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Volume 51 / Social Sciences


MYLES J. MIELKE, JOHN E. LINK, NYDIA R. SUAREZ, and MARIA ELENA POMAR, Economists, US Department of Agriculture, Economic Research Service

THE OVERALL REVIEW OF THE SOCIOECONOMIC LITERATURE on Central America for the current volume of the Handbook largely reflects the economic and political events of the 1980s. The political economy of the region continued to be focused on the Central American Common Market (CACM) and its prospects for revitalization. The region's worsening foreign debt, economic stagnation, rising inflation, and the effects of guerrilla warfare were also highlighted in much of the literature. In particular, INFORPRESS (item bi 89012311) and Gallardo and López (item bi 88002285) offered especially useful reviews of the economic changes in Central America during this period.

Studies by international institutions continued to be commonplace. In particular, the International Labour Organisation (ILO) published several reports on various aspects of organized labor and employment issues (e.g., item bi 88002266), while the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) sponsored studies addressing more eclectic interests in Central America (e.g., item bi 88002299).

There were several interesting presentations on particular aspects of economic development, such as labor migration patterns in Costa Rica (item bi 89012317), the informal economy in Central America (item bi 89012432), and the so-called "social sector" in Honduras (item bi 88002272). There were more traditional themes as well, including the role of agricultural cooperatives (items bi 89012430 and bi 89012429) and agrarian programs in economic development (items bi 90014293 and bi 88002332).

There were several studies about Central America's export commodities, in particular bananas, but one item stands out: the analysis of the development of the region's banana industry by López (item bi 88002286) provides a comprehensive review of the industry, including a discussion of the proposal for an International Banana Agreement.

Considerable material has been written about Nicaragua's Sandinista revolution and the economic problems it faced. Most authors agreed that the Contra war and the trade and financial blockades had crippled the economy, and, perhaps, led to the recent political turnaround. Spalding (item bi 90003673) brings together the work of 12 social scientists to present a comprehensive discussion of the various economic and political issues facing the country during 1979-85.

There were no serious omissions in the literature on the Central American economies, but there were still a few noticeable gaps. There was a wealth of material on Costa Rica and Central America as a whole, but little on Guatemala or Panama. There were few studies concerned with industrial development in the region. This is a somewhat conspicuous omission because of the emphasis placed on industrial development as an "engine of growth" and the focus of the CACM on industrial trade.

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