Letter published in the Economist, 10 June 2000


It will take more than the World Bank paper that you laud [the Economist, 27 May [page 96]] to convince many of the "backlashers" against globalism that economic growth helps the poor.

The paper appears to be focused on cash incomes; but many of the world's poor are subsistence farmers. Even large relative increases in their cash income may not be very significant to them in absolute terms. And they have to be set against the negative effects of growth. Most of these cannot be readily quantified but are disproportionately important to the poor, who cannot afford to distract or insulate themselves from them. Such effects can include: a degraded physical environment, less predictable weather patterns, and social disruption leading to a loss of a sense of community, continuity, security and autonomy.

Another, often disastrous, consequence of growth is that it enriches corrupt, malignant, regimes, allowing them to spend more on their military. The dolorous effects of this on the poor are, to your credit, frequently reported in your pages. But they are not captured by econometric analysis, however sophisticated.

Ronnie Horesh

As from: Wellington, New Zealand

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