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14.1 Introduction

14.2 Meaning of Underdevelopment

14.3 Salient Features of the Underdeveloped Countries

14.4 Approaches to Understand Underdevelopment

14.5 Attacking Underdevelopment: The Policy Options

14.6 Examining Some Economic Structures in the Light of Underdevelopment

14.6.1 The Indian Case

14.6.2 The Chinese Experience

14.6.3 Ghana’s Debacle

14.6.4 The Brazilian Economy

14.7 Summary

14.8 Exercises


Prior to the late eighteenth century, life was nothing other than ‘nasty, brutish and short’ for the vast majority of human beings. Technology changed slowly and sporadically, but it eased life only for a small ruling elite in the pre-industrial societies. In the late eighteenth century, Britain began to industrialize on the basis of technical progress in textile, coal-mining, iron-smelting and steam-power. Soon industrialization started to spill over to other regions. International flows of capital and commodities provided the stimulus for this development. However, this development was not uniform. Many tropical countries lagged behind as they were the victims of this developmental process due to the prevalence of colonialism. India, for example, quite advanced at the end of eighteenth century, could not protect its industries because of British control. The confident march of ‘progress’ was shattered in the
‘age of crisis’ marked by the two world wars and the Great Depression in Europe. The dominant powers met in a conference at Bretton Woods, New Hampshire and agreed to establish two international organizations designed to supervise the emergence of a liberal international economic order. The International Monetary Fund intended to deal with monetary questions and the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development or the World Bank’s purpose was promotion of long –term flow of funds for reconstruction. Many former colonies started gaining formal independence around the same time and fretted about being left behind in the process of development. These countries adopted policies in which economic development became a priority. The questions of growth, development and under development became the global norms.

In the light of the above context we will look at what underdevelopment means, various features of underdevelopment, how underdeveloped countries are distinguished from the developed ones and how scholars have attempted to understand it and counter it. To elucidate some of these aspects a short discussion
62 of the experiences of some of the developing countries has been given.


We live in an agonizing, inextricably designed bipolar world marked by severe deprivation and social exclusion on the one hand and affluence and opulence on the other. Eight hundred and eighty million are malnourished and millions go without schooling. On the other extreme, three richest people in the world have assets that exceed the combined GDP of 48 least developed countries. Such deprived people are wholly or partially excluded from full participation in the society in which they live due to lack of options, entitlement to resources and lack of social-capital. These statements can be analyzed if we understand the meaning of development and underdevelopment.

Economic development may be defined as the process by which a traditional society employing primitive techniques and capable of sustaining only a low level of income is transformed into a modern, high technology, high-income economy. Such a developed economy uses capital, skilled labour and scientific knowledge to produce wide variety of products for the market. Capital goods and human capital and relevant scientific knowledge play a major role as factors of production in such a society. Broadly speaking, lack of development may be defined as underdevelopment. World Bank has set the following development goals:

Reduction of poverty,

Low mortality rates,

Universal primary education,

Access to reproductive health services,

Gender equality,

National strategies for sustainable development.

Many underdeveloped countries are not in a position to attain these high objectives because of grinding poverty, low income and lack of resources. It is hazardous to generalize about the underdeveloped world. Although they resemble in many negative term- they are less industrialized, mostly non-European in descent, located in tropical regions and many of them are former colonies yet they vary in cultural, economic and political conditions. They share wide-spread and chronic absolute poverty, high and rising burden of unemployment and underemployment, growing disparities in income distribution, low and stagnant agricultural productivity, sizeable gap between urban and rural levels of living, lack of adequate education, health and housing facilities, dependence on foreign and often inappropriate technologies and more or less stagnant occupational structure.

Despite these resemblances and common features, there are significant differences among the underdeveloped countries in the size of the country (in terms of geography, population and economy), their historical evolution, their natural and human resource endowments, the nature of their industrial structure and polity and other institutional structures.

Low income compared to the developed world economies is considered to be a major characteristic of underdeveloped regions. Ghana and India with per capita income below $785 are low-income countries; China between ($785-3125) is a lower middle-income country while Brazil in the per capita income of $3125-9655 range falls in the upper middle-income category. However, per capita income is only a measure of average income based on market valuations. It is not a complete indicator


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of incidence of poverty. Some extra dimensions such as life expectancy, health facilities, conditions of employment, social-structure and distribution of income must be taken into account to make a proper assessment of a country’s economy. Most underdeveloped countries are characterized by contrast between luxury and squalor, skewed distribution of income, low productivity, high level of unemployment and disguised rural/urban unemployment marked by surplus human labour who shares agricultural chores that are otherwise redundant.


Although it is risky to generalize about so many underdeveloped countries of Asia, Africa and Latin America, they share certain common socio-economic features. We can classify these similarities for convenience into the following broad categories:

1) Low levels of living

2) Low levels of productivity

3) High rates of population growth and Dependency ratios in the population

4) Significant dependency on agricultural production and primary product exports

5) Dominance/dependence and vulnerability in International relations.

