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Volume 63 / Social Sciences

ECONOMICS: CENTRAL AMERICA

LUIS RENÉ CÁCERES, Inter-American Development Bank, Washington, DC AMONG ECONOMIC STUDIES OF A REGIONAL NATURE, as noted in previous HLAS volumes, the topic of economic integration continues to have a dominant presence. There are also new, emerging themes. One of the new themes is economic efficiency and the role of the integration process as a means to enhanced productivity (items #bi2007004039#, #bi2007004040#, and #bi2005003747#). Other more general studies analyze the role of economic integration as a mechanism for regional development (items #bi2007004037# and #bi2006003319#). A contribution on a rarely studied topic is Cáceres' analysis of the importance of initial conditions in shaping the subsequent integration process (item #bi2007004035#). Notoriously absent are analyses and evaluations of the free trade agreements that have been established by the Central American countries with other countries in recent years, although some analysis of these agreements can be found in the International Relations and Political Economy chapters.

It is encouraging that social issues are being studied on a regional scope. Among the noteworthy works in this category reviewed for HLAS 63 are Trejos and Gindling's study on inequality and its determinants (item #bi2006001918#), Hernández's comprehensive study of urban management (item #bi2005004599#) and Cáceres' work on remittances (item #bi2007004034#).

Comparative studies of the macroeconomics of the region are represented by Moreno-Brid and Pérez's study of the effects of commercial reform on economic growth in each of the Central American countries (item #bi2005007969#), and Cáceres' study on the transmission of economic disturbances from one country to another (item #bi2007004036#).

With respect to studies of national scope, some topics that present in two or more countries. One is youth labor markets, represented by Argüello de Morera and Contreras Perla's study of the case of El Salvador (item #bi2007004025#) and the study of young women in Nicaragua (item #bi2007004032#). The current coffee crisis is receiving attention in two countries: Guzmán Mérida discusses the case of Guatemala (item #bi2005003745#), emphasizing the social impact of the fall in prices, particularly in terms of illegal migration and the loss of social capital. Mendoza Vidaurre takes up the case of Nicaragua (item #bi2007004030#) treating in detail the topics of improving quality and productivity to counteract the reduction in price.

Microenterprises receive more attention with this volume. Bastiaensen presents a detailed analysis of microenterprises in Nicaragua (item #bi2007004029#), stressing the identification of best practices, while a detailed account of experiences in free trade zones and clusters can be found in item #bi2005000672#. A set of seven case studies of microenterprises and gender in Nicaragua are discussed by Agurto Vílchez and Guido Cajina (item #bi2005000681#). These same authors also present a more general analysis (item #bi2007004028#). In addition, one study analyzes the working conditions in maquilas (item #bi2007004032#).

Macroeconomic topics continue to receive attention. Edwards analyzes economic growth in El Salvador (item #bi2005005401#); Malta examines inflationary experience in Nicaragua (item #bi2005003748#); and Camacho analyzes fiscal issues in Costa Rica (item #bi2007004023#).

Rural and regional development themes also receive attention. Lungo analyzes land use in El Salvador (item #bi2004002276#); other related works on El Salvador study the function of central government transfers to municipalities as a means of promoting local development (item #bi2004002278#), and the importance of rural and local development for building social capital (item #bi2004002277#). Rodríguez analyzes the effects of economic reform on rural development in Nicaragua (item #bi2007004033#).

In addition to the works on the coffee crisis, studies on agriculture and its role on social development are represented by Macías' study of the agrarian counterreform in Honduras (item #bi2007004027#), providing insightful explanations on how the counterreform led to massive flows of illegal migration. Related topics are the environmental management of Guatemala's Petén Itzá lake by Pape Yalibat (item #bi2005000679#), and the study by Löning (item #bi2005000678#) on the effects of increasing education of environmental conservation practices in communities.

Although they represent a very important source of personal and family income in all countries except Costa Rica, remittances do not receive much attention aside from Cáceres' regional study that explores mechanisms that could be used to promote the use of remittances for investment purposes (item #bi2007004034#), and Castro's analysis of their impact on poverty reduction in El Salvador (item #bi2004002781#). This latter work explores a series of counterfactual cases related to scenarios where remittances lose dynamism, assessing the resulting impact on poverty.

A topic that receives relatively little attention is that of technology, present only in the context of Costa Rica (item #bi2006003320#). Related studies are Narváez on the role of education in improving productivity at the firm level in Nicaragua (item #bi2007004031#) and the Vital Peralta study of productivity of microenterprises in Guatemala (item #bi2005000682#).

Panama is underrepresented in the volume, but future volumes will offer comprehensive reviews of Panama's works.


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