Developing Countries

views updated Jun 11 2018

Developing Countries




Developing countries generally referring to the countries of Africa, Asia, and Latin Americais a term that was inspired by Walt Whitman Rostows classic work, The Stages of Economic Growth: A Non-Communist Manifesto (1960). Rostow argued that all countries go through a series of stages of economic development from underdeveloped to developed; that the United States, Western Europe, and Japan had reached the highest stage or developed-country status; and that those countries that were not mature, developed capitalist countries were in the process of developing and moving through the required stages.

A variety of terms have been used to refer to these developing countries. These include less-developed countries, underdeveloped countries, undeveloped countries, backward countries, Third World countries, and newly industrializing countries. Except for Third World, which was advanced in the late 1960s and early 1970s to refer affirmatively to countries that were politically independent of the United States and the Soviet Union, these terms are more-or-less pejorative. Newly industrializing is more specific than the other terms, in that it refers to a limited number of countries that have begun industrializing since the 1970s.

Implicit in the term developing countries is the suggestion that things will improve over (some unforeseeable period of) time. However, this terminology has been used to hide the exploitation and oppression of people in the so-called developing countriesexploitation by corporations headquartered in the developed countries, by dictators installed or supported by the U.S. government or its allies, or by the governments and militaries of the developing countries themselves.

As hinted at by its subtitle, Rostows work was designed to support the U.S. imperial project and aimed not only to bypass but to supersede the Communist concept of imperialism. To Rostowand to the U.S. government, for which he later workedthe Communist challenge in Southeast Asia was a serious one, especially because the region was deemed of strategic importance. Rostow argued that the lot of poor, exploited, and mistreated peasants in the developing countries would get better over time, whereas the Communists maintained that things could not improve under capitalismthat is, that revolution, not acquiescence based on hope, was the only path to a better life.

The upper echelon of the U.S. government saw its postWorld War II (1939-1945) project to achieve political, economic, military, and cultural hegemony over the countries of the worldat least those outside of the Soviet Empireas being threatened by various revolutionary struggles in the developing countries. In response, the United States designed a global strategy of counterinsur-gency to undercut indigenous struggles to gain independence (Post 1990, pp. 1-41). Along with this went various forms of ideology and propaganda, a key component of which was the theory of modernization, of which Rostow was the primary proponent.


One of the first critical thinkers to analyze the true situation of the developing countries was Raúl Prebisch of the Economic Commission for Latin America, who argued that the relationship between developed and developing countries was exploitive. This perspective was further developed by Andre Gunder Frank, who introduced the concept of dependent development. According to Frank, development strategies promoted by the wealthy countries were designed to ensure that the developing countries remained in a subordinate position.

A more systemic and historical perspective was proposed by Immanuel Wallerstein (1974, 1980, 1989). Wallersteins world-system theory holds that beginning in the sixteenth century, capitalists backed by strong states spread outward from Western Europe to control the world, obtaining cheap labor and raw materials through trade relationships that benefited those in the European and later U.S.core countries. Wallerstein posits three levels of economic development represented by concentric rings, moving from the advanced core countries to peripheral countries, with the semi-periphery located in between.

Despite having generated extensive research, Wallersteins conceptualization has a critical weakness: While it is quite perceptive, it is a static model. Once a country gets located in one of the three rings, world-system theory cannot explain how it can move from one ring to another. The case of South Korea is perhaps the most obvious example of a transition world-system theory cannot explain. Wallersteins model has other problems as well. Historical evidence does not support the existence of a singular world-systemat least before 1989. In addition, Wallersteins conception is overly economistic.

A much more interesting approach is that of Jan Nederveen Pieterse (1989). Nederveen Pieterse, who unfortunately did not have the marketing acumen of Wallerstein, never named his conceptualization. Yet his book Empire and Emancipation: Power and Liberation on a World Scale (1989) is the best explanation to date of relations between the European and, later, American nation-states and those referred to as developing countries. Nederveen Pieterse argues that to understand European global domination, one must begin by returning to the Crusades, out of which, he maintains, modern Europe developed. He carefully considers the processes of European development, taking a poststructural, processural approach instead of a static one. Nederveen Pieterse sees the domination of Europe and the United States as being imperialistic, but unlike Marxists, he does not give primacy to economics: He recognizes imperialism as (1) being a process of domination; (2) being characterized by interaction between economics and politics; and (3) always harming the people in the dominated countries. Interestingly, Nederveen Pieterse does not confine his understanding of imperialism to the nation-state level. Instead, he argues that imperialism is the domination of one political community over another, encompassing not only states, but also supra-states (e.g., the United Nations), subnational communities, and even organizations, such as the AFL-CIO.

