Poorer countries driving growth


THE ECONOMIC crisis has diverted attention away from a “silent revolution” in the world of development which is seeing economic growth gathering pace in many poorer countries, said the managing director of the World Bank.

Speaking at the Institute of International and European Affairs in Dublin yesterday, Caroline Anstey said two-thirds of global growth is now being driven by the developing world.

In addition, over the past 10 years, developing countries have grown nearly four times faster than developed countries, and that trend is expected to continue.

This increasingly “flatter” development means it is no longer a given that knowledge and finance flow from north to south, or west to east, she said.

“Today, it’s India’s model for information-communication technologies being studied across the African continent; conditional cash transfer systems pioneered in Brazil and Mexico being piloted in New York City; Rwanda taking its inspiration for rural agriculture from China’s experience in terracing degraded hillsides,” Ms Anstey said.

She said there was increasing evidence that development in poorer countries was being democratised, as top-down interventions give way to much more participatory solutions that involve citizens.

Ms Anstey gave the example of South Kivu in the Democratic Republic of Congo, where citizens use mobile phones to vote for local budget priorities. “It’s meant more funds at local level for public services and citizens more willing to pay taxes. In some local communities, tax collection has multiplied up to 16 times,” she said.

In addition, there is more recognition that effective development cannot be done behind closed doors, swathed in a fog of secrecy, or reserved for experts only.

“Modern technology won’t allow it, citizens won’t tolerate it and development effectiveness should decry it,” she said.

“That means greater transparency, greater accountability and a much sharper focus on monitoring, evaluation and results: for taxpayers who need to see that the development funds they contribute are used effectively, especially in tough fiscal times.

“For citizens who need to know that their governments are using their money accountably. And for evaluating interventions that can move countries towards growth and opportunity and away from aid dependence.”

The World Bank is involved in development efforts through the International Development Association, which operates a fund for poorer countries. Ireland is one of 79 contributors to the association.

Ms Anstey said she was encouraged that there was such strong public support for overseas aid in Ireland and said the country should be proud. She pointed to the results of a survey by Dóchas which found 85 per cent of people rated overseas aid as “important” or “very important”.