Secrétaire général

Third Angus Maddison Development Lecture

 

Introductory remarks by Angel Gurría, OECD Secretary-General


1 July 2014, OECD, Paris
As prepared for delivery

 

Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen,

 

It is a great pleasure to be here for the Third Lecture on Development in honour of the memory and legacy of Angus Maddison.

 

Allow me to begin by thanking Angus’ wife Penny, and his daughter Elizabeth, for travelling from the UK to be here with us today. I am delighted that they were able to join us. I would also like to welcome Professor Nicholas Crafts – our distinguished speaker this evening.

 

Two years ago, the OECD Development Centre inaugurated its Maddison Lecture Series, providing us with the opportunity to come together and exchange ideas with influential economists on pressing development challenges. In previous years, it has been our privilege to welcome Professors Philippe Aghion and Francois Bourguignon who have spoken on the topics of growth disparities and global inequalities respectively.

 

Tonight, Professor Crafts will take us back in time, sharing with us historical perspectives on development, and helping us get to grips with their implications for the future.


Angus Maddison: a pioneer

Much has been said about Angus Maddison – a cherished member of the OECD family, and founding father of the OECD’s Development Centre. At the time of his passing, the New York Times summed up the pioneering nature of his work – I quote: “some people try to forecast the future. Angus Maddison devoted his life to forecasting the past.”

 

Professor Maddison devoted his scholarly talent to documenting economic performance across five continents, and the databases he created have evolved into the most important sources for analysing long-term growth today.

While at the OECD, he was involved in cutting edge research in three areas which he had found to be crucial for development: employment, education, and social policy. For Angus, increases in employment, and in the quantity and quality of education, were essential for development. It is thanks to his impulse that the OECD began to prepare detailed statistical surveys on education, on the labour market, and other social issues. These are now a central part of the toolkit used by policy makers in the pursuit of the OECD’s overarching goal: Better Policies for Better Lives.


Drawing lessons from the past to shape better policies for better lives

At the OECD, we are constantly challenged to broaden our understanding of development. Understanding what drives economic and social progress is crucial to understanding how to improve wellbeing. Allow me to highlight a couple of initiatives which I find particularly relevant:

 

First, the New Approaches to Economic Challenges (NAEC) initiative is allowing us, as an organisation, to question conventional wisdom and to revisit our models and analytic tools in the aftermath of the crisis. Addressing the multidimensional nature of progress – and the various trade-offs we face – lies at the heart of this endeavour.

 

Second, we have the Better Life initiative, which enables us to look more closely at individuals, and at the various determinants of well-being. Only last week we launched a new web site on regional well-being, which allows everyone to dig beneath national averages and see how a range of factors – such as income, health and environmental quality – vary within each of the 34 OECD countries.

 

And, in a true Maddisonian spirit, we are now looking backwards, and then thinking ahead, to see how the OECD’s How’s Life framework, can be adapted for use by developing countries.


Finally, thanks to the Development Centre, we have been exploring the phenomenon of “shifting wealth”, developing our common understanding of how non-OECD economies have grown – many of them rapidly – in the last decade, and what the implications for public policies might be. This phenomenon has been followed closely in our annual Perspectives on Global Development report which was first published in 2010. I hope some of you will be able to join us tomorrow for the launch of the 2014 edition.

 

Ladies and gentlemen,

 

Angus Maddison was a “chiffrephile”, whose work enabled us to understand the world we live in through economic history. He believed that numbers sharpened debate. Quantification, he wrote, “is more readily contestable and likely to be contested.” In disputing his figures, others would be inspired to provide their own. Thus, even those who disagreed with his work would be influenced by it.

 

Whether he is a “challenger” or not of Maddison’s ideas, Professor Crafts’ insights this evening should – I hope – challenge us. He brings an intimate knowledge of 20th Century growth; of its sources and imbalances; and of the roles of geography, institutions and policy. Please be ready to direct your tough questions to him after his initial remarks.

 

Ladies and gentlemen, please join me in welcoming Professor Nicholas Crafts.

 

Professor, the floor is yours.

 

 

 

 

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