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One argument in the liberal ‘economics of development’ literature is that the initial stage of ‘development’ is simply ‘growth’- not ‘sustainable growth’ taking care of environmental and other societal issues, nor ‘growth with equity’. So, the initial benefit will accrue in large part to the elite class in a developing society, accentuating the already vast difference in lifestyle between the rich and the poor. Hence, the (super) rich class in Brazil or India or Argentina and the teeming masses of the poor. Dependency theory will point to this phenomenon as the comprador class in the periphery aligning its interests with the core exploitative countries.
The idea was that this growth stage will be followed gradually by the development stage when the benefits of growth trickle downward. Perhaps this has happened- there is a burgeoning middle class in many of these societies and abject poverty may be rather uncommon in the more advanced (or erstwhile) developing societies like Malaysia and Taiwan. Partial vindication of this line of thinking?
Throwing democracy and citizen empowerment in the mix of developmental debate murkies it quite a bit. Perhaps the working poor of China or Vietnam will wait for the rising tide of growth to lift them up- all the while working as hard as they do. But the angry, ‘youth bulges’ in a society where democracy has arrived, but ‘trickle down’ is frustratingly slow? will they wait? turn against their government/rich class bringing down the absolute growth rate? turn away to emigrate to a supposed land of ‘milk and honey’