Growth Model – IELTS Academic Reading Passage

Shortly after World War II, ‘development’ as we now understand it was set in motion. Western governments and donors poured money into new agencies that set about trying to stimulate the economies of underdeveloped countries. Because of this emphasis, it is now widely regarded as the Growth Model. Although we might expect poverty reduction to be the central objective, planners at this stage were primarily concerned with industrial development. It was hoped that the benefits of this would trickle down to poor people through raising incomes and providing employment opportunities, thereby indirectly lifting them above the ascribed poverty threshold of a dollar a day. The weaknesses of these assumptions were revealed, however, when poverty rates and economic growth were found to rise simultaneously in many countries.

During the 1970s, a new trend took over – trickle-up development. Instead of focusing on macro-economic policy and large-scale industrial projects, planners shifted attention to the core living requirements of individuals and communities. This became known as the Basic Needs Approach to development. It was hoped that through the provision of services such as community sanitation and literacy programmes, poverty could be eliminated from below. Economic growth was desirable but superfluous – Basic Needs redefined poverty from involving a lack of money to lacking the capability to attain full human potential. The trouble with Basic Needs programmes, however, was their expensive, resource-intensive nature that entailed continuous management and funding

Since the 1980s, development planners have moved towards the Sustainable Livelihoods Approach, which emphasises good livelihoods (materially and socially) that, most importantly, are independent and sustainable. ‘Sustainable’ in this sense means that people are able to recover from the shocks and stresses of daily life, absolving agencies of the need to persistently monitor their lives. This approach emphasises a view of poverty that comes not from the rich but from the impoverished themselves, who are considered to be most suitably positioned to determine the poverty indicators that contribute to the multiple facets of their own deprivation. Although the Sustainable Livelihoods Approach has been criticised for lacking an environmental platform strong enough to respond to climate change, and for disassociating aspects of power and societal status from being a contestable part of development, it is currently the preferred model for development projects.

Though there is some linearity to the trajectory of development practice, with paradigms shifting in and out of fashion, vigorous scholarly debate persists around all approaches. The Growth Model, for example, is still defended by many theorists, particularly economists. Those who believe in the Growth Model insist that nothing trumps economic development as a tool for poverty alleviation for the developing countries (although there is often less enthusiasm for its applicability to the postindustrial West). Many countries that have focused explicitly on growth have managed to make considerable inroads into reducing poverty, even in the absence of a development programme; Japan and Germany followed this route after World War II, as has China from the 1970s. On the other hand, some countries with massive inflows of funding for aid-based ‘development projects’ – particularly those in sub-Saharan Africa – have struggled to progress with meeting poverty reduction targets.

There is a good reason to be sceptical about the Growth Model, however, as is evidenced by the numerous societies that have partly imploded as a consequence of prioritising economic growth above the work of human development. The experiences of many eastern European countries with health and employment crises in the early 1990s are particularly traumatic examples of this. ‘The Growth Model also suffers from an undemocratic, and ‘technocratic’, if not autocratic, method underdeveloped countries frequently make policy decisions based on consultation with Western economists and institutions on how to generate growth. This dissolves the autonomy of communities to make their own decisions about what matters to them, and what kind of society they would like to build. The move to the Sustainable livelihoods Approach is a positive move in tills regard, because by operating on a principle that decisions should be made by those who are affected by them, it introduces a role for localised decision-making.

It will be difficult, if not impossible, for any country in the near future to ignore economic growth as a development indicator while continuing to meet development targets. It is important, however, that we move away from seeing this type of growth as the prime objective for development. Development is ultimately about people, and human development must be placed at the forefront; economic growth is simply one tool out of many that can help us along the way. We also need to recognise that foreign advisers, whatever qualifications and knowledge they may possess, can sometimes be a hindrance; local autonomy must be respected for real development to occur. The Growth Model may have failed, but this does not render economic growth irrelevant. The Sustainable Livelihoods Approach offers helpful and realistic alternatives. But it is folly to commit ourselves to a strictly defined, systematic programme – less constrictive mindsets will help us break the development fashion cycle.

Questions 27-33
Complete the table below. Choose NO MORE THAN TWO WORDS from the passage for each answer.

Growth modelBasic needs approachSustainable livelihoods approach
(27)………………was the main goaltypified by small scale aid such as health and (28)……………. projectstries to encourage ways of living that are most self sufficient
Poverty described as living on less than a dollar a daypoverty seen as an inability to reach (29)……………poor people identify their own (30)…………….
It was discovered that poverty could increase in step with (31)……………………projects costly and (32)……………… requiring ongoing involvementthe problem of (33)…………………not adequately addressed; ignores issues of social dominance and authority

Questions 34-38
Do the following statements agree with the claims of the writer in Reading Passage 3?

In boxes 34-38 on your answer sheet, write

YES                                  if the statement agrees with the views of the writer
NO                                    if the statement contradicts the views of the writer
NOT GIVEN                 if it is impossible to say what the writer thinks about this

34 The most favoured method of development is the Sustainable Livelihoods Approach.
35 While institutions often follow development trends, academic disputes are more timeless.
36 The Growth Model is more popular with Third World scholars than Western scholars.
37 It is not possible to reduce poverty without an explicit development policy.
38 The Growth Model takes some authority away from local forms of organisation.

Questions 39-40
Choose TWO letters, A—E.

Which TWO of the following statements form part of the author’s conclusion?

A Economic growth is the primary development goal, but there are other factors to consider.
B It is preferable not to think about development in rigid, structured terms.
C Development projects are likely to fail in the absence of highly educated experts.
D The Sustainable Livelihoods Approach is more effective than the Growth Model.
E Economic growth should only be considered as a means for development, not an end point.