Low levels of living in the underdeveloped regions are manifested quantitatively in the form of low incomes, inadequate housing, poor health, limited education, high infant mortality, low life and work expectancy. The economists use the Gross National Product per head as index of relative well being of people in different countries. Not only their per capita income is low in absolute terms when compared to the prosperous nations but they also experience slower GNP growth rates with a few exceptions. Ghana and India are typical low-income countries. China has improved its position slightly. Another dimension of income is how it is distributed among the population. Despite relatively higher incomes, the Latin American countries also exhibit simultaneously chronic poverty. This poverty gets reflected in widespread malnutrition, lack of basic health services, high under-5 mortality rates and lower life expectancy. The under-5 mortality in India and Ghana in 1996 was 107 and 109 respectively compared to the single-digit rates for the advanced countries. The situation in Brazil and China was better with mortality rates of 44 and 47 per thousand respectively.

The levels of living are functionally correlated to the low levels of labour productivity in the underdeveloped countries. The lack of complimentarity among factors of production like physical capital and expertise restricts labour output. Institutional factors also hinder production. One such factor is the social-exclusion of people in key area of life especially with regard to rights, resources and relationships. Other institutional inputs affecting production are the land-tenurial system, taxation system, credit and banking structure, educational programmes, nature of administrative services, etc. The low levels of living and productivity are self-reinforcing. They are also the principal manifestations of underdevelopment.

The underdeveloped countries have high population pressures on their resources due to high birth rates and maternal fertility rates. While some countries like China and Brazil have largely succeeded in checking their population growth (their total fertility rates in 1996 were1.9 and 2.4 respectively) many others are still caught in the phase of ‘demographic trap’---- a phase of declining mortality and persistence of high fertility. This has a major implication for the age-structure of the underdeveloped

regions, which are heavily burdened with children below 15 years. This results in fewer producers compared to consumers in these societies, a factor that also affects investment in productive capacities.

Underutilization of labour, a key phenomenon in the underdeveloped world is manifested in two forms. It occurs as underemployment, or people working less than they would like, daily, weekly or seasonally. Another form is disguised unemployment where people are nominally working full time but whose productivity is so low that their absence would have a negligible impact on total output. The underemployment in urban centres is reflected in preponderance of labour in informal sector i.e. people engaged in petty-trading, casual and irregular wage work, in domestic services of very small ‘micro’ (enterprises) in unregulated sectors. This is about 60-70% in Kumasi (Ghana), 40-50% in Calcutta (India) and about 43% in Sao Paulo (Brazil). The sprawling slums in such underdeveloped cities are related to this phenomenon.

The concentration of people on primary or agriculture production or stagnant occupational structure is another indicator of underdevelopment. This sector is characterized by primitive techniques, poor organization and limited physical and human-capital and hence, low productivity. In many parts of Latin America and Asia, it is also characterized by land-tenure systems under which peasants usually rent rather than own their lands. Although, many underdeveloped economies are not, strictly speaking, mono-crop economies or economies dependent on single crop exports for their foreign earnings; yet many such countries rely heavily on a small number of primary exports for the bulk of their foreign earnings. Ghana, for example, depends on selling of Cocoa, timber and minerals to the West. Brazil, despite recent diversification, relies on Coffee and minerals as major export items. The exports of primary products, in fact, account for 60-70% of the annual flows of total foreign earnings into the underdeveloped regions.

Another typical feature of underdevelopment is the dependence of these countries on rich, advanced nations in terms of technology, foreign aid and private capital transfers. Along with the capital flows, the values, attitudes and standard of behaviour of the advanced countries are also superimposed on them. The phenomenon of
‘plunder by bureaucracy’ to emulate western life style and ‘brain-drain’ are a result of such cultural invasion. In 1997, International Bank for Reconstruction and Development commitments amounted to $14.5 billion as loans to the poorest countries. The grants and loans provided by the OECD countries and private capital flows are bigger than this amount. Much of this foreign investment is located in mining or other extractive industries, which removes non-renewable resources at rates and prices that are not in the interest of sustainable development. On the other hand, many of the underdeveloped countries face foreign-debt crisis as a result of increasing outflows required for dividends and repayments exceeding the new net borrowings at one point or the other.


In this section we will discuss two major paradigms developed in order to understand the nature of underdevelopment. These ideologically motivated approaches are:

a) The Neo-Marxist Dependency Model: This model is an outgrowth of Marxist thinking. It attributes the existence and maintenance of underdevelopment to the development of world capitalist system that divided the globe into the rich developed and poor underdeveloped countries. According to it, the world is dominated by an


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unequal power and exchange relationship between the ‘centre’ or the developed region and the ‘periphery’ or the underdeveloped region. Certain groups in the underdeveloped countries such as landlords, merchants, industrialists and state officials who enjoy high incomes, social-status and political power constitute a small ruling elite. They act as agents in the perpetuation of international capitalist networks of inequality and exploitation. Surplus or the capitalist profits are transferred through various channels from the ‘periphery’ to the ‘centre’. While some argue for the impossibility of an underdeveloped country’s immanent development or the spontaneous, natural process of development from within due to this unequal relationship, others believe that intentional development through deliberate strategic decisions is possible even though it may be determined by the needs and requirements of the local elites.