Nederveen Pieterse is not satisfied, however, with focusing his analysis on domination alone; he argues that one must also analyze and theorize historical resistance to domination. Thus, he recognizes the Haitian Revolution and its key role in world history, the struggles of Native Americans against Euro-American settlers, and other efforts to resist domination.


With only a few exceptions, such as Ethiopia, Iran, and Thailand (formerly Siam), most of the worlds developing countries were formerly colonies. While formal colonization has largely ended, either through the granting of independence or through wars of liberation, many formerly colonized countries have continued their earlier political-economic relationships with their former colonial master. The reason for this is easy to understand: Colonization involved structuring the economy of the colonized country to serve the needs of the colonizing country and its corporations. Local administrators trained during the colonial period know little else, and therefore the old relationships have continued, only under new leadership (the color of the faces is usually all that has been apparently changed, but usually violence against formerly colonized peoples has been drastically reduced, if not ended). This continuation of earlier colonial political-economic relations is generally referred to as neocolonialism. Neocolonial relationships have been encouraged by both the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank. Both have promoted neoliberal development programs. This neoliberal economic model has resulted in what Kim Scipess study of the Philippines from 1962 to 1999 calls detrimental development (Scipes 1999).

Perhaps the most interesting phenomena of the late 1990s and early 2000s is the development of postcolonial states. These are states that have decided to develop their respective economies in ways that challenge the hegemony of the U.S.-controlled IMF and World Bank. Great progress has been made by several postcolonial countries, including South Korea, which went from the periphery to the core (using Wallersteins terminology) in less than thirty years. Venezuela, a major oil-producer, is also currently showing success at developing its economy independently.

Postcolonial development models differ widely. South Koreas rapid industrialization, as impressive as it was, was in large part achieved through extreme exploitation of young women. Venezuela, on the other hand, has set a slower pace of development, and the government of President Hugo Chavez is trying to find ways to improve the lives of Venezuelas people through diverting some of the countrys oil profits into social programs. How far Venezuela can go in meeting the needs of the people, especially in light of U.S. intervention in its domestic affairs, remains to be seen. However, Venezuelas mobilization of large masses of the population to address their own problemsthat is, development from below, as opposed to the imposition of state plans from aboveis an exciting process that holds out the promise of development without oppression.

SEE ALSO Chavez, Hugo; Colonialism; Decolonization; Dependency; Development; Development Economics; Development in Sociology; Development, Institutional; Development, Rural; Economic Growth; Exploitation; Frank, Andre Gunder; Gender and Development; Globalization, Social and Economic Aspects of; Haitian Revolution; Health in Developing Countries; Imperialism; Industrialization; Inequality, Income; Inequality, Political; Inequality, Wealth; Labor Law; Migration, Rural to Urban; Modernization; North and South, The (Global); Poverty; Prebisch, Raúl; Privatization; Stages of Economic Growth; Third World; Wallerstein, Immanuel; Washington Consensus; World-System


Nederveen Pieterse, Jan P. 1989. Empire and Emancipation: Power and Liberation on a World Scale. New York: Praeger.

Post, Ken. 1990. The Failure of Counter-Insurgency in the South. Vol. 4 of Revolution, Socialism, and Nationalism in Viet Nam. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth Publishing Company.

Rostow, W. W. 1960. The Stages of Economic Growth: A Non-Communist Manifesto. Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press.

Scipes, Kim. 1999. Global Economic Crisis, Neoliberal Solutions, and the Philippines. Monthly Review 51 (7): 1-14.

Wallerstein, Immanuel. 1974, 1980, 1989. The Modern World-System. 3 vols. San Diego, CA: Academic Press.

