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Development Exposed

Development Exposed Ian Goldin, The Pursuit of Development. Economic Growth, Social Change, and Ideas

Ian Goldin’s book entitled The Pursuit of Development. Economic Growth, Social Change, and Ideas was originally published in English in 2016 by Oxford University Press and was translated in Romanian (În căutarea dezvoltării: creșterea economică, schimbările sociale și ideile) in 2017 by Publishing House (introduction: Paul Dobrescu; translation from English: Viorela Dima-coordinator, Raluca-Elena Hurduzeu and Elena Tălmăcian).

The style of this book recommends it as being extremely readable, while its content makes it very useful to all those who are interested in past, present and future development. The synthesis of the literature on the issue of development between its covers is the more reliable as it is signed by an experimented professional in the field of development – a VicePresident and the Director of Development Policy for the World Bank Group, Head of Programmes at the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) Development Centre, and principal economist at the European Bank of Reconstruction and Development (EBRD), as well as Chief Executive of the Development Bank of Southern Africa (DBSA).

The author tackles upon the issue of development in a gradual way and each statement is supported by clear arguments, figures and tables. The book is actually a combination of “learning and doing” (p. xiii) as its eight chapters are based on the theory and practice of development and start from questions like: What is development? How does development happen? Why are some countries poor and others rich? What can be done to accelerate development? It also contains well-documented information on the evolution of development aid, sustainable development, globalization and development and the future of development, all in a comprehensive interdisciplinary approach. As Ian Goldin himself confesses, in his current role as Director of the interdisciplinary Oxford Martin School and Professor of Globalisation and Development at the University of Oxford has come to appreciate the growing need for interdisciplinarity and widening “our narrow professional and national perspectives” (p. xii).

The author also sheds light upon the connection between learning and development. Constant learning about development together with its successes and failures is actual and the necessary condition to reach it. However, development is also about openness as it is a synergy of national and international efforts, “a team sport that requires the engagement of civil servants, businessmen and women, scholars, nongovernment organizations, and citizens in all countries” (p. xiii). On the other hand, each nation finds its own way towards development or writes its own development recipe in a certain period of time, as it is influenced by a “combination of historical and geographical factors” (p. 167).

One of the questions that the author poses and tries to answer is why some countries are poor and others rich. The answer is that each and every country is “unique” (p. 46) and chooses a certain way to develop, but there are aspects that are a sine qua non condition for development like peace, stability, literacy, education, infrastructure investments, and others. What the author also draws attention upon is the importance of the ability of seeing the big picture of the continuously changing approach to development: the increasing integration of the world (p. 55).

A great merit of Ian Goldin’s book is that it clarifies the meanings of certain easily confused expressions like economic development and economic growth (p. 4) and gives reasons why the mostly used measure of development (GDP) has its own shortcomings (p. 6-8) which would make one believe that OECD Better Life Index, for instance, is a broader development index as it is based on “eleven indicators: housing, income, jobs, community, education, environment, civic engagement, health, life satisfaction, safety, and work–life balance” (p. 14).

The idea of positivity, of always looking for the good side of things is present throughout Ian Goldin’s present work: a good outcome in terms of development is based on the ability of each nation to maximize the “positive potential” and minimize possible “negative impacts” (p. 130). Each nation is part of a big whole, therefore, individual contribution to our general good is in close connection with development. According to the author, constant progress can especially be built on listening to the voice of the people, on learning from one’s own and others’ failures, on long-term perspectives and objectives both nationally and worldwide, as development is not about isolation, but about “our common future” (p.164). 



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The Romanian-American Foundation for the Promotion of Education and Culture (RAFPEC)

Amfiteatru Economic