Fri. Jul 12th, 2024

This webinar is the first of a four-part webinar series. The purpose of this series of webinars is to assess what this new consensus means and involves, particularly for developing countries. Tapping into the expertise of the recently launched Oxford Handbook on Industrial Policy, the webinar series will explore the challenges and areas of debate posed by this new consensus.



Virtually all of today’s advanced economies have completed their journey from widespread rural poverty to post-industrial wealth employing policies designed to shift the production structure towards higher productivity activities and sectors with progressively, better paid jobs and a greater upgrading potential. Such policies are conventionally called industrial policies.

From the late 1970s onwards, the debates between proponents and opponents of industrial policy became sharply ideological. In mainstream economic analysis, in the pronouncements of international development agencies, and in policy statements by Western governments, industrial policy, along with the idea that the state could have a role in effecting structural transformation fell into disrepute.

With governments everywhere increasingly concerned to accommodate footloose capital and trade, and investment rules narrowing the policy space available for policy action, the time it seemed had come to read the last rites on industrial policy. Still, the late industrializing economies in East Asia continued to employ industrial policies as part of their successful development stories while advanced economies would resort to similar instruments on a more ad hoc basis in response to specific economic challenges. Moreover, with adherence to neoliberal policies in developing countries showing few signs of delivering economic diversification, strong productivity growth or technological upgrading, and with many suffering premature deindustrialization and a growing informalization of economic activity, industrial policy began to return to the policy conversation, particularly with the weak recovery after the global financial crisis.

A joint UNCTAD-ILO volume published in 2015 concluded “discussion among economists and policy makers is now increasingly shifting away from whether or not to have industrial policy and towards a focus on the objectives and scope of industrial policies and “how to do it” in a way appropriate to each country`s conditions”. UNCTAD`s Trade and Development Report 2016 laid out the case for bringing back industrial policy and began to collaborate with the OECD Development Centre on producing Productive Transformation Policy Reviews. UNCTAD’s World Investment Report 2018 identified 84 countries (accounting for 90 per cent of global GDP) that had adopted formal industrial policies in the five years to 2018. A much-discussed IMF Working Paper in 2019 welcomed “The Return of the Policy That Shall Not Be Named”.

Hence, whether in the context of meeting the SDGs, tackling the climate emergency, rewiring supply chains in response to the Covid-19 crisis or leveraging new digital technologies, industrial policy has returned to centre stage of debates over the direction of development strategy at the national level. International organizations have become more open to discussing industrial policy in developing countries. This is a new consensus across a broad spectrum of economists and policy makers on the on the relevance, desirability, and practicability of industrial policy.



  • Richard Kozul-Wright, Director, Division on Globalization and Development Strategies, UNCTAD.


  • Jayati Ghosh, Professor of Economics at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, USA, formerly at JNU, New Delhi, India.


  • Ha-Joon Chang, Reader in the Political Economy of Development, Faculty of Economics, University of Cambridge.
  • Mariana Mazzucato, Professor in the Economics of Innovation and Public Value, University College London, Founding director of the UCL Institute for Innovation and Public Purpose.
  • José Antonio Ocampo, Director of the Economic and Political Development Concentration in the School of International and Public Affairs, Member of the Committee on Global Thought and co-President of the Initiative for Policy Dialogue, Columbia University.
  • Arkebe Oqubay, Ethiopian Senior Minister, Professor of Practice at the University of Johannesburg and an Overseas Development Institute Distinguished Fellow Ethiopia.
  • Robert Pollin, Distinguished University Professor of Economics and Co-Director of the Political Economy Research Institute (PERI), University of Massachusetts-Amherst.

Question & Answer Session

Closing remarks

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