The economic behaviour of local elites in the underdeveloped countries is marked by the conspicuous consumption, investment in real estates and extreme risk-aversion and the export of their savings to be deposited with foreign banks. These are rational responses from the standpoint of private advantage in the circumstances prevailing in these countries. Competition with the giant transnational corporations by the indigenous entrepreneurs is not easy. The states in such environment have attempted to become capitalists themselves in order to finance their industrialization with the help of state-owned enterprises. However, unable to compete with more powerful foreign competitors and because of their servility to local commercial, capitalist, bureaucratic and landed interests, the states only ended up in investing in infrastructure (mainly transport and communications) and tourism-industry. The neo-Marxist model also stresses how the export sector that serves the need of foreign investors is linked to the development of much of the tertiary sector such as banking, infrastructure and administration. To quote Andre Gunder Frank: ‘With the export industry came its satellite moons, now transformed into white elephants, and the people who economically and socially, but thanks to cultural liberalism also culturally, learned to ride on them.’

b) The Liberal Stages Model: This conceptual framework propounded by liberal and neo-liberal economists is based on the belief that what are now developed, modern societies were also in the earlier times traditional, backward and agriculture- based societies. Therefore, we should not lay the blame for all the ills of underdevelopment at the doorsteps of such developed nations. The American economic historian W.W. Rostow developed a ‘stages of growth theory’, according to which, every nation must pass through the following stages:(1) traditional and stagnant low per capita stage, (2) transitional stage when the pre-conditions for growth are laid down, (3) the ‘take off’stage or the beginning of the growth process, (4) industrialized mass production and consumption stage. The last stage was supposed to be self-sustaining.

Most of the liberal and neo-liberal economists emphasize that the underdeveloped countries can also generate sufficient investment by mobilization of domestic and foreign savings to accelerate their economic growth. It is argued that the main obstacle to growth in the underdeveloped countries was relatively low level of capital formation. They might require an appropriate dose of foreign aid or private foreign investment in order to take off. Thus, capital investment was supposed to act like a development vending machine. In many Keynesian informed schemes, the economic development of the underdeveloped countries is linked to the proper utilization of capital. The Harrod-Domar model and Ragnar Nurkse’s scheme are examples of this approach. The structural and institutional factors affecting the development are ignored in this model while the dynamic of development through capitalist entrepreneurs is stressed. Even the transnational companies through their private

investment, while reaping profits, will diffuse technology, improve productivity and harness domestic savings. In short, private greed will produce public good. Others like Gunnar Myrdal, Raul Prebisch and Oswald Sunkel have raised doubts that foreign investment will automatically lead to development. They believe that it will merely create ‘enclaves’ of development surrounded by the vast oceans of underdevelopment.


a) Balanced Growth: When economists first began thinking how policy could deliberately stimulate development, a typical answer in the 1940s was that a simultaneous expansion of output over a wide range of industries was necessary. Economists Paul-Rosenstein-Rodan and Ragnar Nurkse were the leading exponents of this view. They argued that an isolated expansion of output by one or two industries was bound to fail because there would be no increase in the purchasing power elsewhere in the economy to buy the additional output. They emphasized a balanced expansion of a large number of sectors, each thus providing additional purchasing power to help raise the demand for the output of the other sectors. However, the solution did not work in small countries where it was difficult to obtain economies of scale or the minimum efficient size of firms. Secondly, even if an economy develops only a few key sectors, it could find markets for its products abroad.

b) Export-Promotion Strategy: This strategy demanded direct additional factor investments to be made in the sectors already engaged in export-production. Another way was to explore the possibility of developing entirely new export sectors. The country might presumably have a comparative advantage in these sectors. Attempts are made to tap foreign rather than domestic markets to provide the additional demand. The proceeds from the exports could then be used to purchase the other needed inputs from abroad.

c) Import-Substitution for Achieving Industrialization: New industries are established to replace imports under this policy. The market for these industrial products is domestic. The elimination of some imports releases foreign exchange for the purchase of needed inputs in the world market. This policy often requires imposition of protective tariffs and physical quotas to get the new industry started.