Kim Scipes

Developing Countries

views updated May 29 2018

Developing Countries

The global distribution of tobacco consumption is increasingly inequitable, meaning that the diverse social, economic, and health impacts are increasingly borne by developing countries. A marked shift in smoking patterns is occurring. As the percentage of people who smoke has been decreasing in most high-income countries over recent decades, it has been increasing substantially among low- and middle-income countries (LMICs). These countries already account for 82 percent of the world's smokers (Gajalakshmi et al. 2000). This change in smoking patterns is being followed by a change in patterns of tobacco-related disease and death. Around 4.9 million deaths were attributable to tobacco use worldwide in 2000, an increase of 45 percent since 1990, with the most rapid increase seen in developing countries which now account for 50 percent of these deaths (World Health Organization 2002). It is predicted that by 2030 the global total of annual tobacco related deaths will reach 10 million, or around one in six adult deaths; 70 percent of these deaths will occur in developing countries (Gajalakshmi et al. 2000).

Broader social and economic changes associated with globalization have facilitated this shift in smoking patterns, as have international agreements designed to free or liberalize trade. The opening of cigarette markets in LMICs to Western-based transnational tobacco companies is emerging as critical to the development of the global industry and has provided a foundation for the spread of the tobacco epidemic. The transnational tobacco companies, led by Philip Morris and British American Tobacco, targeted markets in Latin America in the 1970s and Asia in the 1980s. More recently countries in the former Communist bloc have been targeted including those in Central Asia, plus Africa, and the world's largest market, China. The impact of expansion into these markets is illustrated by research into the opening of the markets of Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, and Thailand following the threat of trade sanctions by the United States. It is estimated that the opening of these markets increased per capita cigarette consumption by an average of 10 percent by 1991 (Chaloupka and Laixuthai 1996).

Whether viewed from a health or a development perspective, it is important to note that while trade liberalization has led to increased consumption of tobacco overall, the distribution of this rise has been uneven. There has been no substantive effect on consumption in high-income countries, but trade liberalization has had a large and significant impact on smoking in low-income countries and a significant, if smaller, impact on middle-income countries (Taylor et al. 2000). Such differential impacts seem likely to have further implications for health equity, with developing countries again assuming a disproportionate burden.

Consumption Patterns

Despite these core trends in the global tobacco epidemic, consumption patterns among developing countries remain diverse, differentiated for example by region, gender, and product. Consumption is estimated to be highest in the Western Pacific, driven by the high rates in the Chinese market, and lowest in Africa, particularly sub-Saharan Africa (Gajalakshmi et al. 2000). The few reliable data do, however, indicate that smoking in Africa is rising significantly, particularly among the young (Shafey et al. 2003).

In contrast with the broad convergence of male and female smoking prevalence across much of Europe and North America, huge disparities in tobacco use by gender remain in many developing countries. Whereas the World Bank estimated smoking prevalence among men and women in high-income countries at 38 percent and 21 percent respectively, in LMICs these figures were 49 percent among men and 9 percent among women (Gajalakshmi et al. 2000). A particularly stark example is provided by China, where adult male smoking prevalence of 53 percent contrasts with only 4 percent among women.

The magnitude of difference in male and female consumption among developing countries does, however, need to be qualified. In many countries cultural barriers have traditionally served to prohibit smoking by women. Current figures are likely to underestimate actual tobacco use among women, due to under-reporting. More significantly, the primary emphasis on cigarette smoking ignores traditional widely practiced noncommercial forms of tobacco use. In India, for example, female cigarette use in urban centers is confined to between 2 percent and 5 percent, whereas up to 67 percent of rural women use chewing tobacco (Samet and Yoon, eds. 2001). It is also anticipated, especially in Asia, that increasingly targeted marketing by transnational tobacco companies, in combination with broader socioeconomic changes, are likely to lead to significant increases in smoking prevalence. Such increases among women have been reported in Cambodia, Malaysia, and Bangladesh (Shafey et al. 2003).

Varieties of Tobacco Consumed

In contrast to the almost exclusive use of manufactured white-stick cigarettes in the West, tobacco consumption in a variety of forms continues in developing countries. Bidis, which are typically hand-wrapped in temburni leaf and tied with string, deliver high levels of tar and carbon monoxide. This form of tobacco is commonly used in much of South East Asia, and in India seven are sold for every one cigarette. In Indonesia, consumption is predominantly of kreteks, a form of cigarette that blends tobacco with cloves. The latter ingredient gives off eugenol, which has an anesthetizing effect leading to deeper inhalation and high tar yields. The use of smokeless tobacco, predominantly chewing tobacco, is also widespread across much of South, Southeast, and Central Asia, North Africa, and the Eastern Mediterranean where tobacco is chewed in combination with a wide range of sweet flavorings. Additional regionally significant forms of tobacco use include the water pipe (shisha, hookah, or hubbly bubbly), which is common in many countries of North Africa, the Mediterranean, and parts of Asia; and the clay pipe (chillum or hookli) in South East Asia (Mackay and Eriksen 2002).

