28/03/2006
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Occasional Papers 1: Globalisation and Change in Southern Laos
By Jonathan Cornford

 

This book analyzes the development situation in southern Laos. It is therefore of obvious interest to anyone working there. But it deserves a much, much broader readership. The book begins with the observation that globalization is a slippery concept and then proceeds to nail it down with a series of telling insights from an analysis of one small, neglected corner of the globe.

Although the geographical area under analysis may seem insignificant, southern Laos is remarkably appropriate as a case study of what happens when the multiplicity of changes known as globalization are let loose. The changes have started but haven’t gone so far that we can no longer recognize the status quo ante. The context has many features that bedevil development efforts in other places – an important ethnic dimension; a weak government presence; a looming environmental crisis; and the usual bully-boy suspects (IFIs, local capitalist elite, big country neighbours, etc.). So anyone interested in development in the era of globalization should be able to find something here that can be applied to an analysis of the situation in other countries.

One of the outstanding features of this book is that it fills that awkward gap between the expert analysis of a single sector (such as agriculture or trade) and the more broad-brush overview where sweeping statements often take over from factual analysis. Here we get a concise picture of each of the important sectors – transport and access, trade, forestry, mining, hydropower, industrial development, agricultural policy, and resource tenure. But importantly, these are presented not as separate strands, but as an interwoven whole.
– Alec Bamford