The "Spence Commission on Growth and Development,” or "The Growth Commission,” is an independent body that was created in April 2006. The Commission brings together experienced leaders from government, business, and academia to deepen the understanding of sustained, shared growth and development. The Commission is sponsored by the governments of Australia, the Netherlands, Sweden, and the United Kingdom, and the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation and the World Bank.
The Commission comprises 22 members -- policy makers, business people, and academics from industrialized and developing countries (see complete list of members ). Nobel Laureate Michael Spence is the Commission's chair and Danny Leipziger, World Bank Vice President for Poverty Reduction and Economic Management, is the vice-chair. All Commissioners work pro bono.
Over a period of two years, the Commission will take stock of the current state of knowledge and understanding of economic growth, review the salient features of successful growth experiences, identify new and developing trends that are relevant to future growth strategies, and assess the most effective approaches for developing countries. In light of the economic uncertainties that affect the international environment, this exercise is forward-looking and will examine the coming 10 years and beyond.
A wealth of knowledge on economic growth and development resides in academia, research institutions, and international organizations and has been published over the last few years. Countries -- policy makers and other practitioners -- have amassed a great deal of first-hand experience on what works and what doesn't in this arena. The purpose of the Commission is to bring together this wealth of accumulated knowledge and experiences, and transform it into a useful global frame of reference that is meaningful for developing countries and reflect their experience. The Commissioners expertise, experience and wisdom, is a tremendously rich source of knowledge, and one that can provide new insights for the next generation of policy makers.
The Commission's activities take place at three levels:
- The Commission defines the themes and issues that it believes important for understanding growth and development; guides and reviews the work carried out under its auspices; and endorses the final report. Individual Commission members with an interest on specific issues may sponsor additional work. Approximately 25 country case studies and 40 thematic papers are currently under the different degrees of preparation. The issues explored include urban growth processes, institutions and growth, labor market policies and employment (for a list of topics, access the Statement of Purpose ).
- Independent Experts – Academics and practitioners who are experts on the themes and issues identified by the Commission -- are invited to author papers exploring the state of knowledge in their respective areas of expertise, and the implications for public policy, economic growth and distribution. The Commission does not endorse the academic papers, but comments on the papers and reviews and discusses them during a series of workshops.
- A 7-member working group commissions, reviews and comments on thematic papers and case studies, interacts with Commissioners, and assists in drafting the final report.
This structure aims to bring Commissioners the most current results of theoretical and empirical research on development economics and to ensure that the conclusions reached are based on a sound knowledge base.
The Commission will meet five times over a two-year period. Four such meetings have already taken place -- in Washington DC, Singapore, New York and most recently in Suzhou, China. These full meetings of the Commission are complemented by smaller workshops, which include policy makers and economists drawn from academia, think tanks, and the World Bank. Electronic interactions and discussions, as well as a web site help facilitate the interaction and work of the Commission.
The Commission is expected to shed light on the long-run forces that underpin growth and highlight the actions -- at the national and international level -- that are most likely to improve developing countries' growth prospects.
The World Bank contributes to the Commission in several ways. It hosts the Commission's Secretariat and provides administrative and fiduciary oversight to the work of the Commission. Bank economists -- experts on themes and issues identified by the Commissioners as important to their understanding of growth and development -- have authored or co-authored some of the thematic papers and country case studies, as have economists in the Monetary Authory of Singapore, and economists in the South African Treasury. The Bank is one of six sponsors of the Commission.
While the Commission members work pro-bono, the work of the Commission has costs which range from organizing meetings, consultations, and workshops, to the costs of commissioning papers. The Governments of Australia, The Netherlands, Sweden, United Kingdom, the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, and the World Bank provide financial support to the Commission .
Economic Growth in the 1990s: Learning from a Decade of Reform was mainly an interpretation of the past with a view to draw lessons which eventually made it clear there was a need for rethinking what is known about economic growth in developing countries. The Growth Commission is expected to focus on the future challenges and how they may affect sustained economic growth. More importantly, perhaps, the Lessons of the 1990s was written by a group of Bank economists, whereas the Commission's work is being led by leading independent academics and experienced practitioners.
- The Commission defines the themes and issues that believes important for understanding of growth and development. It also guides and reviews the work carried out under its auspice, and endorses the final report. Individual Commission members may also sponsor additional work on issues of particular interest to them.
- The Commission invites leading academics to author papers exploring the state of knowledge in their respective areas of expertise, and its implications on public policy, economic growth and development. The Commission will be asked to take a view and endorse the final report, and to take a note and comment on the academic papers. It will not, however, be asked to endorse the thematic papers and case studies. The papers will be reviewed and discussed at the workshops, to which Commission members are invited, and published separately. Several academics agreed to participate in the project with the understanding that they would have direct and non-intermediated exchanges with the Commission.
- The Working group interacts with academics and Commission members, commissions thematic papers and country case studies, reviews and comments on them throughout the process. The Working Group supports the Chairman in his drafting of the final report by reviewing interim drafts and providing comments.
The Commission is expected to present a draft final report in May 2008.
We expect that policymakers and practitioners in developing countries and the international community concerned with sustainable development will benefit from the work produced by the Commission.
This will not be a one-size-fits-all approach but a framework within which strategies can be designed to address key issues related to development and poverty reduction for the coming decade.