Health Impacts of Tobacco Use

Because of the cost and complexity of organizing epidemiological research, most of the evidence on the health impacts of tobacco use comes from high-income countries. Recent studies from China and India, however, suggest that although the overall risks of smoking are about as great as in high-income countries and the diseases caused by smoking are similar, the specific pattern of smoking-related diseases may differ (Chen et al. 1997; Gupta and Mehta 2000; Gajalakshmi et al. 2000). This occurs for a number of reasons including the type of tobacco used (with oral cancers more common in populations using smokeless tobacco), its tar and nicotine yields, the age of first smoking, the presence and prevalence of other etiological and infective agents with which smoking may interact (Stewart 2003), the stage of the tobacco epidemic, and variations in underlying causes of illness.

The effects of smoking can kill by making diseases that are already common more so. In most developing countries, the epidemic is in a relatively early stage and the full impacts of tobacco on population health have yet to be realized. A key issue for countries yet to complete the epidemiological transition from external to internal causes of death is the additional burden of disease that tobacco will cause at a time when infectious and other causes of death have yet to decline.

Tobacco Cultivation

Cultivation of tobacco leaf is increasingly dominated by LMICs, with China, India, Brazil, Turkey, Zimbabwe, Indonesia, and Malawi all among the world's top ten producing nations in 2001. Tobacco is grown in over 125 countries, though substantial economic dependence on the crop is far less common; it accounts for over 1 percent of total export earnings in only 18 countries and for over 5 percent in just 4, namely Kyrgyzstan, Macedonia, Zimbabwe, and Malawi (at 8%, 16%, 32%, and 58% respectively) (Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids 2001).

The prominence of LMICs among tobacco producers has, however, been used by the tobacco industry to present tobacco control initiatives as antithetical to development. An examination conducted for the World Health Organization of industry documents made available via litigation revealed the scale of efforts to portray such activities as a "First World" agenda carried out at the expense of developing countries. Documents have identified the explicit use of the International Tobacco Growers Association as a front group for industry lobbying. This organization has made concerted efforts to stop developing countries from becoming committed to tobacco control, to divide the World Health Organization from other United Nations agencies and restrict its funding, and to create an international consortium to mobilize officials from developing countries to advance pro-tobacco positions (Zeltner et al. 2000).

Impact of Tobacco Controls

Increasing evidence illustrates the potential contribution of tobacco control to development. Research in Bangladesh has demonstrated how expenditure of household income on tobacco can worsen poverty and diminish living standards among the poor. In Bangladesh, the poorest households are twice as likely to smoke as the wealthiest, and close to 10.5 million people currently suffering from malnutrition could have an adequate diet if such expenditure were spent on food instead (Efroymson et al. 2001).

As a result of research led by the World Bank, it is increasingly clear that, for the vast majority of developing countries, increased taxation of tobacco products would not cause long-term job losses. Tobacco control actually presents policy makers with a virtuous circle, combining substantial benefits for public health through reduced consumption with an expansion in revenues via increased taxation. It is also worth noting that improved tobacco control is not going to result in a sudden collapse in demand for these products. Indeed the number of people using tobacco products is expected to increase by more than 500 million during the first quarter of this century (World Bank 1999).

Tobacco Control Policies

The later onset of the tobacco epidemic among developing countries, the complex and competing health priorities, and the continuing influence of the tobacco industry are reflected in generally weaker health regulation. This general pattern is, however, punctuated by a number of states with comprehensive legislation including Thailand, Singapore, and South Africa.

The recent completion of negotiations for the World Health Organization's first public health treaty, the Framework Convention for Tobacco Control (FCTC), raises the opportunity for a broader expansion of regulation across developing countries. A distinguishing feature of the negotiations was the prominent role played by the African and South East Asian regions, their impact heightened by adopting regionally coordinated positions. These combined a powerful commitment to tobacco control, including calls for the FCTC to take priority over trade agreements, with demands for financial resources to assist diversification for countries dependent on tobacco production (Shafey et al. 2003). Nevertheless, there remains an urgent need for implementation and enforcement of effective tobacco control policies in most developing countries.




