Which comes first in the wake of revolution, bread or freedom?
A Reuters reporter asked about this during the embargoed press briefing last Friday to launch the World Development Report 2011: Conflict, Security and Development. What she wondered about was the tough choices of what to deal with most urgently in the throes of revolutions like we are seeing in the Middle East and North Africa.
In other words, should policymakers pay urgent attention to, say, food, jobs and the flow of cash or do justice and political change take precedence?
A key point in this year’s WDR is that you need to have some quick fixes to build confidence and these may cover the ‘bread’ as well as the ‘freedom’ dimensions. For example a social safety net program for low income people that sets up food kitchens may best be carried out by local civic groups who may not have had a voice or legitimacy prior to revolution or transition. A jobs program that puts people to work restoring basic infrastructure may involve a combination of local entrepreneurs and government project managers using donor support. A community policing project may involve outside peacekeepers as well as new representatives who were until recently in the opposition.
With this in mind, World Bank Chief economist Justin Yifu Lin answered that bread and freedom must come together. Indeed, freedom can encompass the right to food as well as the freedom to choose a job, to start a new business, and to earn income to restart growth amidst transformational change.
In terms of politics, the WDR calls for building 'inclusive enough' coalitions to foster stability.