No mention of population in Spence growth report


In the recent Talk of the Town article, “Overwhelming Case for the RH Bill” (Inquirer, 10/14/12), the authors viewed the research of Michael Spence as supportive of population management programs as ingredients for high and sustained economic growth.

In the interest of “Balanced News and Fearless Views” which the Inquirer is known for, please let me help clarify this a bit. The report of Michael Spence is titled: “The Growth Report: Strategies for Sustained Growth and Inclusive Development.” The Inquirer and its readers can find this in the World Bank website.

The report assessed the performance of 13 economies, namely: Botswana, Brazil, China, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Japan, Korea, Malaysia, Malta, Oman, Singapore, Taiwan and Thailand. The report dealt with the question: What made these 13 economies achieve annual 7-percent growth for a period of 25 years? What were their ingredients for growth?

The report found that these countries have four “common flavors,” namely: (1) the strategic integration with the world economy; (2) the mobility of resources, particularly labor; (3) the high savings and investment rates; and (4) a capable government committed to growth. It also recommended other “ingredients” such as stimulating public investment, exchange rate policies, etc.

Interestingly, in no section of the report is there any mention of population management/control as an ingredient for growth. The word “population control” cannot even be found. Even if some of these 13 countries did enact population management programs, the report did not even bother to indicate these programs as causing growth. Surely, the authors were aware of these programs in the countries they evaluated, but it calls attention that they chose not to openly advocate population management as a growth ingredient.

Rather, their specific recommendations for countries were of a different flavor. For India, it recommends improving infrastructure investment and quality of education. For China, it recommends more consumption. For rapidly growing young populations in developing countries, it recommends faster growth.


PhD student, UP Economics

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