Chaloupka, Frank, and Adit Laixuthai. United States Trade Policy and Cigarette Smoking in Asia. Working Paper No.5543. Cambridge, Mass: National Bureau of Economic Research, April 1996.

Chen, Z. Z., Z. Xu, R. Collins, W. Li, and R. Peto. "Early Health Effects of the Emerging Tobacco Epidemic in China. A Sixteen-Year Prospective Study." Journal of the American Medical Association, 278 (12 November 1997): 1500–1504.

Efroymson, D., et al. "Hungry for Tobacco: An Analysis of the Economic Impact of Tobacco Consumption on the Poor in Bangladesh." Tobacco Control 10 (September 2001): 212–217.

Framework Convention for Tobacco Control. Golden Leaf, Barren Harvest: The Costs of Tobacco Farming. Washington, D.C.: Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, 2001.

Gajalakshmi, C., et al. "Global Patterns of Smoking and Smoking-attributable Mortality." In Tobacco Control in Developing Countries, edited by Jha Prabhat and Frank J. Chaloupka. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000.

Gupta, P., and H. Mehta. "Cohort Study of All-Cause Mortality among Tobacco Users in Mumbai, India." Bulletin of the World Health Organization, 78 (2000): 877–83.

Mackay, Judith, and Michael Eriksen. The Tobacco Atlas. Geneva: World Health Organization, 2002.

Prabhat, Jha, and Frank Chaloupka. Curbing the Epidemic: Governments and the Economics of Tobacco Control. Washington, D.C.: World Bank, 1999.

Samet, J., and S. Yoon, eds. Women and the Tobacco Epidemic: Challenges for the Twenty-First Century. Geneva: World Health Organization, 2001.

Shafey, O., S. Dolwick, and G. Gunidon. Tobacco Control Country Profiles. Atlanta, Ga.: American Cancer Society, 2003.

Stewart, B., and P. Kleihues, eds. The World Cancer Report. World Health Organization and the International Agency for Research on Cancer. Lyon, France: IARC Press, 2003.

Taylor, A., Frank Chaloupka, E. Gundon, and M. Corbett. "The Impact of Trade Liberalization on Tobacco Consumption." In Tobacco Control in Developing Countries, edited by Jha Prabhat and Frank Chaloupka. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000.

World Health Organization. The World Health Report 2002: Reducing Risks, Extending Healthy Life. Geneva: World Health Organization, 2002.

Zeltner, T., D. Kessler, A. Martiny, and F. Randera. Tobacco Company Strategies to Undermine Tobacco Control Activities at the World Health Organization. Geneva: World Health Organization, 2000.

bidis thin, hand-rolled cigarettes produced in India. Bidis are often flavored with strawberry or other fruits and are popular with teenagers.

temburni leaf a leaf used to wrap bidis cigarettes.

tar a residue of tobacco smoke, composed of many chemical substances that are collectively known by this term.

kretek a clove cigarette, originally of Indonesian origin.

eugenol an aromatic chemical derived from cloves. It is the active ingredient found in clove cigarettes.

epidemiological pertaining to epidemiology, that is, to seeking the causes of disease.

etiological concerned with the origins of disease.

diversification in agriculture, avoidance of overdependence upon one crop by producing several different crops.

Developing Countries

views updated May 17 2018

Developing Countries

What It Means

Developing countries are nations that have a low per capita income (average annual income per person), a low standard of living (availability of quality goods and services for average citizens), low life expectancy (number of years of the average person’s life span), high infant-mortality rates, widespread poverty, and an underdeveloped economy. The economies in developing countries are generally based on agricultural production or natural-resource extraction (for example, oil, coal, or metals) rather than industry (manufacturing). In this sense one of the defining characteristics of a developing country is that it is not industrialized.

Developing countries often have underdeveloped political and judicial systems, inadequate social services, and high levels of government corruption. Until the 1990s many were undermined by rapid population growth, which placed great strain on their food supply and other resources; since that time many of the poorest countries have seen life expectancy and populations fall because of the HIV/AIDS epidemic. In many cases developing countries are former colonies of more powerful developed countries (countries with high per capita incomes, high standards of living, and long life expectancies).

