The Future of Development Economics

A stimulating symposium has concluded in Berlin, organised by the very able Svenja Flechtner (European University Flensburg), Jakob Hafele (University of Vienna), Martina Metzger (Institute for International Political Economy at the Berlin School of Economics and Law), Theresa Neef (Freie Universität Berlin).

The EAEPE "Developing Economics" symposium looked closely at the future of "Development Economics" which many critics and sympathisers alike agree requires substantial overhaul. Several themes deserve attention: narrow methods, pretentions of predictive science, lack of attention to phenomena and problem-solving.and a surprising and persistent dodging by economists of fundamental advances in their discipline in technological change.

On technological change, well, we have a commitment to this at TCLab especially because these provide the phenomena to assess the epistemological assumptions of the discipline, data and methods and their implications. It's perhaps no accident that technological change scholars tend to be foused on a range of methods, study industry phenomena to keep them honest, and engage in different ways with narrower and wider, more pluralist, and historical traditions.

In a keynote address, Smita Srinivas spoke about the Economics of Innovation and the opportunities it provides for moving devlopment economics forward, i.e. the economics of studying development processes at different scales, with close attention to the dynamics of technological change. The particular emphasis of the talk was on connecting cognitive and structural views with institutional approaches. 

Erik Reinert gave a keynote address on Stages of Development approaches, while Sanjaya Reddy addressed the audience on inequality indicators.

And finally, technological change at least in popular debate seems to point toward a determinist viewpoint on labour substitution, robots, layoffs and more. But the importance of a revitalised development economics is to draw on huge advances in evolutionary economics, institutional perspectives, and wider political economy. Are we sure we know what's happening around us? The Christian Science Monitor raises some questions.


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TCLab's new postdoctoral scholar Jose Ribiero and Smita Srinivas are building a program on how technological learning is manifested in three countries. We know that economic growth and concerns of employment are both linked to technological learning, but we have some hunches about why economic theory doesn't take us far enough in appreciating why the links between industry and agriculture manifest in particular ways.

Market Menagerie examines technological advance and market regulation in the health industries of nations such as India, Brazil, South Africa, Nigeria, and China. Pharmaceutical and life science industries can reinforce economic development and industry growth, but not necessarily positive health outcomes. Yet well-crafted industrial and health policies can strengthen each other and reconcile economic and social goals.

"The gains from the technology and industry perspective have already been put into motion,"  Smita Srinivas interviewed by for USA Today

India has launched the country's first-ever Mars Orbiter Mission (MOM) and is expected to reach Mars in September.

Melissa Pandika, 10:54 a.m. EST January 29, 2014

(Photo Credits: Pallava Bagla/Corbis)

The Open University and the Science Policy Research Unit, Univ of Sussex, UK co-organized a vibrant workshop in February 2017 in Brighton, UK.

Smita Srinivas played a co-organizer role alongside the leads Prof. Maureen Mackintosh (Economics, IKD, Open University), and Prof. Joanna Chataway (S&T policy, SPRU)

The workshop drew participants from the UK, Ghana, Kenya, Tanzania, and India.

"For most, the match ends when the Sun goes down, but in the Morro da Mineira favela, in Rio de Janeiro, play can continue long into the night, thanks to lights powered by the players themselves.

The six LED floodlights surrounding the field are powered by 200 kinetic tiles buried under the Astroturf, which capture the energy generated by the players' footsteps.

As players put weight on the tiles beneath the pitch, it causes electric-magnetic induction generators to kick in and generate electricity."

Image copyright PaveGen