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Hirschmanian Themes of Social Learning and Change

The purpose of this paper is to map today's debate about the effectiveness of conditionalities and adjustment lending back into the older balanced versus unbalanced growth debate. A 'Christmas tree' of conditionalities on an adjustment loan is in general ineffective in developing 'ownership' or in generating sustainable change. Development agencies need to select for genuine commitment to policy reforms on the part of client governments rather than think that such commitments can be 'bought' with aid. This raises the question of "How does a country get from here to there?" and this is where the Hirschmanian notion of unbalanced growth can be 'rediscovered.' A country that has already developed a "good policy environment" and can implement a 'Christmas tree' of conditionalities is like a country that can implement the "balanced growth plans" of the earlier debate. Such a country would be well on its way to development. When the central government lacks this capability, the Hirschmanian approach is to look for "hidden rationalities" in the small or in the periphery, and then to help the small beginnings to spread using, where possible, the natural pressures of linkages. Rather than trying to put all the pieces of a puzzle together at once to make it look like the picture on the box, one starts in the small where the pieces are starting to fit together and then builds outward using the linkages between the pieces. Similar results from a number of authors are used to help "triangulate" the basic ideas.

Categories: Bibliography, Learning
Author: Ellerman, David
Published Date: April, 2001