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Diagnostics Before Prescription

  • Rodrik, Dani

Development economists should stop acting as categorical advocates (or detractors) for specific approaches to development. They should instead be diagnosticians, helping decisionmakers choose the right model (and remedy) for their specific realities, among many contending models (and remedies). In this spirit, Ricardo Hausmann, Andres Velasco, and I have developed a "growth diagnostics" framework that sketches a systematic process for identifying binding constraints and prioritizing policy reforms in multilateral agencies and bilateral donors. Growth diagnostics is based on the idea that not all constraints bind equally and that a sensible and practical strategy consists of identifying the most serious constraint(s) at work. The practitioner works with a decision tree to do this. The second step in growth diagnostics is to identify remedies for relaxing the constraint that are appropriate to the context and take cognizance of potential second-best complications. Successful countries are those that have implemented these two steps in an ongoing manner: identify sequentially the most binding constraints and remove them with locally suited remedies. Diagnostics requires pragmatism and eclecticism, in the use of both theory and evidence. It has no room for dogmatism, imported blueprints, or empirical purism.

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Paper provided by Harvard Kennedy School of Government in its series Scholarly Articles with number 8057678.

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Date of creation: 2010
Date of revision:
Publication status: Published in Journal of Economic Perspectives
Handle: RePEc:hrv:hksfac:8057678
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  1. Commission on Growth and Development, 2008. "The Growth Report : Strategies for Sustained Growth and Inclusive Development," World Bank Publications, The World Bank, number 6507.
  2. Charles R. Frank Jr. & Kwang Suk Kim & Larry E. Westphal, 1975. "Appendices to "Foreign Trade Regimes and Economic Development: South Korea"," NBER Chapters, in: Foreign Trade Regimes and Economic Development: South Korea, pages 245-257 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  3. Angus S. Deaton, 2009. "Instruments of development: Randomization in the tropics, and the search for the elusive keys to economic development," NBER Working Papers 14690, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  4. Lawrence J. Lau & Yingyi Qian & Gerald Roland, 1997. "Reform Without Losers: An Interpretation of China's Dual-Track Approach to Transition," William Davidson Institute Working Papers Series 137, William Davidson Institute at the University of Michigan.
  5. Anne O. Krueger, 1997. "Trade Policy and Economic Development: How We Learn," NBER Working Papers 5896, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  6. Charles R. Frank Jr. & Kwang Suk Kim & Larry E. Westphal, 1975. "Foreign Trade Regimes and Economic Development: South Korea," NBER Books, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc, number fran75-1, December.
  7. World Bank, 2005. "Economic Growth in the 1990s : Learning from a Decade of Reform," World Bank Publications, The World Bank, number 7370.
  8. Michael Kremer & Alaka Holla, 2009. "Improving Education in the Developing World: What Have We Learned from Randomized Evaluations?," Annual Review of Economics, Annual Reviews, vol. 1(1), pages 513-545, 05.
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