There has been a considerable amount of debate over the efficacy of policy options available. Raul Prebisch, the Argentinean economist, argued in favour of import- substitution on the ground that prices of commodities produced in the primary sector have deteriorated in relation to manufactured commodities and would continue to do so. Expansion of export of traditional goods could simply lead to further deterioration of terms of trade. Therefore, the underdeveloped countries in order to escape from their role as that of hewers of wood and drawers of water must try to develop their own capital goods and durable consumer-goods sector. It means that indigenous production should supply domestic markets with such import substitutes. Such a strategy requires direct intervention by the state in the form of price-controls and control of distributive channels. The state bureaucracy also acquires power to enhance or remove domestic monopoly positions of the manufacturing firms. The sheltered monopoly positions of the firms could also lead to inefficient production.

The export-promotion strategy, on the other hand, does not require severe import- restrictions like high tariffs, quotas, import prohibitions and maintenance of an arbitrary exchange rate. By simply providing incentives to export-oriented firms such as


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adequate subsidies, these firms can easily obtain economies of scale. The underdeveloped countries may, however, face problems when all of them start competing for the benefits of trade by exporting their labour-intensive manufactures. Such economies are also more prone to shocks generated by the international markets. The choice between export-promotion and import-substitution is not absolute. Both may have a useful role to play in the drive to obtain industrial maturity. These policy options are still largely part of traditional thinking on development. The emphasis, in all the schemes, is on raising the productive capacities of their economies by intentional development alongside capitalism in order to ameliorate earlier lopsided development. In recent years, a notion of ‘human-centred development’ has gained ground, which sets the developmental goals in terms of quality of life. This is dependent not only on low level of material poverty and low levels of unemployment but also on ideals such as relative equality of incomes, accessibility to adequate education, health services and housing facilities, equal participation in democratic institutions, sustainability of development and lack of any form of open or disguised discrimination against any group.


In this section we analyze four economies from Asia, Africa and Latin America to concretely understand the nature of this phenomenon and attempts to overcome it.

14.6.1 The Indian Case

India represents a typical case of underdevelopment. Its GNP per capita was $72 in mid-1950s. It is still in the low-income range of below $785 by the international standards. In other dimensions of quality of life, such as life expectancy, health facilities and conditions of employment, it lags behinds some of the other developing countries. Its production and occupational structure remain stagnant. While China reduced its under-5 mortality rate from 209 in 1960 to 47 per thousand in 1997, India could reduce its infant mortality from 236 in 1960 to 108 in1997 per thousand only. Life expectancy in China is 70 years compared to 62 years in India. Similarly, maternal mortality rate or the numbers of women’s death per one lakh live births was 437 in India in 1996 while in Chinese case it was 115 only. This is an indicator of deprivation women suffer in India and of the poor health facilities we offer to them.

Though India inherited all the structural distortions created by colonialism, it also had certain advantages over many other colonial societies. India had a relatively strong industrial base and its capitalists had captured about 75% of market for industrial produce at the time of independence. The indigenous entrepreneurial class had also acquired the control of financial sector. There was also a broad social consensus to attain rapid industrial transition. However, the growing capitalism failed to absorb India’s growing surplus labour. Even at present, it only absorbs about
20% labour and this also includes the capitalist service sector.

India embarked on a strategy of import-substitution industrialization following Fledman-Mahalanobis model. It was proposed to produce a wide range of manufactures for the domestic market in order to reduce the need for imported manufactures. It necessitated large investment in heavy industry and diversion of more resources to the production of investment goods in general and machine tools in particular so as to reduce dependence on international sources of capital goods, intermediate and components. Exportable food and raw materials were taxed and

the revenues so generated were employed to subsidize domestic manufacturing. The plan also stressed a large expansion of employment opportunities. It was also meant to give a boost to the weak and nascent private sector. Resources were made available for capital goods sector through foreign aid and investment and also through state loans and credits. The result was that public sector’s share in the production of reproducible capital increased from 15% in 1950-51 to 40% in 1976-77. The share of state enterprises in the net domestic product grew from 3% in1950-51 to 16% in
1984-85. It created infrastructure and basic industrial base as an incentive to the rapid growth of private enterprises. The system of import and investment licensing led to monopolistic controls often severing the critical link between profitability and economic performance. It led to a spectacular rise of big Indian business with a marriage of convenience with foreign collaborators. The big industrial houses enjoyed the benefits of an infrastructure developed through revenues generated from indirect taxes on public. They also got subsidized energy inputs, cheaper capital goods and long-term industrial finance from the public enterprises. As a result of these benefits, the assets of 20 big industrial houses grew from Rs.500 crores in 1951 to Rs.23,
200 crores in 1986.

