Inclusive Growth: A Dream or a Possibility?

Guest Post by Tahmina Shafique, WB-SAES Youth Delegate from Bangladesh

It is an interesting afternoon in the SAES 2013- Inclusive growth is the key focus of discussion.

Over the past decade, the Asia region has successfully reduced income-based poverty and improved living standards for all, including the poor and those vulnerable to poverty.

A significant portion of Asia populations live on less than $1.25 per person a day and another significant portion are vulnerable to poverty ($2). Despite various critical challenges, the poverty incidence in the region has further declined over the last years.

In terms of economic benefits and access to social services, large numbers of people are being left behind or left out. In our region, economic inequality has increased in the past decade. Without steps to address these disparities, the risks this trend poses – including social instability – will continue to grow.
It is in this context that “inclusive growth” has emerged as either a desire or a necessity. The topic embraces both income and non-income dimensions of well-being. The talk on this, is on the table.
But, this concern for inclusive growth, or a growth pattern that includes all income strata, is not new at all. What is different is the urgency for achieving greater inclusiveness – and the sudden realisation that without it sustained growth will not be possible in the future.

Various people speak about various dimension of this concept. First, they state, that there is a direct relationship between growth and poverty reduction. The idea is that when growth is more inclusive, poverty is reduced much more.

The second concept is that political stability and peace is positively correlated to inclusive growth, meaning, political stability is significantly promoted when there is inclusive growth.
Third concept, which is being discussed among key stakeholders in South Asia is the confidence that inclusive growth leads to growth in itself.

All of the above are rationale and logical concepts. It is a reality. As we continue to live in a more globalized world, within the context of resource constraints, it is evidently difficult to ensure participation and economic growth.

But if we are to look at the reality within South Asia- perhaps the objective of inclusive growth should not be equal outcomes regardless of the efforts, an approach that can hurt the incentives for growth.

Instead, inclusiveness means levelling the playing field, getting rid of special enticement for lopsided development, and making the effort to engage every segment of the population.

For example, the key should be on expanding on the existing record. When we speak about access to basic education, perhaps it is time to focus on the relevance and quality education and the linkage with skills that meets the corresponding demand. Real outcomes need to be reached more realistically. All our capacity building and development approaches now needs to take a close look at the exact needs, exact linkages and desired outcomes.

But, the bigger questions remain- inclusive growth entails massive transformations; can South Asia make this a reality? Transformation of stringent characteristics that defines South Asia as a region, is a hard one to break through. Will South Asia be able to bring about improved infrastructure, governance, human capital and much much more?

Is South Asia ready to take up the challenge to break through the extreme barriers and bring about inclusive growth? If so, who will drive this? Will the governments, civil societies, private sector really bring this change?

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