Some assert that development has been a clear success. Others may argue that it has failed. Some say that it has reduced poverty levels, but that the global number of poor has grown; or that it has raised incomes but increased inequality. And the debate goes on. The fact is that development is a complex business. And it takes time. It means integrating the multiple dynamic systems of economics, finance, politics and culture, and shaping policies that crisscross and sometimes collide. Add to this recipe the ambiguities of human behavior, brittle ecological endowments, and random acts of nature, and the task of development becomes even more daunting. Globalization has generated enormous opportunities but at the same time created countless new challenges. Policymaking is hard. Growth is fragile.
But we continue to learn. We know that policies must not be imposed topdown, but rather gently shaped to fit each country’s need. We have seen that economic elites and academics do not have a monopoly on truth and that directives are not discourse—nor do they constitute a consensus. That people matter and that they must feature in the development debate—as citizens, not subjects.
That people who are living their own social and economic realities often know a great deal about how to make them better. Their knowledge and experience are to be valued and applied and, thanks to current technology, can usefully be shared across borders.
Creativity and innovation are keys to economic productivity. The best ideas often come from unexpected sources, and trading knowledge and ideas can lead to socioeconomic transformations. We know too that young people are the future and that their education will help unleash the transformative power of knowledge—but not without jobs to put that knowledge to work. We have learned that markets are, well…, markets and not magic. Institutions, both public and private, have roles to play in organizing people and resources to achieve equitable results with efficiency and integrity.
We know also that there are many things we don’t know: How often have we disavowed “the magic bullet”? But the point is to keep learning. This issue of Development Outreach offers some current thinking on development policymaking as we attempt to clear new pathways to growth, equity, and human dignity.
Development Outreach is a flagship magazine in the field of global knowledge for development which reflects the learning programs of the World Bank and presents a range of viewpoints by renowned authors and specialists worldwide.