What kinds of countercyclical policies make the most sense during financial crises? Can going ‘beyond Keynesianism’ by investing in infrastructure restart worldwide demand and help avoid a double dip recession? How can you sort good industrial policy from bad? Is it more important to focus on pragmatic development lessons from other emerging market countries, or should researchers spend most of their time on randomized control trials and experimental approaches to evaluation? These and many other questions were explored during the first year of ‘Let’s Talk Development,’ which we launched on September 28, 2010.
We went live with this blog on that day because it was when World Bank Group President Robert B. Zoellick delivered a speech on ‘Democratizing Development Economics ’ at Georgetown University. This blog aimed to attract commentary and insights on breakthrough solutions to development challenges as well as to transmit some of the newest thinking taking hold in the field of development economics.
From the early months, Let’s Talk Development was a venue for hearing many voices – from within and outside the World Bank. We have had almost 60 bloggers over the past year, including colleagues and friends from numerous think-tanks and universities.
Looking back, the skies in 2010 were downright sunny, since recovery was underway and developing countries were rebounding from the 2008 crisis. Now the outlook is cloudy with signs of fallout from the debt crisis in the Euro Zone spreading to the rest of the world. Somalia is beset by a staggering famine, educated young people in many parts of the world can’t find jobs, few easy solutions are at hand to tackle simmering tensions in the Middle East, debt troubles in the Euro Zone are rattling markets, trade protectionism is threatening to re-emerge, and the threat of a double dip recession can’t be ruled out.
I think this blog kept up with the times, remained open to diverse views, and managed to publish on topics crucial to the fight against poverty and the drive for sustainable development and enduring growth.
Our commentary covered many topics, including relative poverty lines; cash transfers as a means of reducing HIV infection and keeping girls in school; the interactions between commodity price volatility, food supplies and agricultural productivity; measuring natural wealth; the design of universal health coverage systems; managing capital flows, and; how resilient emerging economies were to the economic crisis.
Open Data figured prominently, with some  commending the significant milestones that have been reached in making data more publicly while others  pointed to areas needing more attention. The Annual Bank Conference on Development Economics also had a lively debate on the nature and scope of ‘democratizing development.’ I provided a wrap up post on the ABCDE conference as well.
Structural transformation  and the movement of labor intensive manufacturing industries to places where wages are cheaper and where the ‘advantage of backwardness’ exists was a topic I wrote several posts on. I am convinced that industrial policy can ‘come out of the cold’ and, through better design and a focus on comparative advantage, a growth identification and facilitation model can help build competitive factories in Africa and elsewhere. Lessons from China and other successful emerging market countries can be instrumental in this. The October 1 Economics focus section of The Economist ('Tinker, tailor' ) highlights how industrial policy may be coming in from the cold and touches on papers by Rodrik, Acemoglu, Aghion, Harrison and others.
Now the invite:
I hope readers of this post will attend a Conference on Structural Transformation and Economic Growth in Washington, D.C. on October 6-7, 2011, Room JB 1-080. The papers presented will cover a range of issues, including globalization and structural transformation, sectoral diversification and human capital, industrial policy, and country case studies. Participants will include such leading researchers as Philippe Aghion (Harvard University), Laura Alfaro (Harvard University), David Atkin (Yale University), Bruce Blonigen (University of Oregon), Maggie Chen (World Bank), Douglas Gollin (Williams College), Ann Harrison (University of California, Berkeley), Chang-Tai Hsieh (University of Chicago), Jean Imbs (Paris School of Economics), Amit Khandelwal (Columbia University), Margaret McMillan (IFPRI), Richard Rogerson (Princeton University), Romain Wacziarg (University of California, Los Angeles), Shang-Jin Wei (Columbia University), and Xiabo Zhang (IFPRI).