Book talk: ‘Why do some countries gamble on development, and others don’t?’ with Stefan Dercon, David Pilling, Melinda Bohannon & Ricardo Soares de Oliveira

04 May 2022

Portrait of Professor Stefan Dercon

with Professor Stefan Dercon
Professor of Economic Policy

Stefan Dercon is Professor of Economic Policy at the Blavatnik School of Government and the Economics Department, and a Fellow of Jesus College. He is also Director of the Centre for the Study of African Economies. Between 2011 and 2017, he was Chief...

Portrait of Professor Ricardo Soares de Oliveira

with Professor Ricardo Soares de Oliveira
Professor of the International Politics of Africa

Ricardo Soares de Oliveira is Professor of the International Politics of Africa at the Department of Politics and International Relations, University of Oxford; Official Fellow of St Peter's College; and a Fellow with the Global Public Policy Institu...

In the last thirty years, the developing world has undergone tremendous changes. Overall, poverty has fallen, people live longer and healthier lives, and economies have been transformed.

And yet many countries have simply missed the boat. Oxford’s Stefan Dercon’s new book, “Gambling on Development: Why some countries win and others lose”, asks why it is that some of the previously poorest countries have prospered, while others have failed.

Stefan argues that the answer lies not in a specific set of policies, but rather in a key ‘development bargain’, whereby a country’s elites shift from protecting their own positions to gambling on a growth-based future. Despite the imperfections of such bargains, China is among the most striking recent success stories, along with Indonesia and more unlikely places, such as Bangladesh, Ghana and, tentatively, Ethiopia. Gambling on Development is about these winning efforts, in contrast to countries stuck in elite bargains leading nowhere.

At the talk, he is joined by David Pilling (Financial Times), Melinda Bohannon, (Director of Strategy at FCDO) and Ricardo Soares de Oliveira (Oxford University).

The event will debate some of the themes of the book: how economics and politics are deeply connected, how naïve policy prescriptions distract, how international policies and aid can help or distort, but also the remarkable role played in some countries by leading groups and individuals to drive progress, and the failures of local elites elsewhere.

This talk is in conjunction with the Oxford Martin Programme on African Governance