In a new UNDP Poverty Centre 1-pager, Terry McKinley explores the differing definitions of the development buzzword pro-poor growth and how they have evolved from their early-1990s origins. The debate stems from the not necessarily aligned goals of faster growth and greater equity.
Nanak Kakwani had defined ‘pro-poor growth’ as a trend in which “the incomes of the poor grow faster than those of the non-poor”. This standard, clearly relative, looked unequivocal.
In seeming contrast, Martin Ravallion had defined ‘pro-poor’ as a process of growth that was ‘poverty-reducing’. Under such a banner, a rapidly growing economy, such as China’s, could easily qualify— despite its rapidly rising inequality.
But such debated differences proved ephemeral. When one investigates the contestants’ respective mathematics, such divergences disappear.
Both approaches seem to discount social factors in growth, although external shocks and policies can drastically affect equity in a period of growth. Others, such as Dani Rodrik weigh in on the chicken/egg debate by arguing that "growth policy is not social policy," but that growth "is most effective social policy we can think of."