However, there was no dynamic structural change in the Indian economy. Large numbers of people remain tied to underdeveloped agriculture despite ‘green revolution’. In the urban centres, a sizeable number of people living in sprawling slums find employment in the informal sector and petty distributive activities associated with it. The land reforms did not touch agrarian relations and the basic inequality in rural assets persists. Therefore, there is only a restricted mass market catering to the need of urban and rural elites. In these circumstances, a shift out of Mahalanobis model became necessary, as the state could not find enough resources, within a mixed economy framework. The private enterprises found the production of ‘non- essential’ consumer goods more profitable. The state resorted to inflationary indirect taxation and deficit-financing in order to finance unprofitable public enterprises engaged in the production of investment goods. The private sector now clamoured for the dismantling of public sector on the ground that it was causing budget deficits, high inflation, high-wages and interest rates. The effects of earlier industrialization had led to high government deficits, inflation and interest rates regime. For example, the central government’s budget deficit grew from 6.4% of GNP in 1980 to 8.9% of GNP in1990. The government’s domestic debt rose to 56% of GDP in1991. India was close to ‘technical default’ on its foreign debts as reflected in the foreign exchange crisis of 1991. At this point, the pace of ‘liberalization’ was speeded up under the IMF structural adjustment programme. It meant easing of restrictions on imports and foreign investment, steps to make rupee convertible, a huge cut in sugar and fertilizer subsidies, deregulation of steel distribution and a curb on government’s deficit by way of reduction in government’s spending on subsidies and social-services. The main strategy of this phase is export-substitution with minimum public sector intervention and unrestricted entry of foreign capital. Despite all these grand designs, there is no basic structural change in the Indian economy.About 70% of our population continues to live at bare subsistence level. About 76.6 million agricultural labourers earn about 1/10th of what an organized sector worker earns. In the 1980s, the number of unemployed youths registered in government exchanges crossed 34 million or 10% of the total active population or the total number of productive people employed in the urban manufacturing sector.

14.6.2 The Chinese Experience

China was more unfavourably placed than India at the time of its ‘liberation’ in
1949. It lagged behind India in terms of infrastructure and industrial development.


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India and China initially followed the same set of policy options especially centralized planning but in different institutional framework. China went for radical agrarian land reform programme, thus, creating a truly mass market for consumption goods produced by a more labour-intensive industrial set-up compared to more capital- intensive Indian industries. China abolished landlordism in 1950, primarily to secure the loyalty of poor peasants. Under its land reforms, 46 million hectares or 113 million acres of China’s 107 million hectares or 264 million acres of arable land was redistributed among the peasants to give about 300 million peasants land of their own. To accelerate economic performance of agrarian economy, commune system similar to the Soviet collectives was adopted so as to squeeze more labour out of the peasants. Collectives were granted more credits and other facilities than the individual peasants. After 1956, more intensive collectivization measures were adopted. The Chinese collectives were bigger than Soviet ones and also contributed to industrial production. About 8% of male population was drafted to non-agricultural production, thereby, increasing the burden on women. The Great Leap Forward (1958) was intended to modernize Chinese agriculture by simultaneously developing industries with small-scale methods in villages. It only led to a series of bad harvests. The withdrawal of Soviet experts in 1960 led to further economic catastrophe. The
‘Leap’ was abandoned and more attention was paid to monetary incentives and market mechanisms as well as efficient, economical production rather than aiming to maximize output at all costs. The Cultural Revolution (1966-69) involved transfer of production-decisions from ministries and experts to a group of revolutionary guards. Millions of skilled workers and experts were sent to work on farms for ideological reasons. It led to another drastic decline in the industrial production, foreign trade and growth rate of GNP.

Initially, China also adopted Fledman-Mahalanobis type Keynesian economic strategy of development. The main industries developed under planning were fertilizers, machines, vehicle, oil and electric power, whereas textile, food-processing and steel production grew rather slowly. Large-scale irrigation projects in Hunan and Fujian, water conversancy and electric power-generation on the Grand Canal in Hubei province were also launched. Another aspect of China’s economic development was massive transfer of about 15-19% of agricultural population from land to the industrial sector. The result was a high proportion employed in industry compared to the level of industrial development and co-existence of modern mechanized sector with partly rural, small-scale handicraft production. After the failure of the Great Leap Forward, China realized that an over-populated and extremely poor country could not afford high rates of savings and investment needed to keep the import-substitution strategy in place. In a pragmatic shift, local governments were given more roles in resource allocation and financial manage- ment of the economy. In order to ensure the interior supply of inputs and finished products for the bigger enterprises, simultaneous growth of small enterprises in small towns and villages was emphasized.

