Baseline on Economic Transformation

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Neil Balchin, Claire Mason, Kasper Vrolijk and Leah Worrall, 2015


While the broad definition of economic transformation is relatively consistent across actors in the economic transformation literature, the existing research on policies and strategies designed to support economic transformation varies across different types of country stakeholders and across country contexts. In this paper we conduct a stocktake of the literature on economic transformation in order to determine pre-existing actor discourse on the topic. This is achieved through an overview of published materials that address recent economic transformation, structural transformation (or structural change), industrialisation, and sectoral labour strategies. The paper covers a diverse range of perspectives on economic transformation among several leading academics and think tanks and provides an overview of the international academic, regional and domestic literature.

The paper finds notable variation in the existing research on policies and strategies designed to support economic transformation across different country stakeholders and contexts. The analysis underlines the importance of the specific context in which transformation is occurring. Underlying contextual factors have a bearing on the most appropriate type of policies and strategies to promote economic transformation and, ultimately, influence their effectiveness. The stocktake also highlights the lack of substance in the existing actor discourse on the manner in which policies designed to facilitate economic transformation should be implemented. This suggests that future actor discourse on economic transformation at the international, regional and domestic levels would benefit from increased focus on the practical aspects of the transformation process. This is particularly important with respect to how policies designed to facilitate economic transformation will be implemented and how specific economic transformation targets will be achieved.

Photo credit: Arne Hoel; World Bank