South Korea, the first emerging economy to host a G-20 Summit, is a firm believer in economic growth as the “most effective cure for poverty” (President Lee Myung-bak, Washington Post, November 10, 2010). Nathan Associates has long shared that belief, dedicating its work in international development economics to laying the foundations for and accelerating economic growth—beginning with our work in South Korea.
In its master plan for Korean reconstruction, published in 1954 for the United Nations Korean Reconstruction Agency, Nathan Associates made three observations about South Korea:
1. Potentialities do exist in Korea for the development of a self-supporting economy at a reasonable standard of living. We were especially impressed with the courage, vigor and determination of the Korean people. Given adequate aid and an intelligent utilization of its resources, Korea can achieve economic independence.
2. The free world should do everything in its power to assist the Korean people in the reconstruction of their economy…The volume of aid should be generous, but adequate safeguards must be taken to guarantee the efficient use of this aid.
T3. o achieve the goal of economic self-support, the reconstruction task will require the highest quality of intelligent and dedicated democratic leadership.
Robert Nathan and his team then provided technical assistance to the Korean government in the 1950s and on into the 1970s—advising on investment programs, teaching cost-benefit analysis, and working with the civilian and military leaders. The country’s economic development soared and it now takes a seat among world leaders in a period of shifting economic power.
The new economic order is not based on G-77 rhetoric of the 1970s, but solid accomplishments. Led by China and India, developing Asia is set to continue to grow at a pace two times faster than world economic growth. Through 2015 sub-Saharan Africa is likely to continue growing at twice the pace it did in the 1990s. And Brazil, Peru, Panama, and Colombia could join Chile as Latin American economies likely to grow faster than the world average.
Yet before the G-20 Summit, President Lee asserted that “if we forget the challenge of achieving growth in the world’s poorest countries, we will fail on everything that really matters,” and called for a change in the philosophy of development assistance policy and renewed concentration on infrastructure, human capacity, and productive capacity (Washington Post). At the summit, Korea shaped the “Seoul Development Consensus for Shared Growth,” of which one principle is that an “enduring and meaningful reduction in poverty cannot be achieved without inclusive, sustainable and resilient growth.”
The consensus names nine areas in which problems impede development: infrastructure, human resource development, trade, private investment and job creation, food security, growth with resilience, financial inclusion, domestic resource mobilization, and knowledge sharing. A1966 Nathan Associates report summarizing two years of advising and assisting the Korean government with economic development covers most of these same areas.
In hosting the G-20 Summit, Korea—now itself a provider of development assistance—has reached yet another milestone in its economic development. Nathan Associates is honored to have played a role, however modest, in that development.