Other names for developing countries include underdeveloped nations, less developed nations, and Third World countries. Such countries are predominantly found in Asia, Latin and Central America, and Africa.

When Did It Begin

Developing countries were originally known as Third World countries. The designation Third World dates to 1952, when the French historian and anthropologist Alfred Sauvy (1898–1990) coined the term to describe economically underdeveloped countries whose needs were largely ignored by the more advanced, powerful nations of the world. The term Third World (Tiers Monde in French) is derived from Third Estate, a French term for portions of the population, generally peasants, who were not members of the First Estate (the aristocracy) or the Second Estate (the clergy).

The term Third World quickly became associated with nations that were not aligned with either the United States or the Soviet Union in the Cold War (a period of ideological conflict between the two countries that lasted from the late 1940s to the early 1990s). Subsequently the United States and its allies became known as the First World, while the Soviets and other communist states became known as the Second World.

Over time the term developing countries replaced Third World; many people had begun to regard the latter as derogatory because it was reminiscent of European colonialism (the practice by which European nations created settlements, or colonies, in poorer countries for the purpose of exploiting the natural resources and labor force of those countries). Toward the end of the twentieth century, however, some political economists also began to question the designation developing country because many of the world’s so-called developing nations were economically stagnant, demonstrated no signs of becoming industrialized, and had even shown indications of economic decline.

More Detailed Information

In the second half of the twentieth century there emerged several key organizations dedicated to assisting developing countries. One of the most influential of these organizations has been the World Bank Group, an association of five global agencies that fosters economic development in poorer, unindustrialized nations, with the ultimate aim of eradicating world poverty. The first of these agencies, the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD), was formed in the years following World War II (1939–45) and was originally dedicated to providing economic assistance to European and Asian countries in the aftermath of the conflict. One of its first loans was intended to help with the postwar reconstruction of France. From the mid-1950s to mid-1960s, other agencies joined with the IBRD to create the World Bank Group.

Over the years the World Bank Group has extended its efforts to include providing aid to developing nations, particularly in Africa. One way that the World Bank Group has tried to stimulate economic development is by helping developing countries to implement policy reform (that is, modify their government’s economic and social policies), with the aim of creating conditions that will enable free-market trading with the world’s more prosperous, developed countries. These reforms are often accompanied by large grants and loans that are to be used for improving infrastructure (for example, roads, water supplies, energy generation and distribution, and other aspects of a society that allow it to operate productively and efficiently) and providing educational opportunities for the country’s citizens. The World Bank has also played a significant role in providing financial assistance to countries suffering from the epidemic of AIDS (an infectious viral disease that destroys the human immune system and is rampant in developing countries). In the first years of the twenty-first century, the World Bank spent more than $2 billion on programs designed to help eradicate the disease.

In 1990 the Pakistani economist Mahbub ul Haq (1934–98) created the Human Development Index, or HDI, a method of measuring the quality of life of a nation’s citizens. The HDI focuses on three factors: life expectancy, literacy rates, and standard of living. In 1993 the United Nations (an international organization intended to foster peace, security, and friendly relations among countries) began using the HDI to gauge economic and living conditions in developing countries worldwide, and it published its findings annually in its Human Development Report. The Human Development Report also provides a periodic analysis of global efforts to fight poverty, hunger, and disease in developing countries. In 2005 the report stated that, while financial assistance had increased since the late 1990s, it was still inadequate to meet the needs of most of the world’s most impoverished nations.

Recent Trends

Toward the end of the twentieth century, the rise of globalization (the process by which the economies of different nations become integrated) seemed to offer developing countries new opportunities for economic development. The World Trade Organization (WTO) was created in 1995 in order to facilitate international trade in the increasingly global economy; its goals included reducing trade barriers between nations, promoting fair business practices worldwide, and mediating trade disputes between nations. One of the stated priorities of the WTO was to create economic growth in the world’s developing countries by promoting international trade reform and encouraging industrialization in those nations. By 2006 the WTO had more than 150 member nations, the majority of which were developing countries.

