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ENVS 3043: Regional Development, Planning And Policy in a Global Context Student Number: 110000272 Question 2 “Local and regional development is not just about economic growth” – Pike et al. Discuss.

Student Number: 110000272 “Local and regional development is not just about economic growth” –Pike et al. Discuss

As governments around the world face growing challenges of poverty, inequality and climate change, their policies and priorities are similarly evolving. Most recently, powers have been devolved from central governments to local authorities and regional agencies that seem better placed to overcome these various problems. As a result, localities and regions have become prominent administrative boundaries to which policy makers are measuring and comparing progress and development. This essay takes a closer look at what development means to various regions, particularly in Europe and America, and how indicators of development have changed over time to include more than economic growth markers as a result of changing precedents toward sustainability amongst policymakers.

Following that, we evaluate the usefulness of development

measured by ‘qualitative dimensions’ (Pike et al.,2007).

In order to begin our discussion, we must first understand that development is ‘to get better’ (Local Government Commission [LGC],2004) and involves the increase in quality and diversity of life chances. Contrary to growth, which is simply ‘to get bigger’ (LGC,2004); development is concerned with qualitative improvement and human wellbeing (Sen,1999). Historically, however, development has been measured in terms of economic growth—a quantitative dimension. Neoclassical economists used Gross Domestic Product (GDP) or Gross National Product (GNP)/ per capita as standard indicators for measuring development between regions (Pike et al.,2007). Other commonly used indicators for economic growth, other than income, include productivity and


Student Number: 110000272 “Local and regional development is not just about economic growth” –Pike et al. Discuss

employment levels (Storper,1997) and these largely dominated post-war policies (Scott & Storper,2003).

Although economic growth has provided policymakers with an adequate overall assessment of development, inequality is often a feature overlooked within localities and regions. In the UK, inequality is rampant in regions like Oxfordshire and Cambridgeshire, where clustering of high-tech firms (Keeble et al.,1997) occurs in the university towns, without spilling over to adjacent parts of the region. The university towns offer The Oxford Trust and St John’s Innovation Centre, respectively, that serve as incubators of innovative activities and meeting rooms of local initiatives (Waters & Smith,2002). While these drastically raise incomes, just outside these areas and science parks, development gaps occur— resulting in imbalanced development despite seemingly strong economic growth of the entire region. Unfortunately, economic growth everywhere, like in the UK, has repeatedly been accompanied by a proportionate increase in inequality and therein lays the ‘knife-edge dilemma between growth and equity’ (Pike et al.,2007).

In addition, adopting economic growth as the single indicator for local and regional development has meant neglecting certain social and ecological aspects. Policymakers’ new, heightened interest in qualitative dimensions of development was largely a result of the 1987 Brundtland Report. In it, the term sustainable development was coined and still carries the meaning of


Student Number: 110000272 “Local and regional development is not just about economic growth” –Pike et al. Discuss

development that “meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own”. This admittedly shook policymakers around the world as they began to take on more holistic views of development, given that the three main pillars of sustainable development identified in the report were economic growth, environmental protection, and social equality. Nobel prize-winning economist Amartya Sen’s works of the same period also resonated with the Brundtland Report. He introduced concepts of development such as freedom and the importance of wellbeing and quality of life as useful indicators of development. This would later heavily influence the formulation of the Human Development Report (UN,2010), a developmental ranking of nations according to various economic and social indicators, and eventually led many localities and regions to adopt similar multi-dimensional approaches to development.

In the first example of a multidimensional approach, we look at the European Union’s Spatial Development Perspective that aims to tackle issues of inefficiency and spatial disparities. Its framework



strengthening of economic and social cohesion amongst its regions (ESDP, 1999). As shown in Fig 1, the EU also Figure 1 Triangle of Objectives: a Balanced and Sustainable Spatial Development


Student Number: 110000272 “Local and regional development is not just about economic growth” –Pike et al. Discuss

strives towards the conservation of natural resources and cultural heritage of European regions as well as a more balanced competitiveness of the European territory.

