Development Policy is an economic development survey course that addresses some of the critical policy choices facing government and communities. We cover topics largely through the lens of Vietnam's recent experience and that of other large Southeast Asian countries. While all these countries are much richer than they were 50 years ago, they pursued different growth trajectories, with different results in terms of living standards, inequality and human development. Understanding the causes of these divergent outcomes gives us a window on the role of policy and other factors affecting the pace and direction of development.
The course emphasizes the use of evidence—data quality, modeling and presentation. Formulating sound policies requires careful and unbiased use of evidence and a willingness to suspend judgement until the facts are all in. This does not always—or even generally—mean sophisticated statistical techniques. Often a well-constructed table using reliable indicators is more convincing than a complicated econometric model, especially in policy circles and for the media and public.
A second major theme is balance between market allocation and government control. Neither markets nor regulators provide the right answer in every situation. Deciding on the appropriate mix of instruments requires attention to context and careful assessment of how and when markets and governments interact.