Political Crises, Social Conflict and Economic Development: The Political Economy of the Andean Region.

Author:Jameson, Kenneth P.
Position:Book review

Political Crises, Social Conflict and Economic Development: The Political Economy of the Andean Region, edited by Andres Solimano. Northampton, Mass.: Edward Elgar Publishing Limited. 2005. Cloth, ISBN 1845421965, $135.00. 343 pages.

Anyone interested in the recent macroeconomic performance of the five "Andean" countries, or in the implications of the World Bank treatment of governance, will find this a useful book. The country studies cover Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, and Venezuela and are written by well-known authorities on each country. For example, Jose Antonio Ocampo, under-secretary general for economic and social affairs of the United Nations, wrote the Colombia chapter. The editor contributed an "introduction and synthesis" and a chapter designed to establish an analytical framework to examine "the interactions between politics and institutions ... and economic performance and growth." Data on poverty, inequality, and growth are presented in an additional introductory chapter by Amanda Glassman and Sudhanshu Handa.

I found the case studies the most interesting part of the book, and I preferred those that strayed furthest from Andres Solimano's framework. A common framework aids collections of articles such as this, which grew out of a 2003 conference. The shortcomings of that effort stem from the chosen framework, the World Bank's project on "Governance Matters," which reached its fourth iteration in May 2005 (Kaufmann, Kraay, and Mastruzzi 2005).

The Bank project compiled "perceptions" data on 352 variables in 209 countries for four years--1996, 1998, 2003, and 2004--from 37 data sources. The authors collapse these data into six indicators of governance: voice and accountability, political instability and violence, government effectiveness, regulatory quality, rule of law, and control of corruption. The Bank's funding allows careful and sophisticated treatment of the data, whose results are point and variance estimates for each country, for each year, and for each indicator and a composite of the six. Countries can then be arrayed in order of their point estimates of governance.

I am always struck by the Bank's cultural imperative to "technify." On the other hand, I applaud the admission that simple macroeconomic fixes are inadequate to address the challenge of development. While institutionalists might be bemused by the Interamerican Development Bank's claim that it provides "A Fresh Look at Development" in its 2006...

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