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Comparative Advantage, Industrial Policy and the World Bank: Back to First Principles

  • Singh, A.

This paper provides a critical analysis of the World Bank's new thinking on industrial policy. After outlining the changing perspectives on industrial policy put forward by the World Bank over the last three decades, we argue that the bank's economists have taken one step forward (the approval for the enhanced role of the state) but also one if not two steps backward (by strong encouragement to countries to seek their current comparative advantage in pursuing industrial policy). We argue that a critical analysis of the World Bank's policy stance on industrial policy as on other main issues is essential because of the institution's hegemony in policy analysis of economic development as well as its conditionality, which may now well include what this paper regards as its inappropriate industrial policy. The analysis in the paper combines classical contributions on international trade and the world economy, relevant economic history, as well as Krugman's comments on these issues in terms of modern economic analysis. The paper concludes with reflections on the appropriate industrial policy for developing countries that the World Bank should support.

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Paper provided by ESRC Centre for Business Research in its series ESRC Centre for Business Research - Working Papers with number wp418.

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Date of creation: Mar 2011
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Handle: RePEc:cbr:cbrwps:wp418
Note: PRO-2
Contact details of provider: Web page: http://www.cbr.cam.ac.uk/

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  1. Glyn, A. & Hughes, A. & Lipietz, A. & Singh, A., 1988. "The Rise And Fall Of The Golden Age," Cambridge Working Papers in Economics 884, Faculty of Economics, University of Cambridge.
  2. Ajit Singh, 1998. "Financial liberalisation, stockmarkets and economic development," Nova Economia, Economics Department, Universidade Federal de Minas Gerais (Brazil), vol. 8(1), pages 165-182.
  3. Alex Izurieta & Ajit Singh, 2010. "Does Fast Growth in India and China Help or Harm US Workers?," Journal of Human Development and Capabilities, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 11(1), pages 115-141.
  4. Justin Lin & Ha-Joon Chang, 2009. "Should Industrial Policy in Developing Countries Conform to Comparative Advantage or Defy it? A Debate Between Justin Lin and Ha-Joon Chang," Development Policy Review, Overseas Development Institute, vol. 27(5), pages 483-502, 09.
  5. Karl Aiginger, 2007. "Industrial Policy: Past, Diversity, Future; Introduction to the Special Issue on the Future of Industrial Policy," Journal of Industry, Competition and Trade, Springer, vol. 7(3), pages 143-146, December.
  6. Calsamiglia, Xavier, 1977. "Decentralized resource allocation and increasing returns," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 14(2), pages 263-283, April.
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