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The chapter examines the history and evolution of development doctrine. It suggests that the selection and adoption of a development strategy depend upon three building blocks: (1) the prevailing development objectives which, in turn, are derived from the prevailing view and definition of the development process; (2) the conceptual state of the art regarding the existing body of development theories, hypotheses, models, techniques, and empirical applications; and (3) the underlying data system available to diagnose the existing situation, measure performance, and test hypotheses. Development doctrine is then defined as the body of principles and knowledge resulting from the interrelated complex of these four elements that is accepted by the Development Community at that time. This analytical framework is applied to describe the state of the art that prevailed in each of the five decades (from the 1950s to the 1990s) and in the most recent period 2000 to 2017 to highlight in a systematic fashion the changing conception of the development process. Over the last 67 years the definition of development and strategies to achieve it, progressed and broadened from the maximization of GDP in the 1950s, to employment creation and the satisfaction of basic needs in the 1970s, to structural adjustment and stabilization in the 1980s and early 1990s, to poverty reduction, followed by sustainable and shared growth that dominated the scene until recently. The evolution in the conception of development culminated with the present broad-based concept of inclusive and sustainable growth. A parallel and similar progression occurred in development theory and in the coverage, comprehensiveness and quality of data and information. While development economics has followed a time path towards more experimental, multidisciplinary and more rigorous and scientific methodology, the present emphasis on microeconomic phenomena and randomized and controlled trials may have detracted researchers from exploring fundamental “big picture” macroeconomic phenomena.
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This chapter is a thoroughly revised and greatly expanded version of an earlier paper on ‘The Evolution of the Development, Doctrine, 1950–2005’ in Mavrotas and Shorrocks (2007) Advancing Development Core Themes in Global Economics, published by Palgrave Macmillan. With due acknowledgement of UNU-WIDER in Helsinki which commissioned the earlier study and holds copyright thereon. I am grateful for the valuable comments I received from Kaushik Basu, Alain de Janvry, Ravi Kanbur, Machiko Nissanke and Finn Tarp. I should add the usual disclaimer that the views expressed here are entirely my own.
When Robert Solow chaired the American Economic Association’s luncheon in honour of Amartya Sen’s Nobel prize, he mentioned in his introduction that “he did not think that economics had a conscience but that, if it did, Amartya Sen would be its conscience” (my paraphrase).
There are two additional reciprocal relationships denoted by arrows in Fig. 3.1. The first one is the interaction between development theories and hypotheses and development models. Models are typically based on theoretical hypotheses, which often are of a partial nature. By integrating various hypotheses into a consistent framework, which the model provides, some new insights may be derived which could lead to a modification of the initial hypotheses. The second bi-directional arrow is the one linking development objectives and data systems. Clearly, the choice of development goals both predetermines the kind of data systems that is required and is affected by it. Many concrete examples of these interrelationships are described and analysed next in the application of the conceptual framework in Fig. 3.1 to the six periods between 1950 and 2017.
In particular, certain conceptual and theoretical contributions may have been formulated before they became part of the conventional wisdom. An example of this is the seminal article of W. A. Lewis ( 1954), which triggered the economic dualism concept which became a major element of the development paradigm of the 1960s rather than of the 1950s.
Also, my career as an active development economist spanned the 67 years covered in this evaluation.
Far from originating with ILO, the concept of basic needs and planning for poverty alleviation had already been expressed and formulated very clearly by the Indian planner Pitambar Pant as early as 1962 (see Pant 1974).
The Demographic and Health Surveys (DHS) initiated in 1984, undertaken in a large number of developing countries and covering multiple years, have been extensively used by researchers.
Sustainable development was the solution to the problems of environmental degradation discussed by the Brundtland Commission in the 1987 report Our Common Future.
I would be tempted to use the term ‘experimental science’ instead of ‘experimental discipline’, but I realise that at the present time this would be too much of a stretch.
Other disciplines, especially in medicine and public health, had long relied on RCTs in their research so that the paradigm shift in development economics consisted of borrowing an existing methodology from another field.
As quoted by Deaton ( 2010).
It is noteworthy that Kaushik Basu as senior vice president and chief economist of the World Bank expressed his reservation of the extent to which RCTs could be generalised at a time when the World Bank was the main user of this approach.
The latter are respectively the deputy director and executive director of J-PAL.
By extension, the preceding discussion of the three critical issues related to RCTs applies equally to natural experiments.
Another extremely influential body of research documenting the sharply rising income inequality in the last few decades is by Piketty. It is interesting to note that the remedies recommended by Atkinson (labour power and minimum wage legislation) differ from those of Piketty (taxation and redistribution). While these policies might be effective within the setting of a mature economy, other policies might be called for in a poor developing country.
Ever since Okun’s so-called law, first expressed in 1974, that there was a trade-off between equality and efficiency, the conventional wisdom among the economics profession has been that a trade-off was inevitable.
Some observers would call this the dashboard approach.
See Addison et al. ( 2017) for an overview of aid effectiveness.
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- The History and Evolution of the Development Doctrine, 1950–2017
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