Evolving Challenges for Sustainable Growth
Edited by Roberta Capello and Tomaz Ponce Dentinho
Chapter 11: New challenges for sustainable growth
The crises of public finances in Europe, which started in the cohesion regions and countries – Greece, Ireland, Portugal, Spain and Italy – are a strong signal of decades of policy failures in regional development. Public investments were made with no sound base of viability and sustainability, on the assumption that some potential would be created to attract viable and sustainable investment. Private investments were subsidized, assuming that the stimulus would explode in a virtuous circle of sustainable development and without realizing the biased information and decision-making systems that such assistance promoted. Regional governments specialized in absorbing external public support, enlarging public bureaucracy at the local and regional levels, multiplying public spending by untold amounts and creating serious threats to democracy since the voters were no longer the local or regional taxpayers but the clients of the best political beggars of external public funds. At the same time, sectoral policies for agriculture, the environment, transport and training continued to be independent of one another at the local and regional levels, reinforcing the lack of cohesion between them and without local and regional requirements. Nevertheless, such policies would have continued if the crises of public finances and the pressures of globalization had not blown apart the unchallenged policies in agriculture, the environment, integration and cohesion. It seemed that the role of researchers was more to support political decisions than to analyse the cumulative and explosive processes of economic, social and environmental unsustainability. And yet, in an era of a rapidly changing world, we must ensure that we are asking the relevant questions, making the right assumptions, and demanding the best knowledge skills and research methods.
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