Poorer countries may find it harder than ever to foster industrialization, UN warns

Workers at Sonapi Industrial Park, Port-au-Prince, Haiti. UN Photo/Eskinder Debebe

11 April 2013 – Poorer developing countries may find it much harder under current conditions to foster industrial development and structural change than earlier generations of states that hauled themselves out of poverty, like the so-called Asian tigers, according to new book prepared by a specialised United Nations agency.

“They face a more complex, and daunting set of circumstances than the developing countries that embarked on industrialization after 1950,” the UN Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) warned. “These changing and challenging circumstances require new thinking, and in particular new paradigms to guide researchers, policy makers, and international development organizations in the future.”

The book, presented in London today and entitled ‘Pathways to Industrialization in the Twenty-First Century: New Challenges and Emerging Paradigms,’ analyzes the circumstances and challenges facing developing countries in industrialization, and offers fresh ideas for new paradigms to carry forward industrial policy in the future.

It was co-edited by UNIDO Director of the Development Policy, Statistics and Research Branch Ludovico Alcorta, and is the result of a study prepared by UNIDO in partnership with the UN University’s World Institute for Development Economics Research (UNU-WIDER) and the Maastricht Economic and Social Research Institute on Innovation and Technology (UNU-MERIT).

Over the last two centuries, the experiences of the first wave of industrialized countries in Europe and the United States, and the more recent experiences of the East Asian Tigers (Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, China, India, and Viet Nam), have illustrated the transformative nature of industrialization, Mr. Alcorta said.

“There are reasons to believe that industrialization will continue to be one of the major engines of growth, transformation, and socioeconomic development. Industrial development enables a more rapid advancement toward developed country living standards. But many challenges remain, and new challenges have arisen,” he added.

“These include: integration into global value chains; the shrinking of policy space in the present international order; the rise of the Asian driver economies; new opportunities provided by resource-based industrialization; the accelerating pace of technological change in manufacturing; how to deal with jobless growth in manufacturing; creating adequate systems of financial intermediation; and how to respond to the threats of global warming and climate change.”

UNIDO’s mission UNIDO) is to promote and accelerate sustainable industrial development in developing countries and economies in transition. In recent years, it has assumed an enhanced role in the global development agenda by focusing its activities on poverty reduction, inclusive globalization and environmental sustainability.

It carries out two core functions: as a global forum, it generates and disseminates industry-related knowledge; and as a technical cooperation agency, it provides technical support and implements projects.


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