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Volume 51 / Social Sciences

ECONOMICS: ECUADOR


DAVID W. SCHODT, Professor of Economics, St. Olaf College

THE EXPLOSIVE GROWTH of social science publications on Ecuadorian themes that began in the early 1970s slowed in the latter half of the 1980s. In part, this reflected a maturing of social science research and publication, but other factors contributed significantly as well. Funding for the research centers that are the principal sources of social science research in Ecuador (see HLAS 49) was reduced, both as a result of economic austerity policies and as a consequence of the Febres Cordero government's ideological differences with most of the academic community (although the director of one center argues that an ironic result of the government's cutbacks may have been to increase both the professionalism of the surviving research centers as well as the quality of publications). Moreover, many of the scholars who had come to Ecuador fleeing political repression in the Southern Cone countries and who had been an important stimulus to the social sciences in Ecuador, began to return home as democratic governments came to power in these countries. In addition, scholarships for study abroad became more scarce.

While good work continues to be published, one unfortunate consequence of these changes has been a proliferation of edited volumes that too often contain material recycled from one book to another. There also continues to be remarkably little collaborative research by Ecuadorian and foreign social scientists, although one notable exception is the cooperative agreement between FLACSO and CERLAC, which has led to several publications (e.g., item bi 90007780). High quality publications on economic themes, always relatively few in number, have followed the same trends. Firmly grounded empirical studies of contemporary issues have been noticeably rare, particularly those sensitive to the social and political context. Collaborative research in this area could be particularly valuable. Adequate sources of economic data have always been a problem, but the excellent national accounts series by the Central Bank now constitutes a rich resource for empirical research (see item bi 88001202; for quantitative studies see items bi 90007781 and bi 90007778).

In part, however, the problem is simply that Ecuador has few highly trained academic economists. Many Ecuadorian economists with advanced degrees from foreign universities have chosen to remain outside the country; most of those working in Ecuador find far more lucrative opportunities in the public and private sectors. Although much good research is done by many of the latter, and by economists working on projects funded by international and foreign government organizations, most of this material is never published. (The ISS/PREALC project is an important exception see, for example, items bi 88001211, bi 89001602, and bi 90007773.)

Several recent developments may contribute to alleviating some of these problems. FLACSO, whose investigators and studies have been responsible for an important share of the publications in economics (e.g., items bi 88003208, bi 89001597, and bi 90007774), has inaugurated a new degree program in economics, which may lead to more research and publication. ILDIS, an important publisher of works on economic themes, has initiated two projects that bear mention. One is the publication of six anthologies, edited by leading Ecuadorian scholars, intended to present the current state of research in each of the six fields (see items bi 89001596, bi 90009244, and bi 90007783). The other is the publication of working papers that seek to relate for public discussion some of the research that otherwise would never go beyond the walls of various public institutions and agencies. Finally, the Central Bank has begun to promote publication and research in economic history. The Centro de Investigación y Cultura at the Bank has established a new journal, the Revista Ecuatoriana de Historia Económica (item bi 90007772); has begun to publish a series of monographs, which includes translations of previously unavailable studies by foreign scholars (item bi 90007775); and is compiling a very useful series of historical economic statistics (item bi 90007771).

Other publications worth noting are the Conaghan and Martz books (items bi 89001595 and bi 88001210); the Larrea book on the banana industry, which examines a little-studied area of the Ecuadorian economy (item bi 88003208); and the economic primers published by the Centro de Estudios y Difusión Social, which contain surprisingly useful surveys of various aspects of the Ecuadorian economy (items bi 88001209 and bi 88001191).


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