GDP and delivery ‘must be fair’

Governments must ensure that growth is shared by all citizens and that policy outcomes seem fair, otherwise they risk facing mass protests, leading academics warned this week.

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By Joshua.Chambers

12 Dec 2013

Speaking at Oxford University’s Blavatnik School of Government ‘Challenges of Government’ conference on Monday, Professor Jack Goldstone of Washington, DC’s George Mason University said: “If you don’t manage growth correctly in its distribution, and the quality of life, that’s when you start to get the emergence of mass protests.” Pointing to a wave of unrest visible around the world, he said many countries – such as Turkey and Brazil – have combined strong GDP figures with unequal distribution, creating popular anger.

Professor Ngaire Woods, dean of the Blavatnik School, backed Goldstone’s analysis and told CSW that the biggest challenge for civil servants over the next year will be ensuring that public services benefit everybody. “Delivery is not enough,” she said. “For every government in the world, there is now an onus not just to deliver, but to have a narrative about what it is that makes the outcomes that government is working towards fair.”

While some will argue that unequal outcomes are fair, Woods said, governments need to make sure they have strong answers “because they’re going to have to persuade populations that, even if they’re not the winners in the game, the rules of the game are fair.”

“I don’t think they’ve succeeded in doing that since the 2008 financial crisis,” she added.

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