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Agriculture and the State: Growth, Employment, and Poverty in Developing Countries

By C. Peter Timmer | Go to book overview

I
The Role of the State in
Agricultural Development

C. Peter Timmer

Two grand themes have long dominated the debate over the role of the state in a society's economic affairs: how to stimulate rapid economic growth and how to reduce the level or consequences of poverty. Economists often characterize this debate as a matter of finding the optimal trade-off between efficiency and equity (thus implicitly assuming that efficiency leads to growth). Policy analysts tend to stress the importance of being on the frontier in this trade-off between growth and alleviation of poverty in the first place and thus are more likely to recognize the potential of state intervention to stimulate growth from starting points in the interior of the frontier. Political scientists, however, see either characterization as too narrow, leaving out their broader concerns over the reciprocal issue of the nature of the state itself and its contribution to growth and alleviation of poverty. Because the level and structure of development and the degree of poverty obviously influence both the potential for state intervention and the type of response, this broader view of the debate incorporates a wide range of social, political, and economic dynamics that are not easily included in economists' growth models.

This volume attempts to grapple with several of these broader themes without becoming lost in either vague generalities or a unique vision of the path to utopia. The emphasis is on the contribution of agricultural development to growth of the entire economy and to the alleviation of poverty. Achieving these objectives normally requires implementation of multiple policy instruments, and the various

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