This book opens with a concise but penetrating analysis of the factors which have traditionally stood in the way of economic and social development in Latin America. Very high in this long list of obstacles is the unfavorable economic position of the developing countries in comparison with the already developed nations. The former group supplies raw materials and foodstuffs, always lowpriced and in relatively low demand, while the latter nations sell high-priced manufactured and capital goods enjoying an even higher demand. The resulting “strangulation from abroad,” as Raúl Prebisch calls it, is incompatible with economic and social development. This imbalance cannot be corrected by foreign aid alone. Newly oriented commercial policies and international mechanisms must be found to relieve its devastating effects.
The second part of the book is the most extensive. In it the distinguished president of the BID traces the history of this institution, year by year, down to 1966: its creation, constitutional organization, aims, functions, accomplishments, and potential usefulness and other aspects which make it the financing instrument par excellence of the Alliance for Progress. The other three chapters deal with “Europe and Latin American Financing,” “Sectorial Financing,” and “Integration and Development.”
The body of the work is made up mostly of excerpts, adaptations, or complete reprints of lectures, speeches, or reports which the author has written for various occasions. They range in date between 1960 and early 1966, but since they deal basically with the activities and accomplishments of the BID, there is considerable repetition. The style is dense and compact, the sentences full of meaning, and the paragraphs packed with information. Herrera’s overriding thesis is that economic integration is a prerequisite of more rapid and dynamic social and economic development.
In all probability this is the most thorough and complete history of the BID now available. At the same time it is an excellent account of accomplishments by the Alliance for Progress to date. The variety of programs which the BID helps to finance or administer make it stand out as one of the most vigorous forces working toward the vitally necessary regional economic integration of Latin America.
The author repeatedly reminds Latin Americans that they themselves must shoulder most of the burden of economic and social development. With unconcealed satisfaction and pervasive optimism he also points out the degree of maturity evident in present-day Latin America. This maturity was considered quite remote even as recently as ten years ago, and it augurs a bright future for the region as a whole.
For various historical and circumstantial reasons, he says, Latin America has been a great “fragmented nation,” but today the strongly felt need for industrial growth is turning economic integration into a tangible reality. He alerts Latin Americans to get ready for the political integration that will very likely result from it, giving greater stature and force to the legitimate aspirations of the Latin American community.
The reader is made to feel that he is listening to a wise, experienced, idealistic—yet eminently pragmatic, vigorous, persuasive, and trustworthy leader, urging Latin Americans to ever higher goals of economic well-being, social justice, democratic government, and human dignity.