Growth is dead, long live growth! Why we need to pay urgent attention to the quality of economic growth

22 January 2015

As world leaders gather in Davos this week for the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting, a new book calls for renewed focus on the quality of economic growth, arguing that it’s now an urgent matter of public policy.

World Economic Forum logo. Credit: World Economic Forum CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

Launching on Monday 26 January, Growth is Dead, Long Live Growth: the Quality of Economic Growth and Why It Matters is a unique collaboration between two bilateral development agencies, the Agence Française de Développement (AFD) and the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), and IDS.

In the face of dramatic forecasts on greenhouse gas emissions, persistent poverty despite the increasing wealth of nations and the ramifications of the global financial crisis 2007-08, the book argues that debating “quality of economic growth” is not an academic exercise but an urgent matter of public policy. 

It asks how can an indefinitely growing global economy fuelled by growing population, producing and consuming more goods and services be reconciled with the preservation of a viable environment for the ongoing preservation of humankind?

Political, finance and business leaders and society need to: 

  • Acknowledge that not all growth is good and should not be an end in itself 
  • Actively set about designing high quality growth which tackles poverty and inequality while not destroying the environment, is resilient and not fragile to shocks, and addresses growing inequality 
  • Measure what we care about such as employment generated or emissions saved per unit of growth

Co-editor, and former IDS Director, Lawrence Haddad, said, “Significant and far-reaching decisions will be made this year around Sustainable Development Goals and at the Paris-hosted conference on Climate Change. Now is the time to inject a sense of urgency on the question of growth. We show that different components of growth deliver different development outcomes. There are policy choices, and they matter.”

JICA Vice-President, and co-editor, Hiroshi Kato said, “We are not the first to discuss the quality of growth. The debate is on the quality of growth is primarily a debate about the quality of life. What we try to do in this book is not define “quality” as such but rather, examine dimensions of quality – around managing environmental tradeoffs, supporting equity and inclusiveness and being less susceptible to shocks. ”

Nicolas Meisel, AFD Senior economist, and co-editor, added, “Policymakers need to decide whether to choose between truth or simplicity. The negative shocks of the last decade – and the promises of ever more frequent and severe shocks in the future – suggest that simplicity has become merely simplistic and that truth cannot be dismissed for the sake of convenience.”

About the launch

Hosted by AFD, the book launch will take place on Monday 26 January 2015, and is an invitation-only event. If you are interested in attending, please contact Nicolas Meisel.

Download the programme (PDF)

About the book

The book will be freely available online from early February.

Download the Introductory chapter of “Growth is Dead, Long Live Growth: the Quality of Economic Growth and Why It Matters” (PDF) 

Part I Growth: A Path towards Abundance or Depletion?
What is the Quality of Growth? Sustainability and Inclusiveness
Michel Aglietta

Part II The 20th Century Concept of Growth and Its Deliverables
Poor Trends: The Pace of Poverty Reduction after the Millennium Development Agenda
Richard Bluhm, Denis de Crombrugghe and Adam Szirmai

Chronic Poverty in Rural Cambodia: Quality of Growth for Whom?
Ippei Tsuruga

Does the Quality of Income Growth Affect Child Nutrition Status?
Lawrence Haddad, Edoardo Masset and Lisa Smith

Disability and Growth Elasticity of Poverty in a Developing Country
Kamal Lamichhane

Part III Different Growth, Different Outcomes in Sustainability, Inclusiveness, and Resilience
Reflections on the Prospects for Pro-Poor Low-Carbon Growth
Dirk Willenbockel

Structural Transformation, the Quality of Growth and Employment Outcomes
Xavier Cirera

The Elusive Quest for Inclusive Growth in sub-Saharan Africa: Regional Challenges and Policy Options
Bruno Losch

What are the Macroeconomic Impacts of Natural Disasters? - The Impacts of Natural Disasters on the Growth Rate of Gross Prefectural Domestic Product in Japan
Go Shimada

Part IV Multiple Paths towards Quality Growth
Industrial Transformation and Quality of Growth
Akio Hosono

The Governance of Natural Resource Wealth: Some Political Economy Considerations on Enhancing Social Investment
Andrés Mejia Acosta

Image credit: World Economic Forum - Flickr (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)