The world economy is in crisis, especially the economies of many old and rich countries in the West, including the United States and countries in the European Union. Some of these countries have experienced steady growth mostly since the Second World War. Now they have difficulties realising that the tower will not grow into the heaven after all, and that there is simply a limit to growth. We should rather focus on development, with less economic growth, or even without growth. I wonder if the leaders of the worlds richest countries, the G20 group, really had this in mind when they met last week. It requires courage and alternative thinking, and they may not have had that. And they may also, understandably, be preoccupied with trying to find immediate solutions - before the next election. It is a fact that many developing countries, and indeed the BRIC countries (Brazil, Russia, India and China), are doing well. They are among the emerging economies. Economic development is now more and more happening in the developing countries, not the least in Asia, often with major export to the West. In the future, the export may become less if the recession continues in the West, slowing down the development in these countries in an interdependent world. They will have to focus more on production for domestic consumption, as India has already done. Furthermore, many emerging economies are still underdeveloped and most people are poor, with segments of the very poor people, who are 'very poor and live on or below the poverty line. They have massive problems with the redistribution of wealth. And they have typical problems in fields like human rights, justice, security, democracy and good governance. At the same time, when there is economic development, there is hope for more people getting a share of the cake, but often it only remains crumbles from the rich mans table. Demands for participation in decision making and including people as stakeholders in society, will grow through political parties, labour unions, and other interest organisations. Many people will experience greater inequalities in their own lands. Some will indeed become very rich, live at par with and above the level of the rich in the West. Yet, the poor will suffer due to inflation and higher prices on staple food and other commodities. Some will live in extreme poverty. Man-made and natural disasters will happen, leading to additional and deeper crises. Developing countries experience high population growth, often without proper family planning programmes. Pakistan is one such country or, put bluntly, it is a country with extremely high fertility and population growth rate, without broad planning to handle the serious difficulties it will lead to in the next couple of decades. If Pakistan can focus on the development of its agricultural sector, water management and other fields related to food, there is still hope for people being able to avoid deep crises and conflicts. Failing to do so, and failing to control and reduce the population growth dramatically (as China has done), Pakistans future is bleak. It needs economic growth in the years to come. America and the other rich countries in the West, on the other hand, do not need economic growth. However, the worlds capitalist system is based on the unsustainable assumption that there should be eternal economic growth, even when populations do not grow. True, there may be need for growth to improve underdeveloped sectors and unmet needs even in those countries. But generally, it is a question of how to reorganise and share the enormous wealth that exists in America and Europe, and also in emerging economies. How can we share wealth in better ways and organise our societies so that they can be better for all even without economic growth? The Western democracies have redistributed wealth successfully and have developed middle classes, who live comfortable lives, with few lower class people. (Often, we talk about the 60 percent of people being middle class, 20 percent being rich, and the last 20 percent poor.) Most of the success of lifting the poor people to become middle class happened when there was economic growth. In Norway, we have had some 3 percent annual economic growth, for most of the time, especially since the Second World War. That gave us an opportunity to develop a particularly egalitarian society and welfare State, with advanced systems for inclusive and participatory government. It would have been much more difficult to do this without economic growth. But Norway is not ideal, in spite of the United Nations again considering the countrys human development best in the world, according to this years list released last week. The challenge for countries in the West in the next decades is to find ways to develop without growth. And, of course, it is essential for the developing countries, where there is growth, to make sure that growth leads to development, not only for the upper segments of society, but also for the broad masses, which would often be two-thirds of their populations. Growth without development becomes meaningless. Economic growth is not an end in itself. It is a means to betterment of peoples lives. I wonder if the G20 leaders realised this when they met last week. If they did not, and if the leaders of the worlds 20 richest countries are not able to begin to search for alternative ways to organise their societies, they should look for other employment. It is obvious to most laymen and sector experts that we have to discuss the reorganisation of wealthy societies, so that we can share the resources we have, and we should also begin the ration the way we use the natures resources. Today, we are often overusing non-renewable resources, and we can all see it. There is no excuse for the West, and all other countries, not to begin to discuss alternative development and find new ways of organising that require less resource consumption, the sharing of work and jobs, the improvement of living conditions, etc, so that the communities will actually become better and more humane - without economic growth. In the years and decades ahead, economists and social scientists must play a key role in this debate, with politicians, innovators and practitioners in the private sectors. And, indeed, ordinary people must participate. And the West may have to go back to the developing countries and poor people to learn how to organise their societies on smaller budgets. Many Pakistani communities have lessons to teach the West. They may themselves need growth and economic development. The West does not need economic development, just development. It needs development within and between its countries, and the West needs a more equal relationship with the rest of the world. This should be the agenda for the G20 leaders when they meet next time. They should lead the way, if they can, or become irrelevant. Or maybe, it is the time now for the developing countries to voice their opinions, provided they dont just want to copy the Wests unsustainable development. Finally, maybe, it is the time for a new breed of politicians, academicians and the private sector, with ordinary people to find the way forward. The writer is a senior Norwegian social scientist based in Islamabad. He has served as United Nations Specialist in the United States, as well as various countries in Africa and Asia. He has also spent a decade dealing with the Afghan refugee crisis and university education in Pakistan. Email: