Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Colonial legacy and economic development

In their newest study, Alexander Lee and Kenneth Schultz investigated the causes of widely divergent development outcomes in Northern and Southern Cameroon. After the independence in 1960, both parts of Cameroon attached a strong commitment to the culture of the respective colonizers. In spite of strong centralization policy, the economic divergence between both parts persisted.

As one of the most powerful colonial forces, France favored the policy principles of strongly centralized institutions which relied heavily on the administrative machinery of the state. Consequently, the French favored massive amounts of infrastructure investment. However, French colonial model led to the establishment of extractive states which lacked the rule of law and property rights as a foundation of economic development. In addition, the absence of clearly defined property rights resulted into the persistent power of political elites to extract political rents from natural resources while leaving behind a lot of forced labor and the lack of institutional autonomy. Consequently, development outcomes in the French part of Cameroon were significantly lower.

On the other hand, the British part of Cameroon enjoyed sizeable benefits from the exposure to British common law, Protestant religion, British education system, ideas of limited government and institutional autonomy which provided independent judicial system. Contrary to the French, British colonizers did not boost forced labor to a great extent since massive investment in infrastructure was not fostered. The authors of the new study tested the hypothesis of long-run influence of colonial legacy on contemporary development outcomes. Interestingly, the British part of Cameroon enjoys significantly better access to clean water than the French part as well as higher level of economic development. The evidence suggests that colonial origins importantly determine development outcomes. Concluding on Cameroon's experience, the evidence seems to support the notion that the economic outcomes from the British rule are superior to the outcomes generaded by French colonial rule.

No comments:

Post a Comment