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The Extent to Which Models and Theories Are Useful in Helping to Understand the Development Gap

Updated on July 1, 2016

The North-South divide, as depicted by the Brandt line, is now outdated, having been created in 1980. Since then, countries including Singapore and South Korea have developed rapidly, due to high levels of foreign direct investment, whilst numerous countries, depicted as being above the Brandt line, have since fallen into decline, particularly in Eastern Europe.

Whilst the Brandt line is helpful for understanding a very basic representation of global development levels, and it successfully places countries with poor social development, e.g. Saudi Arabia, below the line, it fails to offer any explanation, is largely oversimplified, and is only becoming increasingly irrelevant over time.

Rostow's development model, the five stages of economic growth, is perhaps more useful, as it attempts to explain multiple levels of development, and thus how a country can improve. However, it is strictly linear – it cannot explain the development of countries like Ghana, which has skipped the second stage, and developed a tertiary industry before large-scale manufacturing, due to tourism; furthermore, the model is based on western history, and can only use the past to predict the future of development in countries with extremely different situations to those of the USA and Western Europe in the past few centuries.

Dependency theory explains the development gap to a greater extent than the North-South divide and Rostow's model; the core places high import tariffs on processed goods, and much lower tariffs on raw materials. For example, the EU's tariff on raw coca beans is 0%, and on cocoa butter is 15%. This protectionism prevents developing countries from creating a manufacturing base, which is required for development, as explained by Rostow's model. More economically developed countries (MEDCs) export value-added goods, flooding the markets of less economically developed countries (LEDCs), which have been forced into trade liberalisation schemes by western intergovernmental organisations (IGOs), e.g. the structural adjustment programmes (SAPs) managed by the International Monetary Fund (IMF); hence, LEDCs have poor terms of trade, and have to spend more on imports, which leads them into the debt trap, thus maintaining the development gap.

A representation of the core, periphery, and semiperiphery regions from 1975 to 2002. Countries depicted are those which were consistently classified in a particular zone throughout the 27-year period
A representation of the core, periphery, and semiperiphery regions from 1975 to 2002. Countries depicted are those which were consistently classified in a particular zone throughout the 27-year period | Source

Dependency theory describes the flow of resources from the "periphery" to the "core". Wallerstein's world-systems theory is more appropriate, as it defines a "semi-periphery" region, and permits countries to move between these hypothetical regions.

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