The Panel calls for a quantum leap forward in economic opportunities and a profound economic transformation to end extreme poverty and improve livelihoods. There must be a commitment to rapid, equitable growth – not growth at any cost or just short-term spurts in growth, but sustained, long-term, inclusive growth that can overcome the challenges of unemployment (especially youth unemployment), resource scarcity and – perhaps the biggest challenge of all – adaptation to climate change. This kind of inclusive growth has to be supported by a global economy that ensures financial stability, promotes stable, long-term private financial investment, and encourages open, fair and development-friendly trade.
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The first priority must be to create opportunities for good and decent jobs and secure livelihoods, so as to make growth inclusive and ensure that it reduces poverty and inequality. When people escape from poverty, it is most often by joining the middle class, but to do so they will need the education, training and skills to be successful in the job market and respond to demands by business for more workers. Billions more people could become middle-class by 2030, most of them in cities, and this would strengthen economic growth the world over. Better government policies, fair and accountable public institutions, and inclusive and sustainable business practices will support this and are essential parts of a post-2015 agenda.
A second priority is to constantly strive to add value and raise productivity, so that growth begets more growth. Some fundamentals will accelerate growth everywhere – infrastructure and other investments, skills development, supportive policies towards micro, small and medium sized enterprises, and the capacity to innovate and absorb new technologies, and produce higher quality and a greater range of products. In some countries, this can be achieved through industrialisation, in others through expanding a modern service sector or intensifying agriculture. Some specialise, others diversify. There is no single recipe. But it is clear that some growth patterns – essentially those that are supported by open and fair trade, globally and regionally – offer more opportunities than others for future growth.
Third, countries must put in place a stable environment that enables business to flourish. Business wants, above all, a level playing field and to be connected to major markets. For small firms, this often means finding the right business linkages, through supply chains or cooperatives, for example. Business also wants a simple regulatory framework which makes it easy to start, operate and close a business. Small and medium firms, that employ the most people, are especially hamstrung at present by unnecessarily complicated regulations that can also breed corruption. This is not a call for total deregulation: social and environmental standards are of great importance. But it is a call for regulation to be smart, stable and implemented in a transparent way. Of course, businesses themselves also have a role to play: adopting good practices and paying fair taxes in the countries where they operate, and being transparent about the financial, social and environmental impact of their activities.
Fourth, in order to bring new prosperity and new opportunities, growth will also need to usher in new ways to support sustainable consumption and production, and enable sustainable development. Governments should develop and implement detailed approaches to encourage sustainable activities and properly cost environmentally and socially hazardous behaviour. Business should indicate how it can invest to reduce environmental stresses and improve working conditions for employees.