West African Trade: A Study of Competition, Oligopoly and Monopoly in a Changing Economy

By P. T. Bauer | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 11
OFFICIAL POLICIES AND ATTITUDES AND ECONOMIC CONCENTRATION

1. EFFECTS OF OFFICIAL ATTITUDES ON THE TRADING SITUATION

In conditions in which official action impinges upon economic life closely at many points, administrative outlook and beliefs affect the trading situation substantially. In West Africa they condition the readiness with which administrators are prepared to accede to or to resist specific demands or suggestions made by trading interests or by African opinion. They can to a certain extent be regarded as independent causal influences in that they tend, consciously or unconsciously, to encourage or to discourage particular demands; vague and general discontent becomes crystallized in the course of interpretation by administrators into specific, and possibly quite different, ideas. Conversely, isolated personal grievances or complaints may be transformed in the course of administrative interpretation into generalized beliefs, and so produce generalized attitudes towards proposals for action and reform.

This chapter discusses, with some illustrations, the more pervasive attitudes and opinions that colour administrative action; some of the examples are drawn from the administration of wartime controls. Chapter 12 analyses the effects of immigration policy, the most important single influence of official policy on the trading situation. Some repercussions of other official measures are considered in Chapter 13.


2. ADMINISTRATIVE PREFERENCE FOR LARGE FIRMS, FOR ESTABLISHED FIRMS, AND FOR COLLECTIVE NEGOTIATION

The trading firms in West Africa often have to deal with the government in such matters as the allocation of trading licences and building plots, the administration of immigration regulations, the allocation of transport facilities, the operation of trade controls and proposals for development or for taxation policy.

In West Africa, as in other countries, administrators prefer to deal with a few large firms rather than with a number of small enterprises.1 Administrators are less likely to know the latter, either because they are

____________________
1
This refers in general to expatriate firms. There is no suggestion of any preference for expatriate over African enterprise. Indeed, as has already been stated and shown, there is at present intentional and explicit strong discrimination in favour of African firms in the administration of import licensing.

-145-

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