ABCDE 2011 Roundtable: Democratising development economics

The 2011 ABCDE event closed with an engaging roundtable on “Democratizing Development Economics”. Moderated by Stéphanie Antoine from France 24, the roundtable featured Esther Duflo, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), USA; Martine Durand, OECD; Kyung Wook Hur, Korean Ambassador to the OECD; Mustapha K. Nabli, Governor, Central Bank of Tunisia; Désiré Vencatachellum, African Development Bank (AfDB); and Martin Ravallion, Director, Development Research Group, World Bank.

ABCDE 2011 Roundtable: Democratising Development Economics

According to Mr. Vencatachellum, democratizing development is very much related to issues of ‘voice’ and ‘participation’. “Where is the voice of Africa?, he asked, and “Who tells the story and how is it been told?” In his view, Africa needs to be part of a dialogue and African decision makers need to be part of this dialogue. Communication is also a key element and in his view there is still too much of a distance between researchers and practitioners. Progress in communication is fundamental to make progress in democratizing development.

For Ms. Martine Durand there is a need to better measure and capture the important measure in the different regions. Democratizing information is the basis of democratizing development. Therefore, she welcomed open data initiatives and invited donors and international agencies to open up their data.

From his side, Mr. Mustapha Nabli underlined the importance of facilitating the knowledge transition from developed to developing countries. Policy design is extremely important. However, for Mr. Nabli it is not possible to just take any policy message from one country and implement it  elsewhere. In other words, you need people in developing countries that have the capacity to distil lessons in an applicable way for their own country. Research capacity is therefore extremely important and international organisations need to do more in helping to build these capacities.

ABCDE 2011: A critical perspective on African growth and economic development

Infrastructures, technological development and economic growth at large are commonly considered as key indicators of development. A parallel session at the ABCDE 2011 event focussed specifically on Africa successes and their reasons.

After the session, we had the opportunity to catch up with a participant with a rather critical perspective on the session and on African development at large.  According to Dr. John Akude from the German Development Institute one thing is to read statistics about Africa growth and economic successes. Rhetoric and reality are different, and in fact it is a very different thing to travel to Africa and talk to people from Africa: you don’t see all these successes and, more important, people don’t really feel them.

The ABCDE session discussed the penetration of mobile phones in several African countries and how this is considered a successful example of provision of infrastructures. However, when you travel to Nigeria, Mr. Akude own country of origin, you sure see that mobiles are more and more common. However, the other side of the coin of this success story is that the government has started to neglect landlines maintenance. The same is happening for post, which appears to be not function anymore in Nigeria.

So “what is development?” asks Mr. Akude. “Why should you throw away something old, get something new, and call it development? Look at the western world, landlines are still functioning.”

Maybe development should be something different.

Mr. Akude further elaborates and underlines how people don’t “feel” the growth we read about in books and journals. The government should really find ways to make sure the benefits of the economic growth reach the people. Yet, the issue of redistribution is not well tackled in conferences such as the ABCDE.

Moreover, according to Mr. Akude “we get too satisfied with too little.” Instead, economists should talk about success from the point of view of what is possible in terms of growth. “If Africans politicians do their work, Africa should record a minimum growth of 8% per year.

In conclusion, from Mr. Akude “we shouldn’t just be swallowing the statistics” but we need to make sure that when we talk about Africa successes these are felt by the people. “Any economic success that is not felt by the people is useless.”

ABCDE 2011: Keynote address by Daniel Cohen

Daniel Cohen, Professor of Economics at the École Normale Supérieure and Paris I University, and Director of the Centre for Economic Research and Application (CEPREMAP) of the Paris School of Economics offered his views on factor accumulation, culture and institutions in his keynote speech at the ABCDE 2011 event.

Daniel Cohen, Paris School of Economics (PSE), speaking at the ABCDE 2011

Daniel Cohen, Paris School of Economics (PSE), speaking at the ABCDE 2011

Mr. Cohen stated that the world has been changing quite significantly over the past few decades and that we are witnessing the “rise of the rest” in terms of population and GDP.