In spite of its pledge to help developing nations take advantage of the global economy, the WTO soon became an object of intense criticism. Opponents of the WTO, many of them from developing countries, complained that the organization demonstrated an unfair bias toward the interests of the world’s developed nations, particularly the United States and European countries. Critics focused primarily on the fact that the United States and Europe closed their markets to most agricultural products from the poorest countries. In addition, many critics of the WTO also voiced concerns about issues of environmental protection and fair labor practices, arguing that the organization’s economic policies actually increased pollution levels and promoted the exploitation of workers in developing nations.

Less Developed Countries

views updated May 11 2018

Less developed countries

Less developed countries (LDCs) have lower levels of economic prosperity, health care, and education than most other countries. Development or improvement in economic and social conditions encompasses various aspects of general welfare, including infant survival, expected life span, nutrition, literacy rates, employment, and access to material goods. Less developed countries (LDCs) are identified by their relatively poor ratings in these categories. In addition, most LDCs are marked by high population growth , rapidly expanding cities, low levels of technological development, and weak economies dominated by agriculture and the export of natural resources . Because of their limited economic and technological development, LDCs tend to have relatively little international political power compared to more developed countries (MDC) such as Japan, the United States, and Germany.

A variety of standard measures, or development indices, are used to assess development stages. These indices are generalized statistical measures of quality of life for individuals in a society. Multiple indices are usually considered more accurate than a single number such as Gross National Product, because such figures tend to give imprecise and simplistic impressions of conditions in a country. One of the most important of the multiple indices is the infant mortality rate. Because children under five years old are highly susceptible to common diseases, especially when they are malnourished, infant mortality is a key to assessing both nutrition and access to health care. Expected life span, the average age adults are able to reach, is used as a measure of adult health. Daily calorie and protein intake per person are collective measures that reflect the ability of individuals to grow and function effectively. Literacy rates, especially among women, who are normally the last to receive an education, indicate access to schools and preparation for technologically advanced employment.

Fertility rates are a measure of the number of children produced per family or per woman in a population and are regarded as an important measure of the confidence parents have in their childrens' survival. High birth rates are associated with unstable social conditions because a country with a rapidly growing population often cannot provide its citizens with food, water, sanitation , housing space, jobs, and other basic needs. Rapidly growing populations also tend to undergo rapid urbanization. People move to cities in search of jobs and educational opportunities, but in poor countries the cost of providing basic infrastructure in an expanding city can be debilitating. As most countries develop, they pass from a stage of high birth rates to one of low birth rates, as child survival becomes more certain and a family's investment in educating and providing for each child increases.

Most LDCs were colonies under foreign control during the past 200 years. Colonial powers tended to undermine social organization, local economies, and natural resource bases, and many recently independent states are still recovering from this legacy. Thus, much of Africa, which provided a wealth of natural resources to Europe between the seventeenth and twentieth centuries, now lacks the effective and equitable social organization necessary for continuing development. Similarly, much of Central America (colonized by Spain in the fifteenth century) and portions of South and Southeast Asia (colonized by England, France, the Netherlands, and others) remain less developed despite their wealth of natural resources. The development processes necessary to improve standards of living in LDCs may involve more natural resource extraction, but usually the most important steps involve carefully choosing the goods to be produced, decreasing corruption among government and business leaders, and easing the social unrest and conflicts that prevent development from proceeding. All of these are extraordinarily difficult to do, but they are essential for countries trying to escape from poverty.

See also Child survival revolution; Debt for nature swap; Economic growth and the environment; Indigenous peoples; Shanty towns; South; Sustainable development; Third World; Third World pollution; Tropical rain forest; World Bank

[Muthena Naseri ]



Gill, S., and D. Law. The Global Political Economy. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1991.

World Bank. World Development Report: Development and the Environment. Oxford, England: Oxford University Press, 1992.

World Bank. World Development Report 2000/2001: Attacking Poverty. Oxford, England: Oxford University Press, 2000.

less developed countries

views updated May 23 2018

less developed countries (LDCs) Those nations (primarily in Africa, Asia, and Latin America) that have little or no industrial base. Characteristically, they have high rates of population growth, high infant mortality, short life expectancy, low levels of literacy, and poor distribution of wealth. Since the late 1980s, some countries, especially in Asia and Latin America, have experienced rapid economic development, resulting in greater differences between the less developed countries.

less developed countries

views updated May 29 2018

less developed countries (LDCs) See DEPENDENCY THEORY; THIRD WORLD.

developing countries

views updated Jun 27 2018

developing countries See less developed countries (LDCs)

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Developing countries