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
    Equity and Growth in a Globalizing World : Commission on Growth and Development
    (World Bank, 2010) Kanbur, Ravi; Spence, Michael
    The 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
    Macro Crises and Targeting Transfers to the Poor
    (World Bank, Washington, DC, 2010) Kanbur, Ravi
    A 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
    Leadership and Growth : Commission on Growth and Development
    (World Bank, 2010) Brady, David; Spence, Michael
    In May 2008, the commission on growth and development (the growth commission) issued its report entitled 'the growth report'. In it the commission attempted to distill what had been learned in the past two decades, from experience and academic and policy research, about strategies and policies that produced sustained high growth in developing countries. It became clear in the course of the work that politics, leadership, and political economy (the interaction of economic and political forces and choices) were centrally important ingredients in the story. Dealing with the politics and the interaction of political and economic forces is a work in progress in research, an important one. Given this breadth, one of the editors' roles is to focus the reader's attention on what they take to be common issues across these chapters. These common problems are fourfold: (1) promoting national unity; (2) building good, solid institutions; (3) choosing innovative and localized policies; and (4) creating political consensus for long-run policy implementation. This report represent an excellent first step toward understanding the role of leadership in generating economic growth, and the author hope that they generate ideas and lead to new research on the problem of leadership in economic growth.
  • Publication
    Africa's Growth Turnaround: From Fewer Mistakes to Sustained Growth
    (World Bank, Washington, DC, 2009) Page, John
    After stagnating for much of its postcolonial history, economic performance in Sub?Saharan Africa has markedly improved. Since 1995, average economic growth has been close to 5 percent per year. Has Africa finally turned the corner? This paper analyzes growth accelerations and decelerations-that is, country level deviations from long?run trend growth. Seen from this perspective, Africa's record of slow and volatile growth reflects a pattern of offsetting accelerations and declines, and much of the improvement in economic performance in Africa post 1995 turns out to be due to a substantial reduction in the frequency and severity of growth decelerations. The fall in economic declines since 1995 is largely due to better macroeconomic policies, but changes in such 'growth determinants' as investment, export diversification, and productivity have not accompanied the growth boom. Lack of change in these variables and the significant role played by natural resources in sparking growth accelerations suggest that Africa's growth recovery was fragile, even before the recent global economic crisis. The paper concludes by setting out four elements of a strategy that can help move Africa from fewer mistakes to sustained growth: managing natural resources better, pushing nontraditional exports, building the African private sector, and creating new skills.
  • Publication
    Growth after the Crisis
    (World Bank, Washington, DC, 2009) Rodrik, Dani
    How hospitable will the global environment be for economic growth in the developing world as we come out of the present financial crisis? The answer depends on how well the author manage the following tension. On the one hand, global macro stability requires that we prevent external imbalances from getting too large. On the other hand, growth in poor nations requires that the world economy be able to absorb a rapid increase in the supply of tradable produced in the developing world. It is possible to render these two requirements compatible, but doing so requires greater use of explicit industrial policies in developing countries, which have the potential of encouraging of modern tradable activities without spilling over into trade surpluses. The 'price' to be paid for greater discipline on real exchange rates and external imbalances is greater use (and permissiveness) towards industrial polices.
  • Publication
    Africa's Growth Turnaround: From Fewer Mistakes to Sustained Growth
    (World Bank, Washington, DC, 2009) Page, John
    After stagnating for much of its postcolonial history, economic performance in Sub?Saharan Africa has markedly improved. Since 1995, average economic growth has been close to 5 percent per year. Has Africa finally turned the corner? This paper analyzes growth accelerations and decelerations-that is, country level deviations from long?run trend growth. Seen from this perspective, Africa's record of slow and volatile growth reflects a pattern of offsetting accelerations and declines, and much of the improvement in economic performance in Africa post 1995 turns out to be due to a substantial reduction in the frequency and severity of growth decelerations. The fall in economic declines since 1995 is largely due to better macroeconomic policies, but changes in such 'growth determinants' as investment, export diversification, and productivity have not accompanied the growth boom. Lack of change in these variables and the significant role played by natural resources in sparking growth accelerations suggest that Africa's growth recovery was fragile, even before the recent global economic crisis. The paper concludes by setting out four elements of a strategy that can help move Africa from fewer mistakes to sustained growth: managing natural resources better, pushing nontraditional exports, building the African private sector, and creating new skills.
  • Publication
    Growth and Education
    (World Bank, Washington, DC, 2009) Aghion, Philippe
    Does education matter for growth? Which type of education investment (primary, secondary, or tertiary) matters most? Is there a relationship between growth or innovation and the governance of higher education? This paper surveys recent attempts at answering these questions. It first contrasts the 'Lucas approach,' whereby growth is affected by the accumulation of human capital, with the 'Nelson?Phelps approach,' whereby growth is affected by the stock of human capital and by its interaction with the underlying process of technological innovation. Then the paper argues that growth in countries that are close to the world technological frontier benefit more from tertiary education, whereas countries that lie below the frontier benefit more from primary and secondary education. Finally, the paper discusses the relationship between innovation and the governance of universities.
  • Publication
    Chile's Growth and Development: Leadership, Policy-Making Process, Policies, and Results
    (World Bank, Washington, DC, 2009) Schmidt-Hebbel, Klaus
    This paper analyzes the relations between leadership, the policy making process, policies and institutions, and development results in Chile. It starts with a stylized model for the dynamics of development that derives a Kuznets type relation between growth and distribution of income, determined by the quality of leadership, the policy making process, institutions, and policies. This framework is applied to Chile, identifying the features of the policy making process and leadership that allowed for continuation of growth enhancing reform, with a stronger focus on equity goals, since the transition to democracy. As a result of three decades of reforms, Chile has recorded a quantum leap in economic growth, which is traced down to specific reforms. Yet Chile's equity experience is much more mixed: poverty has declined massively but income remains highly concentrated, a likely result of shortcomings in the quality of education and in labor markets. The paper reviews the major risks to the country's future development pace and points out the main reform challenges faced by policy makers.
  • Publication
    Investment Efficiency and the Distribution of Wealth
    (World Bank, Washington, DC, 2009) Banerjee, Abhijit V.
    The point of departure of this paper is that in the absence of effectively functioning asset markets the distribution of wealth matters for efficiency. Inefficient asset markets depress total factor productivity (TFP) in two ways: first, by not allowing efficient firms to grow to the size that they should achieve (this could include many great firms that are never started); and second, by allowing inefficient firms to survive by depressing the demand for factors (good firms are too small) and hence factor prices. Both of these effects are dampened when the wealth of the economy is in the hands of the most productive people, again, for two reasons: first, because they do not rely as much on asset markets to get outside resources into the firm; and second, because wealth allows them to self insure and therefore they are more willing to take the right amount of risk. None of this, however, tells us that efficiency enhancing redistributions must always be targeted to the poorest. There is some reason to believe that a lot of the inefficiency lies in the fact that many medium size firms are too small.
  • Publication
    From Growth Theory to Policy Design
    (World Bank, Washington, DC, 2009) Aghion, Philippe; Durlauf, Steven
    This paper focuses on how growth theory can guide growth policy design. It first argues that policy matters for growth, in particular when policy variables are interacted with country?specific variables (financial development, institutional environment, technological development, and so forth). Second, it argues that the Schumpeterian paradigm does a better job at delivering policy prescriptions that vary with country characteristics. Third, it discusses the advantages and drawbacks of growth regression analysis. Finally, it briefly describes and then questions the recently proposed 'growth diagnostic' approach.