Celebrating 30 years of research for development.

Author:Williamson, Roger

1 October 2015

The celebration of the 30th Anniversary of UNU-WIDER presented the ideal opportunity to look back, take stock, and plan ahead. Where else can a group of early career researchers have the chance to present at a conference including Nobel Laureates such as Joseph Stiglitz, Martti Ahtisaari and Amartya Sen? So, the stage was set for 600 participants from 75 countries to learn from the founders of the Institute, and to render account for what has been done in development economics over the last three decades.

The programme was very full and content rich. So, whether you could attend or not, we are greatly helped by the online resources from the conference available on the conference website--including presentation slides and videos.

In this series of three linked contributions, I give a personal overview of the event and some of the highlights. My selection looks first, at the opening panel and gives a general overview of the themes and issues discussed. The second instalment will look into the, regional perspectives debated in the conference. Finally the third article will dive into the thematic of 'mapping the future of development economics'.

The opening panel-the development history of the past half century

The opening panel on 'Key Ideas and Outcomes in Regional Development' provided an opportunity for Ernest Aryeetey (Africa), Nora Lustig (Central and Latin America) and Justin Lin and Deepak Nayyar (Asia: China and India respectively) to give overviews coloured by their regional perspectives and life experience. In this session, the development history of the past half century was analysed and dissected.

Aryeetey, who is the current Chair of the UNU-WIDER Board, asked whether development economics has run out of big ideas. After the early optimism of independence Africa hit the problems dramatically described as 'the lost decades'. The critique of "high development theory" and loss of confidence in the state's ability to deliver economic growth and prosperity has now given way to a sober and cautiously optimistic setting in which many African states better grasp their role and see what can be done through the market.

Development Economics 3.0.

Justin Lin presented his New Structural Economics (NSE) as "Development Economics 3.0" after structuralism (DevEcon 1.0) and the Washington Consensus (Dev Econ 2.0).

Key Asian economies, dragons and tigers, have succeeded through a home-grown 'dual track approach' focused on moving up...

To continue reading