(The following was excerpted from material written in 1988.)
For over a decade the most common policy advice given to developing countries by international development institutions has been to copy the export-oriented path of the newly industrializing countries, the celebrated NIC’s. These economies—Brazil, Hong Kong, Mexico, Singapore, South Korea, and Taiwan—burst into the world manufacturing market in the late 1960’s and the 1970’s; by 1978 these six economies, along with India, enjoyed unequaled growth rates for gross national product and for exports, with exports accounting for 70 percent of the developing world’s manufactured exports. It was, therefore, not surprising that dozens of other countries attempted to follow their model, yet no countries—with the possible exceptions of Malaysia and Thailand—have even approached their success. In “No More NIC’s,” Robin Broad and John Cavanagh search for the reasons behind these failures, identifying far-reaching changes in the global economy—from synthetic substitutes for commodity exports to unsustainable levels of foreign debt—as responsible for a glut economy offering little room for new entrants. Despite these changes, the authors maintain, the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund—the foremost international development institutions—have continued to promote the NIC path as the way for heavily indebted developing countries to proceed. And yet the futility of this approach should, according to the authors, be all too apparent so many years into a period of reduced growth in world markets.