Commission on Growth and Development

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The Growth Commission’s reports identify the ingredients that, if used in the right country-specific recipe, can deliver growth and help lift populations out of poverty. The Commission, consisting of 19 experienced leaders and 2 Nobel prize-winning economists, has released several commission reports, thematic volumes, and background working papers. The spring 2010 volume is the final book from the Commission. The Commission is succeeded by The Growth Dialogue.

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  • Publication
    Explaining China's Development and Reforms
    (World Bank, Washington, DC, 2009) Hofman, Bert; Wu, Jinglian
    China's remarkable economic performance over the last 30 years resulted from reforms that met the specific conditions of China at any point in time. Starting with a heavily distorted and extremely poor economy, China gradually reformed by improving incentives in agriculture, phasing out the planned economy and allowing non-state enterprise entry, opening up to the outside world, reforming state enterprises and the financial sector, and ultimately by starting to establish the modern tools of macroeconomic management. The way China went about its reforms was marked by gradualism, experimentation, and decentralization, which allowed the most appropriate institutions to emerge that delivered high growth that by and large benefited all. Strong incentives for local governments to deliver growth, competition among jurisdictions, and strong control of corruption limited rent seeking in the semi reformed system, whereas investment in human capital and the organizations that were to design reforms continued to provide impetus for the reform process. Learning from other countries' experience was important, but more important was China's adaptation of that experience to its own particular circumstances and needs.
  • Publication
    Public Finance and Economic Development: Reflections Based on the Experience in China
    (World Bank, Washington, DC, 2009) Gordon, Roger H.
    Low tax revenue and slow economic growth are two central concerns in developing countries. However, policies that raise tax revenue also harm economic growth. With tax revenue coming mainly from large capital-intensive firms, and with a large informal sector, policies that aid large firms and policies that discourage entry of new firms both help increase tax revenue. Entrepreneurial activity as a result is discouraged, lowering growth. There is a basic tension in policy design between current tax revenue and economic growth. In fact, a loss in tax revenue can itself reduce growth, due to less spending on education and infrastructure. It can also undermine political support for the reforms from the poor and from government bureaucrats, both of whom are key beneficiaries of government expenditures. What policies encourage growth without undue loss of current expenditures? One is debt finance, but this creates the risk of a financial crisis if tax revenue rises too slowly to repay this debt. A second is user fees, but such fees still undermine political support from the poor. A third is partial reform, maintaining both higher taxes on and some protection for easily taxed firms, even while barriers to entry are eased.
  • Publication
    Making Difficult Choices: Vietnam in Transition
    (World Bank, Washington, DC, 2008) Rama, Martin
    After decades of war, with a dilapidated infrastructure and millions of people dead, wounded or displaced, Vietnam could have been considered a hopeless case in economic development. Yet, it is now about to enter the ranks of middle-income countries. The obvious question is: How did this happen? This paper goes one step further, asking not which policies were adopted, but rather why they were adopted. This question is all the more intriguing because the process did not involve one group of individuals displacing another within the structure of power. To answer this question, the paper relies on the insights of those who were actually involved in the economic experiments, conceptual discussions, and political maneuvering that led to the adoption of key reforms. Especially, it builds on a series of long and regular conversations with H. E. the late Vo Van Kiet, one of Vietnam's leading figures. In doing so, it brings into the open the inside story of Doi Moi, a process that is not known by outsiders and remains opaque to most Vietnamese. The relevance of this exercise is not merely historical. Understanding how reforms were engineered may yield valuable lessons for other developing countries. It is also relevant for Vietnam, as two decades of rapid economic growth have resulted in dramatic changes in its economy and society. While praising the decision-making processes that allowed Vietnam to successfully emerge from poverty, the paper also explores the adjustments that could be needed for it to become an industrial country.
  • Publication
    Economic Growth and Development in Malaysia: Policy Making and Leadership
    (World Bank, Washington, DC, 2008) Aznam Yusof, Zainal; Bhattasali, Deepak
    Malaysia is a multiethnic, upper-middle-income country that has relied heavily on income from its natural resources to engineer successful diversification into manufacturing and sharply increased incomes for all ethnic groups. This paper examines the role of the policy-making process and national leadership in effecting this structural change and growth with equity. It discusses the government's role in transforming corporate ownership patterns while nurturing industrial enterprises into niche products within complex value-added chains. At the same time, the paper underscores the difficulties and costs of attempting to move into areas where an economy has no strong advantages, in this case heavy industries. Privatization is seen to have been a powerful tool for expanding private enterprise despite limited entrepreneurial skills, but it is questionable as a sustainable strategy; the aggressive formation of new firms seems to offer better long-term prospects. An appropriate regime of policy making and implementation is required, characterized by political determination, stability, high attention to growth with equity, experimentation, and an ability to learn through implementation, both at home and from the experience of others. These are key factors accounting for the relative success of Malaysia. Nothing in the Malaysian experience suggests that it is possible or desirable to undertake reforms serially; in fact, the evidence suggests that the "reform cluster" approach to policy implementation is more effective because it addresses several coordination problems at the same time.
  • Publication
    The Political Economy of Reform during the Ramos Administration (1992-98)
    (World Bank, Washington, DC, 2008) Bernardo, Romeo L.; Tang, Marie-Christine G.
    This paper is one of several case studies prepared for the World Bank. The objective of the case studies is to provide the Commission on Growth and Development insights on the policy reform process in developing countries that give rise to economic growth. In contrast to other countries where economic reforms ushered in a long period of sustained growth, there is no such episode in Philippine economic history. Since the restoration of democracy in 1986, the Philippines under the Ramos administration came closest to breaking out of its 'sick man of Asia' image. The confidence generated by the administration among local and international players and analysts resulted from wide-ranging reforms rooted primarily in a sound macroeconomic and investor-friendly regime as well as global competitiveness. This study is not intended as a scorecard of the Ramos Administration. Rather, it concentrates on three specific sector reforms during the Ramos administration that demonstrate the elements of successful reform processes. These reforms not only helped to free up demands on public finances then- considered, in today's parlance, the 'binding constraint' on needed public investment and reduced risk premium to encourage private investments-but over time brought gains, some unforeseen and broader in terms of positive spillover effects on the rest of the economy, and linkage to overall growth today.