Islands at Risk?
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Islands at Risk?

Environments, Economies and Contemporary Change

John Connell

This book provides a wide-ranging comparative analysis of contemporary economic, social, political and environmental change in small islands, island states and territories, through every ocean. It focuses on those island realms conventionally perceived as developing, rather than developed, in the Caribbean, Pacific and Indian Oceans.
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Chapter 4: Towards modern economies?

Environments, Economies and Contemporary Change

John Connell


Conventional theory has long argued that economic growth and development follow the structural transformation of economies away from the primary sector – agriculture, fisheries and forestry – towards higher value manufacturing and services. Evidence is drawn from the industrial revolution, the rise of the newly industrializing countries (NICs) of Asia, the more recent, if tenuous success of the BRICs (Brazil, Russia, India and China, and now South Africa), and even parts of the Maghreb (until the 2010 ‘Arab Spring’ re-emphasized that economic growth required a distributive element for development). For several decades before and after independence island states were repeatedly advised to similarly shift national economic structures to embrace industrial development and other facets of the modern economy. Curiously, tourism, seemingly a prerequisite for modern development in places where sea, sun and sand were virtually ubiquitous, and foreign exchange might be generated through capitalism and competition, was rarely given particular priority either by national governments or external advisors. It smacked of frivolity, unwanted social change, and also of an inappropriate focus on the needs of well-off foreigners (and perhaps a lingering notion that this was not self-reliance), and it had certainly nothing to do with either the industrial revolution or the NICs. Yet here at least geography actually favoured SISI. This chapter examines what is at best the mixed success of a ‘modern economy’ that has enabled a transition away from agriculture and fishing – which is neither to imply that island agriculture and fishing are entirely ‘traditional’ (and the previous chapter should have demonstrated otherwise)

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