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close this bookThe Courier N 137 - January - February 1993 Dossier: Development and Cooperation - Country Report: Mauritania (EC Courier, 1993, 100 p.)
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'Trading with South Africa: The policy options for the EC' - Sheila Page and Christopher Stevens, Overseas Development Institute, London, 1992. ISBN 0 85003 187 7, 78 pages, £20.

South Africa's largest export market is the EC, which takes 25% of the total, mainly in the form of primary and semi-processed goods (only 7% of South African trade is with the rest of Africa).

However, the EC takes a much larger share of the ACP countries' exports. This study of the various trading arrangements which the EC countries could offer South Africa as it moves towards majority rule takes as its starting point the view that South Africa, in economic and social terms, is not, as commonly perceived, a developed country but is comparable with a middle-income developing country.

If South Africa were classified as a developing country, it could gain certain aid and trade privileges. The report looks at a range of possible trading arrangements with the EC, most of which would involve such a reclassification. The authors consider the effects of preferential access to the EC market for various South African products, particularly the potential disruption to developing country or EC interests and areas of potential competition between South Africa and the ACP States.

The authors consider that South Africa, as a country attempting major economic restructuring and a movement to a more democratic regime, meets normal criteria as a suitable candidate for external assistance for long-term development and short-term adjustment. However, offering South Africa special trading arrangements could be damaging to some producers in the ACP, the EC and elsewhere; the report gives copious details of where and how this might happen. Joint production with industries in neighbouring Lesotho, Botswana, Swaziland and Zimbabwe could well benefit South Africa at their expense.

Little would be gained from preferential trade regimes, the study concludes. Consideration should be given to other forms of external assistance in the sectors where South Africa's needs are greatest, and which would as far as possible assist its neighbours and other developing countries.

R.R.

Jean de La Guvi - Voyage 'inteur de l'Eurocratie (Eurocracy - Journey into the Interior) - 'Actualitseries, Le Monde Editions, 15 rue Falgini, 75015, Paris - 197 pages - FF 98 - 1992.

The writer, born in 1937, went to Le Monde, the French daily, in 1970. He worked on the black Africa, Asia and Maghreb desks, was deputy head of the foreign service for five years and then came to Brussels in September 1990.

This is no doubt the secret of his thorough knowledge of the world of the Community, not just the official side of it all, but its day-to-day living - which he describes with some piquancy. All the institutions are pictured, sometimes with eloquent nicknames. The current 47-building Commission and its 17 Members, for example, are labelled: 'Prima donna and chorus'. The Council is the Community's 'high mass', with 47 services behind it, 'not all of them historic'. The importance of COREPER is highlighted, and rightly so while the role of lobbying is recognised. Finally, Parliament's constant shuffling back and forth of trunks full of paper, its '518 tender consciences' and even the bickering over its seat are wittily rendered. Mistakes have crept in, however, with, for example, promotion, which has always taken longer in the Commission than the Council and particularly the Parliament. But by and large, this is an up-to-date and well-researched piece of work which, although primarily intended for French audiences, will be useful to anyone with an interest in current affairs.

A.L.

Claude Albagli - Economie du dlopement: typologie des anjeux (Development economies - the challenges classified) - Preface by Christian Labrousse - Librairie de la Cour de Cassation, 27 Place Dauphine, 75001, Paris - 349 pages - FF 150 - 1991

The first paragraph of the preface, a summary of the Third World and a]l its paths to development, says it all. According to Christian Labrousse, who is a professor of economics at Paris University (Pantheon Assas); 'As far as history is concerned, the 1990s will be the years when Marxism fell and Third World theories collapsed. Miracle development methods now appear as the Utopias they really are, often only pipe dreams at total variance with economic reality. Let us be clear about it. Raising the standard of living of the people of the Third World means increasing the wealth they produce and genuinely restricting demographic growth'.

But let it not be thought that perusal of the pertinent comments in the preface can be a substitute for reading the book itself, a didactic and comprehensive work which will be of interest to the economics student and to anyone who realises that the fate of those four billion people in the Third World, those 80% of the population of the globe living in its poor countries, is of crucial importance to the planet as a whole. Strikingly, two of the Third World countries, China and India, contain more than half its population, so, obviously, an efficient solution to their problems would cause a beneficial overturning of the economic data of the whole planet.

