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BOOKS in brief

Author(s):
International Monetary Fund. External Relations Dept.
Published Date:
June 1988
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Jacob Frenkel and Assaf Razin Fiscal Policies and the World Economy

MIT Press, Cambridge, MA, USA, 1987, xix + 484 pp., $24.

The international impact of government spending, debt, and taxes is currently of prime importance in discussions of economic policies. The authors contrast traditional approaches to the issue based on the Keynesian, income-expenditure model—its international version is often referred to as the “Mundell-Fleming model”—with more modern treatments based on intertemporal optimizing models, in which agents have explicit utility functions which they attempt to maximize that depend on lifetime consumption. Both approaches are developed rigorously in the book; the authors show that the two can have quite contrasting implications for interest rate and exchange rate effects of fiscal policies. An epilogue confronts the implications of the two approaches to the stylized facts, and compares simulations of a version of the intertemporal model—with imposed coefficients —to major macroeconomic variables for the past three decades.

David C. Korten (editor)Community Management: Asian Experience and Perspectives

Kumarian Press, West Hartford, CT, USA, 1987, 328 pp., $32.50 (cloth), $19.95 (paper).

This book is a collection of readings on community management in development and draws on recent experience in Asian countries. The focus is on “empowerment,” the process that gives communities control over and ability to manage productive resources in the interests of their members. Thus, as treated here, community management goes well beyond earlier concepts of community development. The book covers a range of topics grouped into six sections: development as a human enterprise, managing variety, mobilizing resources, interventions to empower, government as intervenor, and creating an enabling setting. The country case studies are drawn from India, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Indonesia, the Philippines, and Thailand. Though the editor does not attempt to integrate the 22 chapters written by a variety of authors, the main message is that the “bottom up” process involving social mobilization and devolution of power deserves more attention than it has so far received at the hands of development practitioners. The book’s focus on Asia does not diminish its relevance to other regions of the developing world.

Martin Feldstein (ed) The United States in the World Economy

University of Chicago Press, Chicago and London, 1988, x + 693 pp., $74.95 (cloth), $24.95 (paper).

Even in a complete review it would have been difficult to render full justice to this large tome. It consists of nine longish papers prepared for a conference that took place in March 1987 concerning the changing role and the increasing integration of the US economy into the world global economy. As we know, such a process has important consequences, not all of them necessarily welcome. Prepared by mostly well-known economists, the essays (and the account of the ensuing discussions) cover a broad spectrum of topics in their international setting, from agriculture to capital flows, to competitiveness, to relations with particular regions. The writing is clear and nontechnical and the book will be of benefit to anyone interested in international economic issues. An excellent index facilitates the task of selective perusal. Highly recommended.

James C. Emery Management Information Systems The Critical Strategic Resource

Oxford University Press, New York, NY, USA, 1987, xvii + 341 pp., $17.95

With the astounding speed of development of computer hardware and programs, and an accompanying drop in the cost of computer memory (calculated by Emery at some 30 percent per year), a growing number of businesses and organizations are now using computers to improve not only their operations but also their management systems. This book offers both the intelligent novice and the seasoned professional user of computers a friendly map to the daunting terrain of management information systems and how to use such systems to plan and implement sound business strategies. Emery uses very clear language, and advocates the use of careful cost-benefit analysis to weigh the use of particular computing systems for specific tasks. Broadly, he favors the employment of information systems to strengthen those aspects of a business in which a particular firm has a competitive edge. Once adopted, he suggests the inclusion of information systems in the overall planning and development of human and other resources within firms so that they become an integral part of the decision-making and management process. A useful addition to the manager’s bookshelf.

Mohsin S. Khan and Abbas Mirakhor (editors)Theoretical Studies in Islamic Banking and Finance

Institute for Research and Islamic Studies, Houston, TX, USA, 1987, xvi + 245 pp., $25.

In the face of recent moves toward equity-oriented Islamic economic systems in increasing numbers of Muslim countries, efforts to understand and explain the fundamentals of Islamic banking and finance have gained prominence. Much of the literature on this subject exists in Arabic and the languages of non-Arab Muslim countries and takes the form of general commentaries on Islamic law and jurisprudence. This collection offers a more rigorous economic treatment of issues arising from interest-free economies. Some papers are taken from other publications but a number appear for the first time. This volume goes a long way in equipping Muslim economists with the analytical and quantitative tools that they need to understand the problems posed by recent moves toward an interest-free system in a number of Muslim countries. Many practical questions remain, requiring further research as well as the political will to implement an Islamic economic order.

Henri L. Beenhakker, S. Carapetis, L. Crowther, and S. Hertel Rural Transport Services

Westview Press, Boulder, CO, USA, 1987, xiii + 379 pp., $38.

Inadequate access to markets and services limits the social and economic development of rural communities. Rural transport services and infrastructure provide such access. How can developing countries stretch their limited resources to provide new rural transport services and foster efficient use of traditional means of transportation? This book provides policymakers and practitioners with a detailed guide to planning and implementing rural transport projects. Both a directory of issues in this sector and a technical workbook for projects, this volume may well be more useful than many a technical assistance mission by foreign experts. A valuable reference work.

Photo credits: Photographs on pages 2, 5, 17, 30, and 33 by D. Zara; pages 8, 23,36, 43 (Barghouti), and 46 by M. lannacci; page 26 by P. Reid-Hughes; and page 40 by R. Townsend.

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