What are the causes of these changes and what the consequences on global economy and culture? According to Cohen, scholars tend to explain these changes through different elements, such as factor accumulation, productivity, the role of institutions and cultural shifts. Mr. Cohen presented an overview of the different theories. In his own opinion, everything matters. In particular, according to Mr. Cohen today’s globalization is primarily driven by exogenous policy changes (rise of India and China, in a large part due to the collapse of the Soviet model) and endogenous cultural shifts (demography, television and social media such as Facebook). Yet, the idea that peace and democracy are endogenously determined by prosperity goes too far. Peace and democracy have a life of their own.

ABCDE 2011: Parallel session on work and gender equality in developing countries

Gender and employment are high on the international development research agenda, with the World Development Report of 2012, focussing on gender equality. This was also the topic of the ABCDE 2011 parallel session #13 dedicated to discuss “work and gender equality in developing countries”.

Rania Roushdy from the Population Council investigated the effects on women in the Egyptian labor market during the economic downturn. The paper provided new research evidence on the impact of the financial crisis on the female labor market. This is expected to help in shaping country-specific policies to undermine the adverse effect of the crisis.

Secondly, Rana Hendy, Researcher at the Economic Research Forum, presented her paper on “Marriage and labor market transitions: A structural dynamic model”. This research investigates the effect of marriage on labor market transitions and employment choices. The results show greater state dependence for the public than for the private sector over time. Marriage decreases the public employment probability by 18% and the private one by almost the double (30%).

Finally, Gaëlle FerrantParis School of Economics, explored the peer effect on the labor market participation in South Africa. The question is whether being surrounded by active or employed peers influences the probability to both be active and employed, and the wages. Results show the presence of peer effects on market choice and outcomes confirms that social interaction matter.


ABCDE 2011 Plenary Session 3: Human capital formation, training and youth

Moderated by OECD Deputy Director Stefano Scarpetta, the third plenary session at the ABCDE 2011 event featured two presentations from Janet Currie (Columbia University) and Rodrigo Soares (Pontifícia Universidade Católica do Rio de Janeiro).

Mrs. Currie presented the results of her study on the effects of  early life health on adult health, education and earnings.  The research findings suggest that  there is a strong correlation between inequality among adults and early health. The question is therefore how policy can mitigate the long-lasting consequences of inequality in health at birth.

From his side, Mr. Soares shared with the audience his research on crime entry and exit among Brazilian youth. Using data from a unique survey conducted by “Observatório de Favelas” (a Brazilian NGO) with drug-selling gangs in Rio de Janeiro, the study tries to understand who these groups attract, the typical “careers” of teenagers within these organizations, and the potential exit strategies available.

After the session, we had the opportunity to record a short video interview with Mr. Yaw Nyarko (New York University), one of the discussants in the session. Mr. Nyarko argued that the the findings of the research on youth gangs in Brazil can be relevant for Africa as well. Several African countries are in fact experiencing an increase in the presence of gangs. According to Mr. Nyarko, education is key to keep the youth out of gang activities and offer them alternatives for a better future.

ABCDE 2011: Keynote address by Andrés Velasco

Andrés Velasco, former Finance Minister of Chile and Adjunct Professor of Public Policy at the Center for International Development (Harvard University) addressed the connection between employment, income distribution and inequality in his keynote speech at the ABCDE 2011 event.

Andrés Velasco, Harvard University

According to Mr. Velasco, Chile is an unequal country. The country went from being pre-industrial to post-industrial without ever being industrial. To reduce inequality in Chile,  Mr. Velasco reiterated the necessity to improve child care and urban housing, introduce flexible working hours and provide information on job availability. He also highlighted the importance of creating linkages between commodities and value added around those commodities. Mr. Velasco concluded by stating that there is no one factor that keeps poor people from regular employment, and “therefore there is no one solution”.

