Ha-Joon Chang is such a wag, isn\’t he?

Fortunately, economic growth has come back to Africa in the new century, making the 2000s the region\’s fastest-growing decade ever.

Excellent, we\’ve got real growth in Africa.

Therefore, according to the Reader in Economics at Cambridge, we must stop using the policies which have produced this growth and go back to the having an industrial development plan of the 50s through 70s which bankrupted the African economies.

Talk about ideology over the real world……

7 thoughts on “Ha-Joon Chang is such a wag, isn\’t he?”

  1. Having taken a quick look at his recent articles, I can safely say that Cambridge should be ashamed to employ such a fool.

    I loved this:

    – Cutting red tape and taxes will not revive Britain….Why?

    …. The coalition’s core business strategy is wrong. If there’s money to be made investors won’t worry about regulation…..

    The fact that whether there is money to be made or not depends on regulation and you don’t have to teach at Cambridge to understand that.

  2. He is a dangerously ignorant moron.
    Firstly, to take 1980 is dumb, it represented a high in GDP per capita based on high commodity prices and reckless borrowing. In real terms Sub Saharan African GDP per capita fell by 48% between 1980 and 1985. This was mainly because of falling commodity prices and the chickens of bad industrial policy coming home to roost. It can in no way be blamed on the Washington consensus. In addition, the World Bank and others had lent recklessly based on industrial policy prior to 1982 and subsequently lent more as economies suffered from poor performance. Again nothing to do with the Washington consensus.

    As for his assertion about privatisation, if we look at the World Bank database on privatizations , we find a mere 3 in 1988 in SSA, woth a miserable 9.9 million.
    It takes until 1995 before we get above 500 millionand a hundred privatizations. In fact we find that privatizations tally quite well with growth.

  3. Tim’s quotation cuts Chang off in mid-paragraph. Adding the next sentence and a half, he actually wrote:

    Fortunately, economic growth has come back to Africa in the new century, making the 2000s the region’s fastest-growing decade ever. However, this has not come about because the Washington policies suddenly started working, as admitted by even some of the World Bank staff at the conference. It has been mainly driven by the primary commodity price boom…

    Chang’s argument is that it is not the policies he argues against which produced the growth. Perhaps Tim has good reasons to disagree with him: if so he should give those reasons instead of misrepresenting what Chang has to say.

  4. @PaulB : I’d say it’s almost absurd to argue that the poverty of African nations is caused by the Washington consensus’ policies alone, as this piece seems to argue. I agree that using a partial quotation, especially cutting off the sentiment ‘midstream’ as it were, could seem a little high handed, but the piece you add does nothing to counteract Tim’s point.

    To argue further, why had the economies of Africa, to a large degree, reached the point in 1980 where they were forced to go cap in hand to the World Bank and IMF? In most cases because of what the late Lord Peter Tamas Bauer, arguably the greatest Developmental Economist of all time, labelled the ‘politicisation of economic life’ which was effectively extending state control over huge swathes of the economy.

    I would not be so bold as to try and argue as Bauer, but read ‘Inequality, the Thurd World and economic delusion’ for reasons as to why Chang’s strongest argument from his piece

    ‘Hence the growing interest in industrial development policy similar to what we saw in Japan and Korea through the 1950s to the 1980s’

    Would be unlikely to work in many African countries although I dare say one or two (Botswana, maybe Ghana?) might benefit from it in a limited number of areas given the difference between now and 1980.

    I take that you could cohesively argue that Growth since 2000 is driven by the huge spikes in World Commodity prices, mostly driven by BRIC demand for raw materials, rather than neo- Liberal policies but to then advocate the policies that had such cataclysmic effects in the 1960s and 1970s are thus the remedy is perhaps not the ideal solution either.

  5. The point that Chang’s work makes, repeatedly and convincingly, is that the policies that Washington Consensus types claim had cataclysmic effects on Africa in the 1960s and 1970s are *exactly the same policies* that were implemented with great success in Japan, South Korea and Taiwan over a similar period, and which led to South Korea moving from one of the world’s poorest countries not long before his birth to a developed economy now.

    The question for Chang’s critics is “why would the policies implemented with such success in Asia lead to penury in Africa, and if so then why would the Washington Consensus be better for Africa?”.

    (for my money, the answer is “the policies implemented in Asia during the 1960s and 1970s were not the ones implemented in Africa, because post-colonial Africa consisted of corrupt dictators being bribed by both sides of the Cold War to fight proxy wars while none of the actors involved gave a stuff about development. When Washington Consensus advocates say that we’ve tried Chang’s policy solutions in Africa and they have failed, they are lying”).

  6. JohnB: What were South Korea and Taiwan (the Republic of China to give it its full name) if not corrupt dictatorships in Cold War proxy wars? And both had been colonised too so that isn’t a get out either.

  7. Very different sort of ‘proxy wars’. The ones in Africa involved our dudes hacking their dudes to pieces; the ones in Taiwan (post-1949) and SK (post-1953) involved our dudes becoming rich whilst their dudes stayed embarrassingly poor.

    The question of *why* it turned out that the client state interactions in Africa were bloody and remained so until the end of the Cold War, while the pattern of client state interactions in East Asia (although not Southeast Asia) was much closer to that of the client states in Europe, is a bloody interesting one.

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