The Development of Tropical Lands: Policy Issues in Latin America

The Development of Tropical Lands: Policy Issues in Latin America

The Development of Tropical Lands: Policy Issues in Latin America

The Development of Tropical Lands: Policy Issues in Latin America

Excerpt

Latin America today is similar to Canada in the early 1900s--a sleeping giant, basically underpopulated, whose potential rests on the exploitation of enormous land, forest, mineral, and water reserves. For five centuries the mystique associated with the untapped wealth of the Amazon basin has persisted, despite the lack of major development and despite pessimistic predictions about the hopeless plight of colonists practicing shifting agriculture and the dire consequences of wholesale forest destruction. Over sixty years ago it was said that the twentieth century belonged to Canada. The same might have been said about the vast tropical regions of the Western Hemisphere, and there are those who would say it even now in the eighth decade of the century.

In some quarters it is an article of faith that the great forested heartland of South America can and must be utilized if Latin America is to realize its development goals. This belief rests squarely on the premise that the mere existence of unused forest and land resources is sufficient reason to warrant the investment of capital and labor in their exploitation. Such an approach runs counter to the widely held economic doctrine that natural resource endowment is far less vital to development than the rate of sociotechnical change that extends resources through substitution, alters the location of economic activity, and provides a climate for the adoption of new techniques or the application of existing ones.

This study is an examination of the economic basis underlying investment and policy for the development of new lands for agriculture and forestry in Latin America. The area under consideration is limited to the humid tropical lowlands and uplands and the semiarid Chaco --approximately 12 million . . .

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