Walt's Reviews > Tropical Gangsters: One Man's Experience with Development and Decadence in Deepest Africa

Tropical Gangsters by Robert Klitgaard
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's review
Jul 04, 11

bookshelves: politics-current-events, history-other
Read in January, 2011

I initially thought this book was about crime and criminals. But it is named after a song. It is the story of an ivy-league economist/ surfer who worked for the IMF in restructuring underdeveloped economies in third world countries.

It is a little difficult to believe that the magic elixir for a troubled economy is a combination of weaker currency, less government spending, less government regulation, and privatization. This obviously did not work in Equatorial Guinea, the setting for the book. However, it is interesting to read the author's observations about the problems afflicting these countries.

The Chinese ambassador told the author that the Equatoguineans treat their infrastructure like shirts. When the shirt has a hole, they ignore it, when the shirt has two holes, they ignore it, when the shirt has so many holes it is no longer usable, they discard it. They treat their ports, streets, airport, electricity, and everything else the same way.

The author spent a great deal of time simply trying to train government personnel. One thing that is clear from the book is that there is considerable turn-over among government officials. More than once the author had to start over with a new counterpart in government. He also pointed out that corruption, while rampant, was not the principal problem because he had difficulty paying legitimate sums of money to government workers. It comes through that the nation's problems arose from an unequal legal system and poorly trained officials. These seemed more obvious from the text than weaker currencies, less regulation, and more privatization.
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