Similarly, in the UK, a Sustainable Development Commission (2000) was established to promote a redefinition of prosperity—beyond that of economic growth. Other non-political organizations like the New Economic Foundation aim to lead regions in the UK toward social, economic and environmental justice, therefore transforming economies so that they ‘work for people and the planet’ (nef,2004). In all of these examples, the tripartite definition of sustainable development (Brundtland Report,1987) echoes and economic growth is no longer the single measure for local and regional development. Today, everything from education and health levels to innovation, institutional thickness (Nijkamp et al., 2010) and happiness (nef,2012) are utilized in measuring development.

What follows this movement toward sustainability, argues critics, is a convoluted understanding of development. The ever-broadening range of indicators for local and regional development is confusing and often infeasible (Pike et al.,2007) for local authorities and agencies to incorporate in policymaking. Returning to the Human Development Report by the UN, not only does the Human Development Index (HDI), as shown in Fig 2, offer a powerful alternative to GDP and GNP for measuring the relative socio-economic progress at local and regional levels, it must be accompanied by composite indicators


Student Number: 110000272 “Local and regional development is not just about economic growth” –Pike et al. Discuss

such as the Gender Inequality Index and Multidimensional Poverty Index, that require additional subjective indicators. The problem of over- comprehensive checklists for development affects regional authorities that do not have the information or resources to gather such information. Furthermore, subjective and psychological (nef,2004) dimensions of development can be even more problematic to measure and compare, unlike the quantitative dimensions of economic growth.

Figure 2 Components of Human Development Index (UN, 2010)

In spite of this, efforts to look beyond economic growth as determinants of development in America have strengthened over the years. Since the passing of the National Environmental Policy Act in the 1960s, America has seen local and regional authorities move steadily on a ‘green path’ toward sustainability (Krueger & Gibbs,2007) from its initial prioritization of economic growth.


Student Number: 110000272 “Local and regional development is not just about economic growth” –Pike et al. Discuss

Introduced by the Reagan administration of the 1980s, Smart Growth (Daniels,2009), a market-based approach to promoting development that simultaneously served the environment, community and economy (US Environmental Protection Agency,2006), had taken center stage. States like Texas and Massachusetts adopted Smart Growth development with better public transportation,








Gibbs,2007). As environmental protection was claimed to underlie Smart Growth, these were often implemented in high-density areas, older suburbs and as mixed-use projects.

This uniquely American worry for the carrying capacity of ecosystems in localities reflected the nation’s ecological slant toward development. All throughout the 20th century, popular awareness of the environment rose dramatically in America and led localities to plan and create healthier, more attractive places to live and work in (Healy & Rosenberg,1979). However, its incentive-based approach to curb negative impacts of sprawl and to create ‘communities of distinction’ (Flint,2006) has only been criticized as unfounded trust in the market to attain goals of sustainable development. Perhaps, more worryingly, the greatest contention with Smart Growth has been its half-hearted effort to placate environmental and social welfare groups through the rhetoric of sustainability (Daniels,2009).


Student Number: 110000272 “Local and regional development is not just about economic growth� –Pike et al. Discuss

Despite the problems encountered in the above sustainable development frameworks; its recurring appearance in public policies around the world indicates an unrelenting interest in the qualitative dimension of development amongst local governments. Social indicators have been crucial to examining inequalities within regions and localities and this is particularly important for authorities that want to better allocate resources and reduce regional disparities. Environmental indicators also offer policymakers an insight into the carrying capacity of ecosystems at present and the near future. Therefore, it seems that tackling problems of inequality simultaneously with economic growth within restricted ecological capacities can in fact promote local and regional development. This concept of an inclusive growth (Turok,2011) is one that needs to be driven amongst policy makers today as they face a multitude of issues of varying intensities.

Although the concept of an all-encompassing development has not been extensively evaluated given its infancy, a uni-dimensional approach of looking at just economic growth can no longer hold reliable for policymakers, especially at micro scales such as regions and localities where community needs and demands are constantly in flux. Also, given that qualitative dimensions of sustainable development have recently highlighted the phenomena that wealthy regions and localities are scoring increasingly lower on social, psychological and environmental indicators, there is now a case for policymakers to further examine the human condition in their developmental studies.


