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The book is controversial because it has hit the headlines, with major write-ups in the world's most influential newspapers, including the New York Times and the International Herald Tribune. It is written by a World Bank insider who is critical of donors' development efforts, moreover coming at a time when the bank itself is in a state of flux bordering at times on turmoil.

The volume is accessible because it exhibits an all-too-rare capacity among economists to write with a wider audience in mind.

The Elusive Quest for Growth : Economists' Adventures and Misadventures in the Tropics

The author demonstrates an uncanny knack in distilling complex theory and analytics for a general audience. If the book has two key messages, they are that "people respond to incentives" and that "growth is good for the poor". These might appear awfully obvious to mainstream economists and to the general community in well-managed, fast-growing economies.


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But it is surprising how widely these messages have been ignored by governments in poor countries and by international development agencies. The book consists of fourteen chapters, all but the last followed by an "Intermezzo", and is organized into four sections. The first and last chapters and these Intermezzi portray the human dimensions of poverty in the Third World. The "panaceas" refer to theories and recipes for rapid growth, which in the author's view, have failed to live up to expectations.

The first substantial chapter looks at the disappointing record of international development assistance. In aggregate, it is very difficult to discern a statistical relationship which demonstrates that aid has made a difference.

The Elusive Quest for Growth | The MIT Press

Then Easterly switches to the micro, looking at Ghana, a country full of hope on the threshold of independence and often likened to Malaysia , but whose per capita income is now little different from that of The author also attacks the "financing gap" literature, which became popular with the Harrod-Domar growth models, and later with the work of Rostow in the s.

This "gaps" literature had largely dropped out of academic discourse by , but we are told here that it lived on in international agencies, and was employed to justify aid programmes. While the author's story in these two chapters is a largely negative one, it needs to be emphasized that in countries with sound economic policies -- that is, much of Southeast Asia until recently -- well-run aid programmes can make a difference.

Perhaps more could have been made of this point. Continuing this demolition of an "inputs" approach to growth, Easterly revisits "Solow's Surprise: investment is not the key to growth". The proposition that investment alone is no guarantee of growth is, of course, widely accepted in the academic literature, but it, too, has apparently not percolated through some international financial institutions.


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  • There is also a useful, sceptical discussion in this chapter of the total factor productivity TFP literature, including a recounting of the astounding Young-Krugman allegation that Singapore recorded zero TFP growth for its first twenty years or so of independence. Stars are assigned as follows:. Inventory on Biblio is continually updated, but because much of our booksellers' inventory is uncommon or even one-of-a-kind, stock-outs do happen from time to time.

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    The Elusive Quest for Growth: Economists' Adventures and Misadventures in the Tropics

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