New UN report shows industrial development as engine of economic growth

30 April 2007

Developing countries need greater technological capabilities and flexibility to succeed in an increasingly competitive and fast paced global environment, according to a new report by the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs.

The report, “Industrial Development for the 21st Century: Sustainable Development Perspectives,” was launched today, the opening of a two-week session of the UN Commission on Sustainable Development that will focus on energy, climate change, air pollution and industrial development.

The 432-page volume examines industrial development as central to the process of structural transformation which characterizes economic development. It points to new challenges and opportunities facing today’s industrialisers as a result of globalization, technological change and international trade rules. It also discusses social and environmental aspects of industrial development.

José Antonio Ocampo, UN Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs, said at the report’s launch that industrialization, an essential element of classical development economics, remains crucial to the process of development. But many developing countries, he said had been undergoing “the unfortunate experience of deindustrialization.”

Part of the problem, he said, was that in recent years there had been “an obsession with productivity,” that had not been properly linked with finance, technology or marketing. “Industrial development has to be inclusive on a broad base, and depends on the generation of employment,” he said.

Vivek Chibber, a sociology professor at New York University, said development thinking over the past quarter-century had produced disappointing growth rates, very disappointing employment growth, and very little success in attacking poverty. He said the new book was part of an effort to recognize the importance of the State in prodding industrial development.

Contrary to the perception that industrial development always brings environmental problems, Jomo Sundaram, Assistant-Secretary-General in the Department for Economic and Social Affairs, said that industrial policies could promote a “clean revolution,” as evidenced by results in several countries.

“We need green industrial development and we need greener products,” he added.

 

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