reduction. These arguments survive even when the greater informational costs and the incentive effects of finer targeting are taken into account. But political economy arguments suggest that finer targeting will end up with fewer resources allocated to that program, and that looser targeting, because it knits together the interests of the poor and the near poor, may generate greater resources and hence be more effective for poverty reduction despite being 'leakier.' Overall the policy advice to tighten targeting and to avoid more loosely targeted programs during crises needs to be given with consideration caution. However, the advice to design transfer systems with greater flexibility, in the technical and the political economy senses, is strengthened by the arguments presented here. The case for external assistance to design flexible transfer systems ex ante and to relieve the painful tradeoffs in targeting during a crisis is also shown to be strong.
Publication(World Bank, Washington, DC, 2008) Kanbur, RaviIn the last two decades, across a range of countries high growth rates have reduced poverty but have been accompanied by rising inequality. This paper is motivated by this stylized fact, and by the strong distributional concerns that persist among populations and policy makers alike, despite the poverty reduction observed in official statistics where growth has been sufficiently high. This seeming disconnects frames the questions posed in this paper. Why the disconnect, and what to do about it? It is argued that official poverty statistics may be missing key elements of the ground level reality of distributional evolution, of which rising inequality may be an indirect indicator. Heterogeneity of population means that there may be significant numbers of poor losers from technical change, economic reform and global integration, even when overall measured poverty falls. In terms of actions, attention is drawn to the role of safety nets as generalized compensation mechanisms, to address the ethical and political economy dimensions of such a pattern of distributional evolution. Addressing structural inequalities is also a long term answer with payoffs in terms of equitable growth. In terms of future analysis, diminishing returns have set in to the inequality-growth cross-country regressions literature. Further work to help policy makers should focus on: (i) new information to illuminate the disconnect; (ii) analysis and assessment of safety nets as generalized compensation mechanisms; and (iii) addressing specific forms of structural inequality related to assets, gender, and social groupings like caste or ethnicity.