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

By C. Peter Timmer | Go to book overview

12
What Have We Learned?

C. Peter Timmer

The 1990s will be a challenging decade for economists working to reduce poverty and speed agricultural development. Not only were the 1980s a "lost decade" for many countries of the Third World, especially in Africa and Latin America, but the turn of the decade brought Eastern Europe, the Soviet Union, and much of socialist Asia back on the agenda of development economists. Suddenly the questions asked about the role of the state in the development process take on new urgency as the observed range of economic structures and interventions widens dramatically.

Many countries newly independent after World War II sought their models for development strategies in the Soviet example, with its massive displacement of market forces by central planning and the decimation of agriculture in support of forced-pace industrialization and an urban proletariat. Eastern European countries had the model imposed on them by the Soviet Union. Four decades later, the legacy of Stalinist economics is not just the ruined economies of Poland, Czechoslovakia, and the rest of Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union, with their outdated industrial sectors, backward agricultures, and near vacuum of market institutions. The legacy extends to much of the Third World as well, but there the response to the political revolutions that swept Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union at the end of 1989 has been much more muted. There is near unanimity in Eastern Europe that casting off the Stalinist structure as quickly as possible is imperative and that the only feasible way to do it is by introducing

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