On the correlation between inequality and income growth in Latin America, Velasco clearly stated that Latin America has failed to grow much over the past years, part of it because of inequality which is mainly due to bad policies.

ABCDE 2011: Keynote address by Amartya Sen

An inspiring keynote address provided participants of the ABCDE 2011 event with great food for thought and set the tone for the discussions that will inform this year conference.

Amartya Sen (Harvard University) at the ABCDE 2011

Amartya Sen, Harvard University, at the ABCDE 2011

Professor Amartya Sen, Professor of Economics and Philosophy at Harvard University and formerly Honorary President of OXFAM, focussed his speech on the issue of growth-mediated development. According to Mr. Sen, a rapid  economic growth can have positive effects on development and poverty reduction. It reduces public debt and deficit and can enhance living standards and quality of life of the people. However, this depends also very much on how public policies make effective of the surplus generated by economic growth.

According to Mr. Sen, there are different approaches of economic mediated growth. In this sense, China and India have been using the revenues of economic growth in different ways, with China making greater use of these revenues for development purposes.

Mr. Sen went on underlining the need to combine growth mediated development with democratic governance: the decisions about public policies need to emerge for a transparent, open debate, where the public is engaged in demanding justice and development. In India, there is public debate around economic policies but the level of engagement is still low and involves only a minority of Indian. It is therefore important to broaden the rhetoric of development so to make sure that the economic growth benefits an increasing percentage of the population.

Finally, Mr. Sen concluded his talk with few reflections on the economic crisis that is shaking Europe and its common currency. In his views, today’s Europe needs broad democratic public reasoning and growth mediated development; this experience will be valuable not only for Western countries but for developing countries as well.

You can follow the conference on Twitter (#ABCDE) and online at

ABCDE 2011 kicks off in Paris

The ABCDE 2011 conference opened this morning in Paris. Around 700 people have registered to attend the event and the morning sessions were fully booked.

Angel Gurría, OECD Secretary-General

Mr. Angel Gurría, Secretary-General, Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), opened the proceedings of the event and framed the main topic of the discussions. In his view, the level of inequality is the world is morally unacceptable and economically and socially unsustainable. There is also  a clear need to look at growth in terms of its impact on the environment: the green economy can open up opportunities for growth and development.

Georges Serre, Deputy Director-General of Global Affairs, Development and Partnerships, Ministry of Foreign and European Affairs, France

From his side, Mr. George Serre, Deputy Director-General of Global Affairs, at the French Ministry of Foreign  Affairs, underlined the need to find alternatives and innovative source of development financing.

Delphine D'Amarzit, Director, Multilateral Affairs and Development, Ministry of the Economy, Finance and Industry, France

From her side, Mrs. Delphine D’Amarzit, from the French Ministry of the Economy, clearly stated that when inequalities are present, the effects of economic growth are “meaningless”.

Justin Yifu Lin, Senior Vice President and Chief Economist, World Bank

Finally, Justin Yifu Lin, Senior Vice President and Chief Economist, World Bank, concluded that, in order to broaden the opportunities for development, its key to investment in people in terms of education, health, access to social services.

You can follow the conference on Twitter (#ABCDE) and online at

ABCDE 2011: Broadening opportunities for development

With almost 700 registered participants, the 2011 Annual Bank Conference on Development Economics (ABCDE) will take place in Paris from 30 May to 1 June 2011, co-hosted by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), the French Ministry of Foreign and European Affairs, the French Ministry of Economy, Finance, and Industry, and the World Bank.

ABCDE is the world’s best-known conference for the presentation and discussion of new knowledge on development economics. The conference aims at promoting the exchange of ideas among researchers, policymakers, and students interested in development issues.  The overall theme of  this year’s conference is Broadening Opportunities for Development and the specific sub-themes are inequity, job creation, youth, social protection and gender equity.

A series of online platforms and channels have been set up to broaden the conversations beyond the face-to-face meeting in Paris:

GDNet will be working with the conference communication team to highlight Southern voices and institutions and areas of interest to GDN.