This week, we’ll be reporting on the Annual Bank Conference on Development Economics (ABCDE) taking place here at the OECD, in co-operation with the World Bank and France. Our first post is from OECD Secretary-general Angel Gurría.
These are momentous days for the OECD and its work on development. Last week, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton chaired our 50th Anniversary Ministerial Council Meeting, at which Ministers urged the OECD to adopt a comprehensive new approach to development. They gave us a strong mandate to launch a development strategy in line with our member countries’ aim of promoting development worldwide, and of achieving higher, more inclusive, sustainable growth for the widest number of countries. This effort will entail greater collaboration and knowledge sharing, mutual learning, and deeper partnerships with developing countries and other international organisations.
This week, we are co-hosting the ABCDE, joining forces with the World Bank and France in bringing together some of the best and brightest thinkers on development economics. We’re putting into practice our desire to deepen our understanding of the diverse realities and challenges that developing countries are facing in today´s rapidly changing economic landscape.
It is only natural that we sharpen our focus on development. The epicenter of economic activity is shifting from industrialised countries to the large developing countries and, more than ever, their future growth prospects are closely intertwined. Over the past decade, a group of emerging and developing countries has achieved remarkable advances in terms of growth and development. They have lifted millions of people out of extreme poverty, becoming a vital development source of trade, investment and aid. If current trends continue, we anticipate that developing countries will account for nearly 60% of global GDP by 2030.
These dynamic new poles of growth have useful experiences and knowledge to share. Working closely with them, we can combine our knowledge and best practices in the service of all countries, and particularly the poorest. We will develop new perspectives on how to achieve inclusive growth, identify new ways to address inequality and poverty, and find new pathways towards social and economic well-being.
Here at the OECD, we have begun broadening our sources of knowledge, building on 50 years of gathering evidence, sharing experience and promoting good practice. Four new member countries are enriching our work: Chile, Estonia, Israel and Slovenia. Russia is moving closer to accession, and we are engaging closely with Brazil, China, India, Indonesia and South Africa on a wide range of policies. We are also working hard to support G20 discussions, which represent a major step towards more inclusive and innovative global decision-making.
Looking at the ABCDE conference theme of Broadening Opportunities for Development, I note that emerging economies are both highly familiar with the challenges and highly innovative in finding solutions.
Broadening opportunities is about tackling inequality, about not leaving people behind in our ever-changing world economy. Across OECD countries, the richest 10% of people earn 9 times more than the poorest 10 per cent. In Mexico and Chile, the rich have incomes more than 25 times higher than the poorest. Beyond the OECD, our figures for Brazil suggest a ratio of 50 to 1, and our figures for South Africa suggest a ratio of 147 to 1! This reminds us that despite formidable progress in emerging economies, the battle against poverty is not yet won.
The good news is that many emerging economy governments now have the resources to make smart social investments. Mexico and Brazil, with their successful cash transfer programmes and other innovations, have shown the way.
What can we learn from them? How can we understand better the diverse realities of developing countries and the particular challenges they face?
What is clear is that, in OECD countries and elsewhere, high levels of inequality are economically, politically and ethically untenable. Inequality prevents the most vulnerable from breaking through the vicious cycle of poverty. We need to identify policies that can boost access to education, skills, jobs and social services, promoting upward mobility for talented and hard-working women, men and youths. We need to ensure that growth is participative and inclusive, fostering social cohesion. We need to close gender gaps in education and employment, empowering women to gain entrepreneurial skills and use them to their fullest. And, finally, I think we need to understand that development is not all about income, but about a more general notion of societal progress.
I am looking forward to reading your views and following ABCDE discussions!