Another shift to a more market-friendly strategy that provided an incentive to the foreign capital came after 1978. The process of reform started with de-collectiviza- tion under which user rights with respect to land were transformed by allowing independent decisions on investment and land-allocation to peasants and by permitting sale of a large output in the open market. This resulted in a sharp increase in agricultural production but had an adverse impact on the employment and utilization of surplus labour. Another aspect of this market friendly approach has been to provide incentives to direct foreign investment especially in the special economic zones to maximize their utility. The ethnic Chinese capital, not multinationals, dominated these activities and China favoured launching of export drive without

liberalizing imports. Entry of foreign investors was favoured in new areas and not in the core industrial areas. As a result, the Chinese industrial growth increased from
11% per annum during 1970-80 to 16% per annum during 1990-97. The direct foreign investment in China rose from $11.16 billion in 1992 to above $40 billion in
1996. There was, however, only gradual erosion of state control rather than a quick retreat from planning. The Chinese state-owned enterprises were reformed. The
15th Congress of Chinese Communist Party decided to corporatize the state-owned enterprises. Many of them have been converted into share-holding companies. However, many of the basic components of a ‘pure’ market economy are still in their incipient stage in China. Government guided investment mechanisms, a state- controlled banking system and dominant state-owned enterprises still run in a framework moulded primarily on the previous planned economy. The Chinese economic reforms have raised incomes, created considerable private wealth and reduced the incidence of chronic poverty. However, declining profits, growing unemployment, idle capacity, unrepayable debts of state enterprises and environmental costs due to over-dependence on coal in China’s fuel use are some of the accompanying benign effects. Though China has slightly improved its position from low-income (below $785 per capita income) to lower middle-income group ($786-
3125 per capita income), it still suffers from the signs of underdevelopment. However, its record in achieving remarkable transition in health, nutrition and educational accessibility has been universally acclaimed. It has also considerably raised life expectancy and lowered infant-mortality besides taking effective public action to ensure access to nutrition, health facilities and social support. In comparison to India’s elitist, urban-biased schooling, China’s thrust has been towards universalization of primary education, though it also has its own privileged urban schools financed by the national government as well as private schools. However, the disparities in education and health services between regions, gender and across social groups and classes are less marked.

14.6.3 Ghana’s Debacle

Ghana emerged as a nation-state in 1957 with an optimistic note by merger of British
Gold Coast colony and British Togoland. Ghana inherited a large foreign reserve of
$190 million, adequate infrastructure and an efficient colonial trained bureaucracy. With the richest and the best educated of black African territories, it set out to industrialize with the advice of some best development economists in the Western world under the leadership of Kwame Nkrumah. Nkrumah planned a big push of
‘unbalanced growth’ in order to build a large industrial base to supply much of the Africa. The launching of big Volta River Project, a huge scheme of a large dam for irrigation and hydro-electric power generation, and connected with it ValeoAlmunium Smelter; showed little real planning. American companies (Kaiser-90% and Reynauld-10%) financed the project. They gained huge concessions such as assured power supply at the lowest rate in the world for their almunium smelter, five years tax exemptions, thirty years exemptions on import-duty on its inputs, and the right to import their own alumina rather than develop Ghanaian bauxite industry. The state, which had to bear the debt-costs, could not generate enough revenues from the scheme though it sold power to Benin and Togo. The government tried to provide the required impetus to industrial growth. It provided 35% employment in its public sectors in 1965 and government spending was 26% of total GNP in 1961. However, the state bureaucracy itself was an artifact of colonialism and rarely development- oriented. The state officials lacked the necessary techno-managerial skills. Despite Africanization of bureaucracy, it retained old colonial privileges and prerequisites of offices, thus creating a new breed of privileged elite. The state officials occupied positions less to perform public service than to acquire personal wealth and status.


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Ghana’s economy was distorted towards the export of a few primary products especially Cocoa, timber and minerals to the west. The collapse of prices of Cocoa in 1960s led to Ghana’s bankruptcy. Even in good years, the Ghanaian peasants gained little as they bartered their produce with the manufactured products on the international market of unequal exchange. Moreover, in a bid to diversify economy and to meet the needs of capital to finance its import-substitution, Cocoa crop was one of the major sources of government revenues. Profits were squeezed from agricultural sector to finance state-run industries, welfare programme and food- subsidies. State Marketing Boards were invested with monopoly rights to market Cocoa and they gave peasants less than the prices available in the international market.

Another problem in Ghana was that 95% of the raw materials for import-substituting industries such as tyre manufacturing, bus and truck-assembly, oil refining, textile, steel and batteries had to be imported. Ghana’s main import oil itself consumed
18% of its foreign exchange earnings in 1984. Apart from it, increasingly more and more of foreign exchange earnings had to be used by foreign debt-servicing as Ghana’s external debt in 1998 was $6202 million. Another aspect of Ghana’s development was unequal sharing of costs and burden among its population of whatever ‘symbolic modernity’ was achieved in an ocean of poverty and traditional agricultural sector. The Railways and communication facilities are concentrated in cities of Southern Ghana like Accra and Kumasi. The principal avenue of social- mobility in Ghana’s society or the higher education is accessible to the privileged sections only.

