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New Left Review 38, March-April 2006

Charting the impact of fluctuating currencies, volatile stock markets and interest rates on the developing world since the end of the Bretton Woods system, Robert Wade contends that untrammelled mobility of capital—private funds above all—reinforces dynamics of debt and underdevelopment.



World Finance and Underdevelopment

Critics of neoliberal globalization have tended to focus on the role of the international institutions—imf, wto, World Bank—rather than on the world financial system itself. Yet in the post-Bretton Woods era, the functioning of the latter has been a major source of vulnerability for developing countries, exposing large swathes of their populations to sudden falls in real incomes and depressing national growth rates. It is, of course, difficult to disentangle the effects of the financial system from those of, say, the trade system, which also puts obstacles in the way of former ‘Third World’ countries rising up the value-chain into higher value-added activities. In combination, these systems have produced the slow rate of average income growth of most developing countries over the past quarter-century. Per capita international income distribution has become more unequal by several plausible measures, as has income distribution between the world’s households.

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Robert Wade, ‘Choking the South’, NLR 38: £3

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