This is the thirteenth volume in a series of studies about the foreign operations of U.S. business published by the National Planning Association (NPA) and the sixth in the series which deals in whole or in part with business activities in Latin America. This study describes the diverse and far-reaching operations of the International Basic Economy Corporation (IBEC), controlled by the Rockefeller family. Broehl sets forth in varying degrees of detail the undertakings of IBEC’s subsidiaries in Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, El Salvador, Guatemala, Peru, Puerto Rico, and Venezuela. These undertakings include the operation of supermarkets and mutual funds, housing construction, poultry breeding, seed culture, milk distribution, and coffee processing.
The stated objective of these studies is not to “assess or describe how U.S. business enterprises generally operate abroad,” but rather to document the contribution of U.S. business management to economic development (p. 307). This constraint limits the usefulness of Broehl’s volume. He has produced a chronological account of IBEC’s major operations, but largely without evaluating its many miscal-dilations made in launching enterprises in Latin America. This shortcoming can be turned to advantage if the book is put to use as case study material in courses on business enterprise in Latin America. Even for this purpose, however, the accounts are frequently too brief to provide the reader with the opportunity to draw useful conclusions of his own.
One of the strong points of the book is the account of IBEC’s establishment of a mutual fund in Brazil. Broehl gives an excellent account of the difficulties encountered by the mutual fund during periods of rapid inflation when investors switched from the fund’s shares to more speculative holdings.
IBEC is committed to the twin goals of earning profits and of promoting economic development. In pursuing the latter goal, IBEC has plunged into many fields of activity without previous experience and frequently with disheartening results. No clear picture of IBEC as a unity emerges, for the subsidiaries are treated as largely autonomous units.
There is no question that IBEC has made some contribution to economic development. However, Broehl shirks the difficult task of measuring and evaluating this contribution. For example, one would like to know whether the mutual fund which trades in the shares of established companies is an important missing element in the financial infrastructure of the Latin American countries or an inappropriate transplant.
Despite these shortcomings, Broehl has added a valuable account to the still somewhat limited body of information on business operations in Latin America. By carefully documenting many of IBEC’s successes and failures he provides valuable insights to both the academic and the business communities.