TROPICAL GANGSTERS by Robert Klitgaard


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In 1985, Klitgaard (currently at the RAND Corporation) was sent by the World Bank as an economist-consultant to Equatorial Guinea, a tiny West African nation that's one of the world's poorest. In this engaging memoir--a mix of personal reminiscence and economic analysis--Klitgaard tells of his two-and-a-half-year struggle to rehabilitate the local economy. What Klitgaard discovered during his stay was lethargy, corruption, and adventurism, occasionally leavened with humor and good will. His analyses of the economic problems facing Equatorial Guinea--imports outstripping exports, lack of financial liquidity in banking institutions, scarcity of outside investment, exploitation by the ruling caste--are cogent and convincing; his suggested solutions--reduction of export taxes and debt payments through renegotiation, payment of debts by government officials, international publicity campaigns, agricultural cooperatives--make sense. In addition to writing of his efforts to revitalize the country's sagging cocoa industry, Klitgaard also discusses his work to foster human rights in the tribal-based society. In one moving segment, he tells the story of ""Saturnino,"" a co-worker who was arrested and tortured by the government for unspecified crimes. Klitgaard was unswerving in his efforts to discover the fate of his friend, despite almost universal advice that he leave well enough atone. Eventually, after Saturnine was released, Klitgaard confronted the nation's president and was assured that henceforth human rights would be respected. On a lighter note, Klitgaard writes of searching the coastline for surfing sites, and of foiling the plans of local women bent on marrying the rich foreigner. Both as economic treatise and travel journal: an intriguing look at a little-known comer of the world.

Pub Date: Sept. 5th, 1990
Publisher: Basic Books