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Past Issue • Jan-Mar 2014

(Mis)Understanding Economic Growth and Development

An accurate understanding of the process of economic growth is a prerequisite for intervention as well as abstention from interference by the government and civil society. The ultimate policy objective is economic development – a qualitative improvement in the lives of the populace. The benefits accruing to the populace depend on the nature of economic growth, which can be services-led, export-led, profitled, wage-led, manufacturing-driven, etc. An Uncertain Glory emphasises the importance of intervention in education and health in accelerating economic growth. For authors Jean Drèze and Amartya Sen, the goal of any society should be the expansion of human capabilities. And, institutions such as markets and democracy are means to that end. Economic growth “generates resources”, which can be used to improve human capabilities. As they write in the preface, “the achievement of high growth must ultimately be judged in terms of the impact of that economic growth on the lives and freedoms of the people” (p viii). Human capabilities, as is to be expected, refer to a spectrum of endowments and the ability of the population to access all of them. They include, in no particular order, nutrition, education, health, clean environment, access to energy, transportation, communication and banking infrastructure. The ability to access them, however, is severely constrained by caste and gender. The authors criticise the Indian media for their “excessive focus on a relatively small part of the population whose lives and problems are much discussed” (p 261). This wide gap in the Indian public discourse underlies their motivation in writing this book: central to it is the “importance of enlightened public reasoning” (p 239).


  • ISBInsight-Author

    Alex M Thomas

    PhD candidate at the School of Economics, University of Sydney, Australia
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