The growing economic uncertainties led to political instability. Nkrumah was ousted in 1966 and succeeded by a series of military regimes sandwiched between occasional civilian rules. Cedi, the currency of Ghana, was devalued several times between
1967 to early 1980s to overcome the financial crisis but it did not produce the desired effects. The provisional National Defence Council, which took over power in 1981, tried initially to insulate Ghana from external pressures and negotiated more favourable contracts with transnational corporations under threats of nationalization. It also tried to control inflation, which was very high during 1975-80, by control of domestic prices especially of Maize, cooking oil and Cocoa. However, unable to control smuggling and informal markets, it accepted the structural adjustment programme of IMF in 1983. Now it favoured a neo-liberal economic policy with a populist tinge. The prices paid to Cocoa farmers were increased by 67% and incentives were given to the farmers to plant new Cocoa trees, pesticides were made available and price-controls were removed. The state enterprises or para statals were privatized. By 1995, one hundred and ninety five state enterprises were sold to the private bidders, many of them to the transnational corporations. More and more multinationals were encouraged to invest. The key question, however, is whether this structural adjustment has actually improved Ghana’s economic position. The economy has been stabilized; there has been an increase in cocoa-production by
65% between 1983 and 1990 and there has been improvement in timber, bauxite, and manganese and diamond production leading to a rise in export-earnings. The budget deficits have been reduced from 47% of GDP in 1982 to 0.3% of GDP in
1987. There have been several surpluses since than. However, there is still no ‘take- off’ into the stage of sustainable development. The country’s economy is still dependent on the exports of Cocoa, timber and minerals. Ghana’s foreign-debt is growing, though there is no influx of direct foreign investment into productive industries. The dismantling of state enterprises and welfare schemes has led to growing unemployment among professionals and industrial workers. The common man faces undue hardships due to removal of subsidies on food and other key items. The

accessibility to health and educational services is becoming more difficult due to
‘user charges’ or charges levied on citizens for these public services at the point of use. Ghana, with a per capita income of $379 in 1998, continues to be one of the low-income underdeveloped regions despite its attempt to overcome chronic poverty and underdevelopment. The growth-promoting effects of a few heterogeneous industrial projects on the other sectors of economy have been insignificant. Ghana is still part of a system of dependence that links external pressures of international financial institutions and transnational corporations with internal process of underdeveloped resources and primitive technology characterized by self-reinforcing accumulation of privilege on the one hand and the existence of marginal social groups on the other.

14.6.4 The Brazilian Economy

Among the four economies examined by us, Brazil had an advantage of higher incomes. Its income grew five times during 1928-55 and again doubled during 1955-
73. Its economy specialized in tropical agriculture especially coffee and there was ample scope for the expansion of cultivation compared to India and China. Brazil doubled the numbers of its farms and increased its cultivated area by 124% between
1950-70. However, rural economic structure differed considerably from Asian agriculture. In India and China, it is fragmented and heavily congested dwarf holding of peasants, which predominates rural life. In Brazil, like many other Latin American countries, latifundia or large land holdings exist side by side with minifundia or small peasant holdings. There are many large latifundia of more than 400 hectares or 1000 acres especially in northeast Brazil. Contrary to what many economists would believe, production on these farms is less efficient due to poor utilization of land-resources. Such a concentrated distribution of land-ownership is accompanied by a feudal type social-organization in which the masses of small producers are dependent on the benevolence and goodwill of the large landowners. The ownership of latifundia besides economic benefits also confers social status and political power.

Brazil also attempted import-substitution industrialization similar to China and India in order to develop its economy. The state played a key role as a banker and the owner of public enterprises. About 70% of investment funds from government banks and one-third of the assets of the 50,000 largest firms in 1970s were owned by the state. The transnational companies also played a key role in its economy, as the Brazilian state turned away from state to state borrowings to private investors and International Bank Consortia. However, the outflows required for dividends and repayments soon exceeded the new net borrowings. As the prices of its major export commodity, Coffee, started to decline, Brazil was not able to meet its foreign debt- obligations, leading to foreign-debt crisis. Since government was not willing to curtail flows of funds into unviable public sector utilities and key industrial enterprises, the situation also led to huge public deficits. The large budget deficits led to hyperinflation, with inflation hovering between 100-200% per annum in 1980s. Inflation became one of the tools for the government to raise revenue. Deficits could be cut only by wage-cuts and removal of subsidies on basic foods, electricity and fares, etc. But these measures would result in higher prices and wage-increase demands, again fuelling inflation. If not cut, the deficits would still continue to fuel inflation.