Student Number: 110000272 “Local and regional development is not just about economic growth” –Pike et al. Discuss

In a recent study by Gallup (2012), Singapore, ranked fifth in the world in terms of GDP per capita was reportedly filled with residents least likely to report ‘positive emotions’. Authorities looking for ways to further improve the wellbeing of its residents—especially those regions that score well on traditional economic indicators, but not qualitative dimensions—need to focus more effort into social and environmental development. Economic growth then no longer indicates a regions’ development, at least not until other facets of human condition are well evaluated. 1476 words


Student Number: 110000272 “Local and regional development is not just about economic growth” –Pike et al. Discuss

References (UNDP), H. 2013. Indices & Data | Human Development Index | Human Development Reports (HDR) | United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). [online] Available at: [Accessed: 26 Oct 2013]. Abdullah, S., Michaleson, J., Shah, S., Stoll, L. and Marks, N. 2012. The Happy Planet Index: 2012. A Global Index of Sustainable Well-being. [report] London: new economics foundation. Daniels, T. 2009. A Trail Across Time- American Environmental Planning From City Beautiful to Sustainability. Journal of the American Planning Association, 75 (2), European Communities. 1999. European Spatial Development Perspective. Towards Balanced and Sustainable Development of the Territory of the European Union. [report] Italy: European Commission. Flint, A. 2006. This Land. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins. Gallup, I. 2012. Singapore Ranks as Least Emotional Country in the World. [online] Available at: [Accessed: 27 Oct 2013]. Healey, R. and Rosenberg, J. 1979. Land Use and the States. 2nd ed. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press. Keeble, D., Lawson, C., Lawton Smith, H., Moore, B. and Wilkinson, F. (1997) Internationalisation Processes, Networking and Local Embeddednes s in Technology-Intensive Small Firms. Cambridge: ESRC Centre for Business Research, University of Cambridge, Working Paper 53. Krueger, R. and Gibbs, D. 2008. “Third wave” sustainability? Smart growth and regional development in the USA. Regional Studies, 42 (9), pp. 1263--1274. Local Government Commission (2004) ‘Local Economies’. Smart Growth: Economic Development for the 21st Century (available at: (accessed on 21 October 2013) new economics foundation. 2004. Chasing progress- Beyond measuring economic growth. The Power of Well-Being. [report] London: new economics foundation. Nijkamp, P., Zwetsloot, F., Van Der Wal, S. and Er. 2010. Innovation and Growth


Student Number: 110000272 “Local and regional development is not just about economic growth” –Pike et al. Discuss

Potentials of European Regions: A Meta-Multicriteria Analysis. European Planning Studies, 18 (4), pp. 595--611. Pike, A., Rodri¥guez-Pose, A. and Tomaney, J. 2011. Handbook of local and regional development. London: Routledge. Scott A. and Storper M. (2003) Regions, globalization, development, Regional Studies 37, 579–593. Storper M. (1997) The Regional World. Territorial Development in a Global Economy. Guilford, London. Turok, I. 2011. Inclusive Growth- Meaningful Goal or Mirage?. In: Pike, A., Rodriguez-Pose, A. and Tomaney, J. eds. 2011. Handbook of Local and Regional Development. London: Routledge, pp. 74-85. United Nations Brundtland Commission. 1987. Our Common Future. Brundtland Report. [report] Geneva: United Nations. US Environmental Protection Agency (2006) This is Smart Growth. Office of Smart Growth, Washington, DC (available at: (accessed on 1 November 2013). Waters, R. and Smith, H. 2002. Regional development agencies and local economic development: scale and competitiveness in high-technology Oxfordshire and Cambridgeshire. European Planning Studies, 10 (5), pp. 633-649.


“Local and regional development is not just about economic growth” – Pike et al. Discuss.  

A topical essay on local and regional development