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A New Year’s Development Resolution

BEIJING/PARIS/NEW YORK – The United Kingdom’s vote to leave the European Union and the United States’ election of Donald Trump as its next president have laid bare developed-country citizens’ dissatisfaction with globalization. Rightly or wrongly, they blame globalization – or, at least, how it has been managed – for stagnating incomes, rising unemployment, and growing insecurity.

Developing-country citizens have been expressing similar feelings for much longer. Though globalization has brought many benefits to the developing world, many object to the neoliberal economics that has guided its management. In particular, the so-called Washington Consensus, which calls for unfettered liberalization and privatization, and macroeconomic policies that focus on inflation, rather than employment and growth, have attracted much criticism over the years. Is it time to revise the conventional economic wisdom?

The Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida) thought it was a question worth considering. So it invited 13 economists from around the world (including the authors – four former chief economists of the World Bank) to do just that.

We concluded that some of the ideas underlying traditional development economics may indeed have helped to create some of the economic challenges the world faces. In particular, it is now evident that simply maintaining balanced national budgets and controlling inflation, while leaving the market to do the rest, does not automatically generate sustained and inclusive growth. With that in mind, we identified eight broad principles that should guide development policy, published in the so-called Stockholm Statement.