The missing voice of the developing world | HT Editorial
In an article for Project Syndicate, economist Arvind Subramanian — who served as the chief economic adviser in the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government in its last term — and political scientist Devesh Kapur, who has written extensively on global economic institutions, exposed the deep imbalance that exists in the world of knowledge production of development economics.
They pointed out how the field, which is focused on improving lives and incomes of the poor in developing countries, has barely any representation from the global south. None of editors or co-editors of The Journal of Development Economics, a leading academic journal, are based in developing countries, with Asia and Africa entirely unrepresented; the flagship conference of the World Bank on development economics saw no participation from an institution from a developing economy in 2019 and only 7% of the papers presented at the conference in the last three decades are from the global south. Mr Subramanian and Mr Kapur also flag the problems associated with the growing use of randomised controlled trials, and how it has had exclusionary consequences, both because of the costs associated with it and the fact that gatekeepers are located, once again, in the developed world.
This may appear like an abstract academic debate. But by pointing to this imbalance, the scholars have pointed to a real crisis in global knowledge production. Peer-reviewed journals and academic and policy conferences are the first site of throwing up and testing new ideas, which then get picked up by the policy establishments and determine the agenda of global institutions. But in this process, the voices and experiences of billions of the world’s poor remains unheard. This must be corrected.