How important is growth to improvements in health and education? Not at all, says a new UN paper

June 25, 2010
The first batch of background papers to this year’s big Human Development Report has just been published. The one that caught my eye is by George Gray Molina and Mark Purser. “Human Development Trends since 1970: A Social Convergence Story” crunches a big dataset of Human Development Indicator (HDI) numbers and comes up with some pretty heretical conclusions. It finds

well-being v ‘growth with equity’: what are the pros and cons?

February 11, 2010
The process of evolution takes place in three stages: random mutation, selection and replication. It’s not a bad model for how new ideas emerge within a large organization like Oxfam. Every week seems to bring a new idea swirling around in conversations and meetings (mutation). Most of those will fade away but a small percentage will get ‘traction’ (horrible management-speak

Degrowth – is it useful or feasible?

January 19, 2010
Thought I’d check out what this ‘degrowth’ idea is about so went to a public meeting organized by a couple of new economics thinktanks (CEECEC and nef). It was a combination of seriously old school (standing room only; two and a half hours of speeches) and new (the bar was open throughout the event; death by powerpoint). ‘Degrowth’ is the

Hell is Good for Growth (or maybe vice versa)

December 8, 2009
The Protestant Work Ethic is back, this time supported by econometrics….. A recent article in the Boston Globe summed up research showing that a belief in hell is good for growth, and other linkages between religion and development. Highlights: ‘A pair of Harvard researchers recently examined 40 years of data from dozens of countries, trying to sort out the economic

What can the BRICS teach us about reducing poverty?

November 19, 2009
An excellent new paper from the prolific Martin Ravallion, head of the World Bank’s research department, compares the successes in poverty reduction in three of the biggest beasts of the developing world: China, India and Brazil. Between them, these countries are home to a bit less than half the world’s poor people, but it used to be a lot more.

Do we need to ration growth, and if so, who gets what’s left?

September 30, 2009
Spoke at a Quaker conference on the ‘zero growth economy’ at the weekend. Quaker meetings are different: when I finished speaking to an audience of 350 people, there was total hear-a-pin-drop silence. Instead of clapping, people reflect, eyes closed, on what they have just heard. And no, even though it was after lunch, they weren’t asleep (well, most of them) and it

Latest Growth Projections for Developing Countries: Asia doing better, everywhere else worse

July 9, 2009
The IMF has just revised April’s World Economic Outlook growth projections for 2009 and 2010 (see table). Here’s the summary on developing countries: ‘Emerging and developing economies are projected to regain growth momentum during the second half of 2009, albeit with notable regional differences. Low-income countries are facing important challenges of their own because official aid has fallen and these

Why we need to limit growth and why it needn’t make us less happy

May 11, 2009
Can you have prosperity without growth? Yes and what’s more, we have no choice, argues the UK’s Sustainable Development Commission in a new report. As you would expect from the UK’s first ‘Professor of Sustainable Development’, author Tim Jackson is a bit of a heretic – particularly impressive because the SDC is an independent advisory body to the UK government.

Why equity matters more than growth: The Spirit Level

May 6, 2009
‘Growth with Equity’ is motherhood and apple pie in economic policy-making these days. But in a great new book, Spirit Level, authors Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett argue that ‘economic growth, for so long the great engine of progress, has, in the rich countries, largely finished its work.’ Above a certain average income (the authors put it at $25,000 per

Financial crises at a glance: bank crashes, geopolitics and how long til the rebound?

January 12, 2009
Here are two illuminating graphics from the Financial Times and Economist. First up is a figure from Martin Wolf’s latest column in the FT, itself based on a new paper by Carmen Reinhart and Kenneth Rogoff, showing the proportion of the world economy affected by banking crises, from 1900-2008. Its main features are a spike around the Great Depression of the

Meltdown Miscellany: stats and soundbites on the development impact

December 17, 2008

So what do other people think of the book?

December 15, 2008