The 'Market-Friendly Approach to Development' vs. an 'Industrial Policy' : A Critique of the World Development Report 1991 and an Alternative Policy Perspective

The importance of World Bank’ s annual World Development Report can hardly be overestimated. Inside the organisation, it implicitly contributes to the “corporate identity” of one of the most powerful international financial institutians. Outside the World Bank, it has a strong impact on (government) agencies, ministries and individuals concerned with development policy in the so-called donor countries, and policy makers in the developing world necessarily have to take it very seriously. Together with the 1990 Report on poverty and the 1992 Report on environment, the 1991 Report “seeks to provide a comprehensive overview of the development agenda” , as World Bank President Barber Conable noted in his foreword to the Report. More specifically, in advocating a “market-friendly” approach to development in the 1991 Report, the World Bank claims not only to synthesize and interpret the lessons of more than fourty years of development experience, hut suggests also that there is a growing consensus in favour of this specific “market-friendly” approach to development. Ajit Singh, Director of Studies in Economics at the University of Cambridge and an outstanding fellow in the field of development economics who originates from the “South”, has a number of reservation about the Report’s analysis and conclusions. In his paper which originally was presented at a joint World Bank/United Nations University Symposium earlier this year, he formulates his critique in an impressive way and offers an alternative policy perspective. The Institute for Development and Peace is very grateful to Professor Singh for the permission to disseminate the views he expressed in his article among both, scholars and policy makers in Germany, and hopes to stimulate fruitful discussions on the future development policy agenda.


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