| By J. Rigg, A. Bebbington, K.Gough, D. Bryceson, J. Agergaard, N.Fold, Cecilia Tacoli | Published in Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers, 34 (2): 128-136 |
| Full text (PDF) |
Introduction: By and large, geographers have had little to say about the World Bank’s annual flagship World Development Reports (WDRs). However, with the just published WDR 2009 (hereafter referred to as the Report), things might be different, for it claims to be concerned with nothing less than ‘reshaping economic geography’. In his foreword, the President of the World Bank, Robert Zoellick, writes that he expects ‘Reshaping Economic Geography will stimulate a much-needed discussion on the desirability of “balanced growth”, which has proved elusive. And by informing some important policy debates, it will point the way towards a more inclusive and sustainable development’ (World Bank 2009, xiii).
On the face of it, many geographers will welcome the Report, not least because it takes issues of space seriously: ‘This Report advances the influence of geography on economic opportunity by elevating space and place from mere undercurrents in policy to a major focus’ (World Bank 2009, 2). Placing the spatial dimensions of economic development centre stage, and recognising the reality and importance of spatial unevenness in development potentials and outcomes, may be reassuring. However, this welcome should perhaps be tempered by a concern for how an institution dominated by economists might handle geography. To put it another way, how does the World Bank – in the guise of this Report –‘do’ geography? What does it say, who does it cite, what does it omit – and does all this make any difference?