Monday, 25 July 2011

So long and thanks

By Neil McCulloch

I feel strange.  I can hardly believe it, but, after 13 years, I am leaving IDS (I am going to be the Lead Economist for Australian aid (Ausaid) in Jakarta, Indonesia) and so this will be my last post for the blog.  Thinking back over the last decade, it is fascinating to see how development and “Globalisation” have changed. 

In the days before 9/11, the focus of the globalisation agenda was on trade – arguments raged about whether trade liberalisation was good or bad for the poor (remember Dollar and Kraay’s (in)famous Growth IS Good for the Poor paper).  IDS’s Globalisation Team response (with our friends from Sussex) was to produce evidence and to map out exactly how and when trade liberalisation helped or hurt the poor. It is fascinating to see this coming back up the agenda again in the UK, with an eclectic mix of political heavyweights in the Trade Out of Poverty campaign.

After 9/11, the agenda shifted – the focus was on security and fragility.  The new aim was to reach the Bottom Billion.  But again IDS’s response was to highlight a different perspective, The New Bottom Billion – the billion poor in the world’s booming middle income countries.  Indeed, the Globalisation Team was highlighting the tectonic shift in the world economy associated with the new Asian Drivers, long before it was fashionable to talk about the rise of China and India.  The secret of the remarkable success of such countries in reducing poverty lay in finding the right way to engage with the global marketplace.  And so the Globalisation Team worked on how the poor get integrated into global value chains (or not) and what policy can do to help them do so.

Now, as the challenges change, the agenda is shifting again.  We are remembering that the private sector is the engine of growth, and IDS is helping to understand how public policy can best shape the actions of myriad investors, large and small, to promote better development, whether in nutrition or infrastructure.  At the same time, we are re-learning the important role of the state in promoting equity and driving poverty reduction (see UNICEF’s new report on this).  As we pick up the pieces from the global financial crisis, we are re-discovering the importance of macroeconomics and good financial regulation and generating evidence about new ways of calming markets and raising revenue for development.  And, as climate change reshapes our world, IDS is helping to understand how to crowd-in the sorts of investments needed for a low-carbon future.

It is 12 minutes to 1pm and I must go.  I leave an Institute that tackles the key development issues with rigour and passion and a team that understands the power, potential and pitfalls of globalisation.  So this is Neil McCulloch signing off … so long and thanks.