The Other Argentina: The Interior and National Development

The Other Argentina: The Interior and National Development

The Other Argentina: The Interior and National Development

The Other Argentina: The Interior and National Development

Synopsis

In the early part of this century, Argentina was one of the most affluent nations in the world. Since then, the Argentine economy has experienced long periods of stagnation and recession. Larry Sawers links the country's economic failure to the backwardness of the interior, which comprises 70 percent of the area of the country and in which nearly one-third of the population resides. The interior's poverty, according to Sawers, is caused by the scarcity of agricultural resources and by serious inequalities in the distribution of those resources. The region is poorly endowed, land has been degraded through abuse and overuse, and most farmers work tiny, unproductive plots. Moreover, most of the products of the interior are produced for highly protected domestic markets and face stiff competition and falling prices in world markets. Recent reforms in Argentina have dramatically aggravated the economic crisis of the interior. Sawers shows how the poverty of the interior has contributed to the dismal performance of the Argentine economy as a whole. He emphasizes the deleterious effects of extensive emigration from the interior to the major urban areas that are unable to absorb the human tide. Additionally, the national government has taxed the more prosperous regions in order to subsidize the interior, placing a severe drain on the federal government budget and worsening inflation. The effects of the interior's poverty on the nation are also political. Sawers argues that the backward political system in the interior exacerbates the worst features of the national political culture and governance, which in turn pose profound obstacles to economic progress.

Excerpt

This book would not have been possible if The American University had not sent me to Argentina to direct its study abroad program there. Between 1987 and 1993, I directed the program for five semesters. Part of the program consisted of a series of seminars to which I invited distinguished experts on Argentina. I was thus able to meet an astonishing array of the country's top thinkers, from former economy ministers to parish priests, from the country's most outstanding scholars to journalists and labor leaders. Another major segment of the program each semester was several weeks of travel in the interior of the country. Due in large part to this travel program, I have visited all but one of the twenty-three provinces of Argentina. At many of our destinations, I arranged seminars, factory tours, interviews with politicians, and visits to universities and think tanks. This was an extraordinary opportunity to see Argentina up close. Between two of these semester programs, I remained in Argentina on a sabbatical leave from the Department of Economics at my university and was able to get a good start on this book.

My thinking about the economic problems of Argentina has been importantly shaped by conversations with hundreds of Argentines. To compile a list of the most influential and helpful of the people with whom I spoke would be a challenge, but such a list would surely include Ra£l Arlotti, Ezequiel Gallo, Hilda Sábato, Jorge Schvarzer, Alejandro Rofman, Carlos Reboratti, Alberto Porto, Javier Villanueva, Jorge Katz, Esteban Nevares, Carlos Escudé, Rafael Ramos Vertiz, Eduardo Conesa, José Mariá Dagnino Pastore, Uki Goñi, Osvaldo Ortiz, Ernesto Viglizzo, Raquel E. Massacane, and Nicholas Tozer.

In addition, Ra£l Arlotti was most helpful in obtaining data for me. Among other things, Ra£l assigned the students in his class on agricultural economics to look for data useful to my project, and several of their contributions proved to be invaluable. Adolfo Castro Almeyra of the Centro de Estudios e Investigación para la Dirigencia Agropecuaria was extraordinarily useful not only in sharing his thinking about the topics addressed in this book but also in placing me in contact with numerous business leaders associated with the economy of the interior. They gave generously of their time in extensive personal interviews and in preparing written responses to long lists of detailed questions that I had sent to them. I would like to thank . . .

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