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Beyond unequal development : an overview


  • Solimano, Andres


In the 1980s and 1990s, economic growth (material progress) became the main development goal under the policies known as the"Washington Consensus". Earlier concerns about inequalities of income and wealth were replaced by policies emphasizing macroeconomic stabilization (reducing inflation and cutting fiscal deficits) and structural reform (trade liberalization, financial deregulation, privatization, and a shift to a smaller state). But fiscal adjustment and market liberalization alone have not brought stable, equitable development. Inequality of income and wealth, far from declining, seems to have increased in Latin America. The"Washington Consensus"has supported social policies that rely on targeting, growth-led poverty reduction, and delivery of social services partly through the private sector. Loose ends to this strategy include: 1) Growth patterns that favor skilled labor and nonlabor factors of production. 2) The exclusion of vulnerable groups for whom the market produces little income. 3) Overreliance on commodity-based growth for human development. 4) Political manipulation of beneficiaries and weak institutional ability to reach targeted groups. 5) Higher equality services provided by the private sector to high-income and upper-middle-class groups and lower quality services provided by the state to lower-income groups. Social policies in developing countries in the past decade have been defined largely in terms of poverty reduction. The author argues that income distribution and the reduction of social inequality are valid policy targets on their own. Empirical evidence and theories of endogenous growth emphasize complementarities between social equity and growth. To the extent that social inequality engenders social conflict, invites taxation of physical investments, and induces economic populism, it hampers economic growth. Social policies to promote equitable development should include: a) Good, broad-based education and health services. b) Greater access to credit by low-income households and small-scale producers. c) More equal access to land and ownership of capital stock (say, after privatization). Social safety nets are needed when unemployment, wage cuts, and declining income threaten the poor. Austerity policies without such safety nets as emergency employment programs, food distribution to children, and minimum income support schemes unduly hurt the poor, the vulnerable, and the politically weak, making fiscal retrenchment difficult and socially regressive.

Suggested Citation

  • Solimano, Andres, 1999. "Beyond unequal development : an overview," Policy Research Working Paper Series 2091, The World Bank.
  • Handle: RePEc:wbk:wbrwps:2091

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Lindert, Peter H. & Williamson, Jeffrey G., 1985. "Growth, equality, and history," Explorations in Economic History, Elsevier, vol. 22(4), pages 341-377, October.
    2. Alberto Alesina & Dani Rodrik, 1994. "Distributive Politics and Economic Growth," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 109(2), pages 465-490.
    3. Ahluwalia, Montek S., 1976. "Inequality, poverty and development," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 3(4), pages 307-342, December.
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    Cited by:

    1. Alexander Cotte Poveda, 2013. "The relationship between development, investments, insecurity and social conditions in Colombia: a dynamic approach," Quality & Quantity: International Journal of Methodology, Springer, vol. 47(5), pages 2769-2783, August.


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