Journal Issue

BOOKS in brief

International Monetary Fund. External Relations Dept.
Published Date:
June 1987
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Jorge E. Hardoy and David Satterthwaite (editors)

Small and Intermediate Urban Centers

Their Role in National and Regional Development in the Third World

Hodder & Stoughton Educational, Sevenoaks, Kent, UK, 1986, xx + 421 pp., £15 (paper).

This volume makes a useful contribution to the currently limited literature on an important area of regional development in the Third World: the role of small and intermediate urban centers. While it would be difficult to generalize for all developing countries from the conclusions drawn from its five studies, the book does raise some important issues, namely, the spatial basis of macroeconomic policies and policy work, spatial distribution of income, regional political roles, and rural-urban linkages—issues that have also been identified in World Bank research on secondary urban centers. As much of the literature now agrees, intermediate urban centers in many countries are growing proportionately as fast as major cities, and are increasingly important for their servicing of agriculture and their provision of goods and services. In predominantly rural economies, such as those of Sub-Saharan Africa, small rural cities and towns are vital centers of local economic development. This is especially so in those areas where populations are widely dispersed and infrastructure relatively undeveloped. Small towns also provide important sources of nonfarm employment. In some regions of the Third World as much as 40 percent of the population of small rural towns have off-farm employment as their main source of income. It is clear that macroeconomic restructuring policies and agriculture-led development strategies cannot achieve their ultimate objectives if secondary towns are hampered by inadequate infrastructure. As one of the book’s more important conclusions also notes, governments are also likely to achieve greater social and economic equity in their countries’ development if they support investment programs focused on the small and intermediate urban centers.

Maggie Black

The Children of the Nations

Unicef, New York, NY, 1986, x + 502 pp., $10.

Over 40 years after its inception as a successor to the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration, Unicef remains one of the more active and widely known specialized agencies of the United Nations. Better known by its acronym than its original title, the UN International Children’s Emergency Fund, Unicef has grown from an agency dealing with the needs of children in the aftermath of war in Europe and China to an agency helping safeguard the health and well being of the women and children of the Third World. This highly readable, though uncritical, history by a staff member charts the emergence of Unicef, from its birth as an agency based on voluntary funding by official and private agencies (unlike other UN bodies that depend on mandatory contributions), and relying on decentralized operations, to its efforts nowadays as a medium for development cooperation and advice. The differences with other agencies over matters of jurisdiction are deftly handled by the author, mimicking to a degree the diplomacy of the various heads of Unicef in their efforts to keep the organization in the thick of health, education, and development issues. There is no detailed discussion of the administrative efficiency of the organization. Why, for example, have administrative costs doubled as a proportion of total assistance provided? Despite this lacuna, this book will serve well to propagate the idea of international development cooperation.

Ray Bromley (editor)

Planning for Small Enterprises in Third World Cities

Pergamon Press, New York, 1986, xiv + 354 pp., $39.95, $17.95 (paper).

Readers who expect this collection of essays to provide specific guidance on the development of small enterprises will be very disappointed. Many of the essays bear only a very tenuous relationship to the purported subject of the book, planning or small enterprise, and readers are largely left to wonder how a more vigorous development of small enterprises can be brought about.

The book’s first section makes an eloquent case for why society should be interested in and supportive of small-scale enterprise. But, as even the editor points out, its essays fail to suggest how the fundamental and radical changes deemed necessary are to be brought about. Another section, addressing dependency and exploitation, exudes a singularly fatalistic air. If small-scale enterprises and their workers are as dependent on, and as exploited by, the systems in place as is described here, how can this be changed short of revolution? In this section as in others a number of essays are marred by esoteric and impenetrable jargon.

The first silver lining appears in the final section, where the editor’s introduction at least lists some of the actions that would help in supporting small-scale enterprise. The summary of the results of the PISCES studies stands out as the kind of information one would have expected. Unfortunately, the value of this chapter is diminished by delays in publishing. The preface is dated April 1983 and since then not only have the PISCES studies received considerable public attention, there has also been what might be called an explosion of interest in small enterprise support from a wide variety of public and private institutions. Much more research and operational experience has now become available.

Some parts of the book’s concluding chapter now also look outdated. For example, it deplores the very limited knowledge of changes affecting small-scale enterprises during a prolonged transition to socialism. How relevant is this when the two giants of socialism, China and the USSR, have decided to switch from a repressive stance to one of tolerance of some private small-scale enterprises? The concluding chapter does, however, provide a useful overview of the areas in which action can be taken to support the small enterprise sector.


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