Pro-poor Growth and Policies: The Asian Experience (The Quaid-i-Azam Memorial Lecture)

The objective of this paper is to assemble on a systematic basis the available data on Asian countries and then analyse the relationship between growth and poverty reduction in a long-term perspective, as well as the impact of different macroeconomic variables on the intensity of this relationship. The results indicate that there is not only a strong positive relationship between growth and poverty reduction, but also that this relationship is highly variable across countries and time periods. The key macroeconomic determinants of the degree of pro-poor growth appear to be the rates of employment and agricultural growth. Inflation, at least up to a certain rate, does not impact poverty negatively, while the role of exports is essentially indirect through the contribution to the overall rate of economic growth. Examination of the change in policy stance of the Asian countries during the 1990s in relation to the 1980s demonstrates that on balance the mix of policies has not been pro-poor. The apparent sacrifice of growth in pursuit of macroeconomic stability has diminished the impact on poverty reduction. Given the relatively weak trade-off between inflation and growth with regard to the impact on poverty and the fact that inflation rates are currently low in the region, it is argued that countries can be more flexible in their policy stance with regard to the adoption of more growth-oriented as opposed to stabilisation policies. In particular, a case is made for resorting to a more expansionary counter-cyclical fiscal policy, led by higher levels of public investment, supported by appropriate monetary and exchange rate policies. The paper concludes with a detailed description of the policies designed to achieve faster agricultural development and greater employment generation.