Syndicate content

Corporate responsibility

Macro hype, micro hope: Optimists champion ‘Community-Led Development’

Christopher Colford's picture

Now there’s a guy who really puts the full-scale dismal into “the dismal science” of economics – spurring optimists to quickly seek out more hopeful visions of the future.

Those seeking a glimmer of hope about the economic future were well-advised to keep their expectations low as they awaited the gloomy analysis by Prof. Robert J. Gordon, the esteemed economic historian from Northwestern University, who spoke at the World Bank Group’s Macrofiscal Seminar Series on March 31. As anticipated, Gordon’s expertly documented but relentlessly downbeat scenario, based on his latest book, “The Rise and Fall of American Growth,” persuasively made the case for a future of chronically sluggish growth in the world’s advanced economies.

Gordon’s chilling projections combine some of the darkest aspects of Lawrence Summers’ worries about “secular stagnation,” Christine Lagarde’s lamentations of a “New Mediocre” and private-sector leaders’ struggle to strategize for the “New Normal.” Gordon’s bleak thesis foresees “little growth” – although, significantly, not zero growth – as the developed world’s weary economies endure perhaps decades of drift.

Policymakers in the world’s largest economies are surely exasperated by the painstaking crawl out of the global financial crisis – yet they don’t have much positive news to look forward to, asserts Gordon. With “declining potential productivity growth” compounding the impact of declining population growth and a declining labor-force participation rate, there’s probably no technological deus ex machina that can soon propel the world’s advanced economies toward restored prosperity.

That viewpoint defies the techno-utopian visions that have been so eagerly peddled to anxious Western voters, who can only dream of a return to brisk late-1990s-style growth. Quipped the Macrofiscal seminar’s discussant, Deepak Mishra: Gordon “has made a career of busting the technology hype.”

Yet Gordon’s logic need not trigger total despair among the Bank’s poverty-fighting professionals and their counterparts at other development institutions. Gordon emphasized that his analysis is about the American economy, and, to some extent, about the mature economies of Western Europe. His book’s foreboding predictions, he said, do not extend to developing economies, which enjoy “great potential for growth.”

For can-do pragmatists who strive for stronger growth and sustained progress in developing economies, there’s a ready antidote to Gordon-style macroeconomic gloom. By happenstance, immediately after Gordon delivered his grim analysis in the Bank’s J Building auditorium, optimists seeking inspiration needed only to cross the street to the Bank’s Main Complex to hear an energetic appeal for greater hands-on activism.

With an update on the movement for Community-Led Development (CLD), a seminar sponsored by the Bank’s Community-Driven Development Global Solutions Group learned of the promise that CLD offers for inspiring inclusive, sustainable solutions that enlist citizens’ engagement and build community-level confidence in strong governance standards.

Moving from macro to micro – dispelling the dread of inexorable global forces and embracing positive citizen-centric action – the CLD leaders leapfrogged Gordon’s macro-level angst to highlight micro-level opportunity.


From Deals to Development: A snapshot from Monrovia

Michael Jarvis's picture

Once a concession agreement or any large-scale public procurement contract is signed, who can ensure that the terms are met? How to turn commitments into development on the ground? This is the puzzle that a mix of around 70 government, business and civil society leaders from West Africa began to solve this past week.

It’s Our Money

Sabina Panth's picture

It has been argued that corruption cases are focused mostly on the offenders and retribution is calculated on material value. This leaves out the victims of corruption and the collective damage done to the society at large, especially when the malfeasance involves the misappropriation of public money.  The concept of ‘social damage’ is an emerging concept in the anti-corruption movement, which seeks to identify, quantify, and repair the impact and consequences of corruption on ordinary citizens.  It posits that citizens, as taxpayers, are entitled to a legal claim on public money and how it is spent because “every dollar lost in corruption is a dollar stolen from spending in education, social services, poverty reduction and job creation (Its Our Money)”.

Inclusive is the new black

Michael Jarvis's picture

One hears less about the base of the pyramid these days. Instead, "inclusive" remains the clear buzzword of choice for now. The recent UN Millennium Development Goals Summit generated a side workshop on Inclusive Business organized by a roll call of organizations. Now IFC is hosting its own event on Inclusive Business Solutions around the IMF/World Bank Annual Meetings this week. The term is pervasive.

A collective need to rebuild public trust

Michael Jarvis's picture

The global economic crisis revealed large scale fraud in the financial sector (witness the Madoff scandal, among others). Unsurprisingly, it  has prompted widespread decline in public trust in companies. The Financial Times / Harris Poll released last month suggests three-quarters of people in the US and Europe now have a worse opinion of business.

CSR++ for agribusiness

Michael Jarvis's picture

Participants from the length of the agribusiness value chain are gathered at the Bank this week for the World Bank Institute’s new Executive Program on Inclusive Agribusiness: Fighting Poverty, Hunger and Malnutrition. Chris Delgado and John Lamb from the Bank’s Agriculture and Rural Development team set the scene on Tuesday morning by laying out the scale and complexity of the challenge facing the food sector. It was not a pretty picture.

Legislating for doing good

Michael Jarvis's picture

While the financial and economic crisis has prompted much soul searching on the appropriate government and business boundaries and the right balance of regulation, it will be interesting to see how this filters down to emerging markets such as India and China -even at the local level there are now efforts to legislate for corporate responsibility.

Necessity or luxury?

Michael Jarvis's picture

The debate on the fate of corporate responsibility initiatives in the economic slowdown is already underway in a range of general business and specialist publications. It is falling into predictable lines. Friedmanites brand CSR as a dangerous distraction and an unaffordable luxury in these parsimonious times. Advocates suggest that is was precisely a failure to meet core responsibilities that helped create the current crisis, and so rebuilding public trust through responsible approaches is all the more important.


Pages