Brazil appears to be on the verge of overcoming the stigma of underdevelopment as it falls into upper-middle income group of nations with per capita income of $ 3126-
9655. Post-War industrialization led to a big urban expansion in cities like Sao Paulo, Meddelin and Monterrey. Investment in import-substituting industries and in infrastructure was concentrated in such large cities. Internal population growth and migration both contributed to the expansion of cities. The total urban population


Capitalism and

increased from 19% in 1950 to about 66% in 1980. The agricultural labour force also declined by 29% during the same period. However, this was not due to any basic change in the occupational structure. Despite a tenfold growth in the industrial output during the ‘golden period’ (1945-80), Brazil was not able to develop an endogenous industrial core that might stimulate other sectors. Faced with the foreign- debt crisis, the industrial output in Brazil grew only 1.1% per annum during 1981-90 compared to higher industrial growth rates of 8.5 to over 9% per annum between
1950-73. Actually, the shift in the labour force was illusory as the informal sector was the major absorbent of rural migrants. Instead of leading to transformation of the productive structure, it resulted in urban unemployment, poverty and growth of slums putting undue stress on urban services. Another aspect of Brazilian society that needs examination during this transition is the nature of demographic trends. According to the demographic transition theory, there was a lag between decline in mortality and fertility even in Europe. The same set of socio-economic changes that led to reduction of mortality later led to reduction in fertility. However, public health measures in underdeveloped countries reduced mortality at a stage at which socio- economic development was lower than it had been in Europe. However, birth rates continued to be very high. This led to population explosion and a ‘demographic trap’ because the age-structure in these countries was such that age-dependency ratio is higher. A high dependency ratio is viewed as a major threat to economic growth because it drains resources away from productive investments and puts intense pressure on social services such as education and health. Neo-Malthusian economists linked high birth rates to the lack of potential for economic development. The structuralists stressed institutional obstacles to development such as unequal distribution of wealth particularly land and other productive resources, political power of elites, historical roots of colonialism and faulty industrialization policies of post- colonial phase. According to them, population growth will have no affect on aggregate saving and investment due to mass poverty. They believed that development was the best contraceptive.

Brazil had high birth rates till 1960, 42 per thousand but it declined to 30.6 per thousand during 1980-85. The age dependency ratio also declined from 86.8% in
1960 to 68.7% in 1985. There has been further decline from 1990s as the average annual population growth declined faster from 2.45 in 1980s to about 1.4 in 1990s. The under-5 mortality, which is another indicator of development also declined from
176 per thousand in 1950s to 110 in 1980-85 to 44 per thousand in 1996. However, these average indices conceal the fact that higher risk, lower-income and educational group in slums may have higher infant-mortality. It appears that population growth is not the primary or even a significant cause of low levels of living, gross inequalities of income or the limited freedom of choice. Moreover, the problem of population is not merely one of numbers but of the quality of human-life. However, we may safely conclude that rapid population growth does serve to intensify the problems associated with the underdevelopment especially those problems that arise due to massive population concentrations in a few urban conglomerates.


In this Unit we have discussed the meaning of development and underdevelopment, the salient features of underdeveloped economies, a few key approaches to understand the phenomenon of underdevelopment and the policy options available to fight the ills of underdevelopment. In the light of these, we also discussed the nature of economic change attempted in four countries namely, India, China, Brazil and Ghana. Underdevelopment represents much more than economics and the simple

quantitative indices such as measurement of incomes, employment and inequality. We cannot understand underdevelopment through mere statistics reflecting low income, pre-mature mortality or underemployment. However, this cruel kind of hopeless hell can be overcome. But there is no dogmatic policy option that will secure development. Development must be conceived of as a multi-dimensional process involving changes in structures, attitudes and institutions to achieve acceleration of economic growth, reduction of inequality and eradication of absolute poverty. Apart from raising the productive capacities of societies, we must set our goals in terms of quality of life, which is dependent on low level of material poverty and unemployment, existence of relative equality, democratization of political life, equal status to women, sustainability of development without damaging environment and general human- security.


1) Write a short note on the nature of employment in an underdeveloped economy.

2) Compare the export-promotion and import-substituting strategies for achieving industrial development.

3) Compare the strategies of development adopted by India and China.

4) Explain why Brazil is considered to be an underdeveloped country despite relatively higher per capita income.


Capitalism and
Industrialization GLOSSARY

Absolute poverty: A situation where a population or section of a population is able to meet only its bare subsistence needs.

Age-structure: The age-composition of a given population.

‘Big-push’ theory: A theory stating that all underdeveloped countries require a massive investment to promote industrialization.

Debt-service: Interest due on loans, over and above capital repayments.

Economies of scale: These are economies of growth resulting from expansion of the scale of productive capacity of a firm or industry leading to increases in its output and decreases in its cost of production per unit of output.

Exchange-control: A governmental policy designed to restrict the outflow of domestic currency that also controls the amount of foreign exchange obtainable by the citizens.

Gross national product or GNP: The sum total of all incomes that accrue to the factors of production in a particular country including net earnings by its citizens in foreign countries.

Income per capita: Total GNP of a country divided by its total population.

Indirect taxes: Taxes levied on goods purchased by the consumers and exported by the producers. Examples of indirect taxes are excise duties, sales taxes, export duties and custom duties. They are a major source of governmental revenues in the underdeveloped countries.

Intermediate production goal: Goods that are used as inputs into further levels of production (e.g. iron ore in steel production).

Terms of trade: The ratio of a country’s average export price to its average import price.



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