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Volume 57 / Social Sciences


RANSFORD W. PALMER, Professor of Economics, Howard University

THE LITERATURE REVIEWED FOR HLAS 57 reflects a preoccupation with three major issues: structural adjustment, economic integration, and privatization. The 1980s was the decade of structural adjustment. This process was and is driven by the rationale that these small foreign trade-dependent Caribbean countries must become more competitive if they are to survive in an increasingly competitive world. It has been an agonizing process for both policy makers and the people.

The books reviewed seem to be unanimous in their conclusion that structural adjustment has had a negative effect on the welfare of the region’s population (items bi 97008094, bi 95019306, bi 95019325, bi 95018938, bi 96003610, and bi 95018936). Yet it could be argued that the absence of structural adjustment would have had an even more devastating effect as the main commodity exports of the region are replaced by skill-intensive products from more efficient producers. The resentment engendered by those whose welfare has been negatively affected has been heightened by the externally imposed character of the adjustment and the apparent loss of national sovereignty to the international arbiters of structural adjustment: the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank.

While structural adjustment is viewed as having a negative impact on welfare, privatization, which is part of the adjustment process, is viewed positively as an engine of growth (items bi 95019271, bi 95018945, bi 95019303, bi 95019315, bi 95019279, and bi 95019309). It is reasonable to say that the growth in the number of publications analyzing the role of the private sector is itself a measure of the progress of structural adjustment.

Among the Commonwealth Caribbean countries the subject of economic integration has received a great deal of attention. Although this topic has been a part of the literature for the past 30 years, today it has acquired a tone of urgency in the face of rapid changes in the world economy such as the creation of large trading blocs and the changing technology of the production process (items bi 94008443, bi 95019281, bi 95019300, and bi 95018937). Despite this urgency, some member countries continue to vascillate because of the uncertain impact on their economies of a common external tariff.

The principal objective of regional integration is to improve efficiency and, therefore, competitiveness. Central to this objective is the improvement of worker productivity requiring greater investment in human and physical capital. It is argued that monetary integration could play an important role by improving efficiency of regional allocation of capital (item bi 96003618). But if labor productivity is to benefit fully from capital mobility, labor must also be able to move freely. Unfortunately, the labor mobility remains largely an issue of debate, and has yet to make the passage to a point of policy. As a consequence, there is a tendency for workers to move to the US where they can be more productive.

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