Albagli's book is in two main parts Part one, on a shattered Third World, is in six chapters, one each on China, India South East Asia, the Islamic countries Latin America and Black Africa. Part two, questions on the Third World, is divided into six issues which are crucial to development - population, subsistence, trade, energy, debt and power.

Courier readers will find Part I, Chapter VI, on Black Africa, particular interesting. This part of the world, the writer says, 'has indeed slipped out of the major economic changes of the past 30 years. The predictions of the 1960s suggested faster development for Africa and a sombre future for Asia. But the reverse has happened - failure, for which misguided strategy is very much to blame, with a moribund productive system bringing social decline in its wake. Between a traditional society with the cracks showing and a consumer society which they cannot attain, the frustration of half a billion Africans is mounting'.

Reasonably enough, much is made of population growth. Let us not forget that there were about 200 million people in sub-Saharan Africa in 1950, but the population numbers nearly 500 million today and is increasing by 15 million per year - the same figure as in China, whose total population is some 1.1 billion.

For sociological and religious reasons, these were very delicate issues to tackle 3 years ago when the demographic situation was far more suited to subsistence living. Indeed, they were not really tackled at all. But with the population expanding at the rate of 3.2% p.a., we realise just how fundamental they and other issues are today.

A.L.

'The Development Dictionary, A Guide to Knowledge as Power' edited by Wolfgang Sachs. Zed Books Ltd., London and New Jersey, 1992.

'The idea of Development stands today like a ruin in the intellectual landscape. Its shadow obscures our vision.'

This provocative statement on the front cover page gives advance warning that the contents of this book are likely to make for uncomfortable reading - particularly for those who work in development, or have a commitment to the development concept. This is not a dictionary, but a series of highly intellectual discourses by different authors on 19 separate but related subjects (arranged alphabetically) beginning, fortuitously, with 'development' itself and ending with 'technology'.

The authors are like-minded academics who all believe that the 'age of development' is coming to an end and who expressly set out 'to disable the development professional by tearing apart the conceptual foundations of his routines'. Given that this is the starting point and not the conclusion of the book, the question arises as to whether the development professional, or any other potential reader, should be prepared to break his routine to read it?

The book is challenging in a number of ways. In the first instance, its unremitting hostility to development flows over into a generalised gloom about the current state of the world. Although the principal villain of the piece appears to be US President Harry Truman, who articulated the concept of 'underdevelopment' in 1949, all who have sought to make something of development implicitly stand condemned. It seems that we have got it all horribly wrong.

There are chinks of light of course - one author, in discussing 'reeds', believes that we are 'on the threshold of a still unnoticed transition from a political consciousness based on progress, growth and development ... to a new, yet unnamed consciousness defined by controls which ensure a 'sustainable system' of needs satisfaction' (Ivan Illich, page 99). Another sees hope in 'cosmopolitan localism' as an alternative to 'universalism' (Wolfgang Sachs, page 112). But the overall diagnosis is far from favourable. We are told, for example, that 'the very notion of help has become enfeebled and robbed of public confidence in its saving power' (Marianne Gronemeyer, page 53). The term 'equality' has 'taken on certain toxic meanings' (C. Douglas Lummis, page 38) while, 'from the unburied corpse of development, every kind of pest has started to spread' (Gustavo Esteva, page 6).

A second challenge lies in the language which the authors use. This varies from one contribution to another but it is frequently difficult to understand. Thus, for example, under the sub-heading 'Conscientizing from Without?', Majid Rahnema (page 125) says that 'praxis, or action and reflection, was advanced by the participatory movement as a means to precisely give those wider dimensions to participation. As such, Freirian methods of dialogical action and conscientization are perceived by the movement as a crucial instrument of interaction, aimed not only at liberating the oppressed, but eventually also the intervenor, from his own conditioning as a "bourgeois" thinker'. Is the message so complex that the language must be tested to destruction in this way?

In the final analysis, this book makes a number of very valid points about where we have gone wrong. The trouble is that in seeking to demolish almost every aspect of 20th century human development (and endeavour), the authors really do not offer any convincing alternatives. And in choosing to wrap their ideas in what is often impenetrable academic language, they effectively ensure that their message will only be read by a select few on the intellectual circuit.

S.H.