The authors of the World Bank’s World Development Report 2009: Reshaping Economic Geography claim that the free market philosophy has not gone far enough. Ancient China, they argue, fell behind Europe because it closed its doors to the benefits of trade, transport and technology. Now, they say, the world risks repeating China’s mistakes by ignoring barriers to progress which should have long ago been dismantled. And, they argue, policymakers have for too long resisted ordinary people’s desire to congregate in cities – supporting old and damaging commitments to rural, peasant economies, destitute regions and restrictive cultural practices.
Slums and Money shows why market enthusiasts like World Bank President Robert Zoellick; Paul Collier, author of ‘The Bottom Billion’; the UK government’s Andrew Steer; and Indermit Gill, the lead author of the WDR 2009 believe their pro-market ideals can survive the global credit crunch. Opponents of this argument include Prof. Sakika Fukuda Parr, former editor of the UN Development Programme’s Human Development Report, Ashok Khosla, chairman of IUCN, and economists Prof Jeffrey Sachs and 2008 Nobel Laureate Paul Krugman.
‘Slums and squalor can be a deep social problem,’ says Andrew Steer, from the UK Department for International Development (DFID). ‘But the way to tackle it is not to try and…shovel people out of the city. It is to try and anticipate the infrastructure needs of cities.’ That, argues Jeffrey Sachs, is an argument that verges on moral complacency. Crucially, Slums and Money also films with the ordinary people whose stories actually illustrate the debate.