Adjusting to Policy Failure in African Economies

By David E. Sahn | Go to book overview

10
Structural Adjustment in a Small, Open Economy: The Case of Gambia

Cathy Jabara

Gambia is one of Africa's smallest and poorest countries. It forms a small enclave in Senegal on the west coast of Africa, and its per capita income was about US$350 in 1989/90. Total population was estimated at 832,000 in 1989, giving a population density of 73 per square kilometer, the fourth highest in Africa. About two-thirds of the population is engaged in agriculture: subsistence farming, livestock raising, and cultivation of groundnuts for export. With the exception of approximately 2,400 hectares of irrigated rice (less than 2 percent of cultivated land), agriculture in Gambia is entirely rainfed. Agricultural technology is still rudimentary and extremely labor intensive.

Gambia's financial crisis emerged from the acceleration of its investment effort in the mid-1970s under the First Development Plan ( 1975/76- 80/81). This plan was designed to increase investment in basic economic and social infrastructure through the use of funds largely borrowed from donors. Before this period, Gambia had followed fairly prudent financial policies which, aided by favorable external circumstances, maintained broad equilibrium in public sector operations and in the balance of payments. From 1970 to 1979, the Gambian economy experienced an average real growth in GDP of 5.5 percent per year, a rate well above population growth. From 1979 to 1986, however, average real GDP growth fell to 2.6 percent per year. The latter period was characterized by drought, adverse declines in the external terms of trade, and chronic imbalances in the balance of payments and in the government accounts.

Gambia's small size, undiversified production base, and trade openness

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