Economic Development: Theory and Policy Applications

By Fidelis Ezeala-Harrison | Go to book overview

3
History of Economic Development and Underdevelopment

This chapter deals with the major practical issues surrounding economic development and underdevelopment in the less developed countries (LDCs): Africa, Asia, and Latin America and the Caribbean. The relatively slow momentum of economic development in LDCs over the past fifty years has remained a source of concern to development economists and international development experts. Much of the concern has focused on why the development efforts and initiatives in most LDCs have not seemed to yield the expected fruits. As seen in Chapter 2, the LDCs have continued to perform poorly in terms of most development indices. GDP per capita in most LDCs fell between 3 percent (for Latin America) and 15 percent (for Sub-Saharan Africa) between 1970 and 1990. In particular, the 1980s witnessed a period of economic decline during which the combination of external factors, domestic economic policy inefficiencies, and political instabilities resulted in protracted cycles of economic underdevelopment in LDCS.

It is important that we clearly understand the historical situation of modern LDCs in order to avoid the unfortunate error of assuming that their past (and indeed their present) might be similar to the experiences of the DCs during their developmental stages. We must realize that present DCs were never underdeveloped, although they may have been undeveloped (see Chapter 1). Any assumptions to the contrary can only lead to very serious misconceptions and confusion surrounding the entire subject of development versus underdevelopment. Furthermore, such faulty assumptions may mean that we forget that economic development in one region of the globe must necessarily mean (and lead to) economic underdevelopment in another region. That is to say, economic underdevelopment is a necessary byproduct of economic development.

While the process and failure of economic development in LDCs has been the subject of extensive research and documentation, the major natural, physical, environmental, and socioeconomic and cultural factors that have contributed to perpetuate underdevelopment in LDCs have been copiously and elaborately

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