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Tropical Gangsters: One Man's Experience With Development And Decadence In Deepest Africa Paperback – July 22, 1991

ISBN-13: 978-0465087600 ISBN-10: 0465087604

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Editorial Reviews

About the Author

Robert Klitgaard is the author of Tropical Gangsters and Choosing Elites. A former associate professor of public policy at Harvard’s Kennedy School, he is currently President and University Professor of Claremont Graduate University.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 296 pages
  • Publisher: Basic Books (July 22, 1991)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0465087604
  • ISBN-13: 978-0465087600
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 0.7 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (16 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #521,716 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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43 of 43 people found the following review helpful By Bob Newman VINE VOICE on September 27, 1999
Format: Paperback
This is really an excellent book on all levels and I am very glad to have found it. As a former Peace Corps Volunteer I could empathize with the author's trials and tribulations in trying to pull off some development work in a badly mis-governed country as well as his obvious liking and best wishes for the people he met. From this book you get a very clear and down-to-earth picture of a) Equatorial Guinea, one of the forgotten corners of the world, b)the development game played by donors and recipients, experts, expats, local bureaucrats and dictator's toadies and c) the problems the world, collectively, faces because poorer countries need help but richer countries don't really know how to deliver it. I finished the book wondering, as ever, if the whole development game is hopeless in all countries with autocratic or kleptocratic rulers who care not a whit for the welfare of their own people. "Gangsters" exist amongst the Western aid people too, they are not endemic merely in the Third World. The author was most certainly not one of them. TROPICAL GANGSTERS is a clear, well-written book, one of the best on the development process I have ever seen. I highly recommend it.
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20 of 20 people found the following review helpful By Brandon Wilkening on April 17, 2003
Format: Paperback
It is not very common to find a World Bank economist who writes with a touch of humor, humility and eloquence, but that is exactly what you will discover in this unique book. The author was a World Bank advisor assigned to the tiny African nation of Equatorial Guinea in the late 1980's, a time when many African nations were beginning to flirt with market reforms and economic liberalization. This book is kind of like a personal diary of the time he spent there. It is written in an easygoing, informal style. He alternates between discussing his job- trying to develop an economic strategy that will enable E. Guinea to qualify for a World Bank loan- and discussing his recreational activities, which range from surfboarding to hanging out with African rock stars. He introduces us to many people- government officials, "experts" from the UN and other international organizations, and ordinary Equatoguineans. He seems to be particularly critical of the so-called "experts," many of whom are in this remote backwater merely because "they couldn't find jobs in their own countries." Many economists and other academics seeking a rigorous, theoretical analysis of African political economy might be frustrated by this informal style, but I think it adds an extra dimension to the story of economic reform in the third world. It helps remind us that these structural adjustment policies thought up in Washington D.C. are implement by real people facing real constraints in recipient countries. Klitgaard does an excellent job of relating the pressures faced by well-intentioned (and some not so well-intentioned) government ministers, as they must deal with corruption, apathetic bureaucrats, nasty military officers, and the poor infrastructure found in every developing country.Read more ›
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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Bonner '62 VINE VOICE on June 14, 2006
Format: Paperback
I worked in Liberia for a year and could tell some of the same stories. Utter corruption at every level coupled with the average government fuctionary's well developed sense of his/her own importance makes dealing with them something that would lead Mother Teresa to drink. As the book makes clear, the state exists to serve the "elite", i.e. the gangsters. The author puts in all down in facinating detail. Haven't seen another book that captures what's wrong in Africa with such insight. Since the book was published Equatorial Guinea, the country that's the focus of the book, has come into a lot of oil wealth. The money has all disappeared into various off shore accounts owned by the gangsters in charge without benefiting the people one iota. Nothing ever changes. Aug 2008 update. I just read that Riggs Bank (now PNC) has been investigated because they have $375 million in funds that they were hiding for the gangsters.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By jon@lol.lviv.ua on July 7, 1998
Format: Paperback
As a development industry professional grappling with both the academic and personal conflicts inherent in foreign aid programs, I found this story to be quite interesting on a number of levels. First, it is a good introduction to what foreign aid programs and the lives of the expat directors are really like. It is, as one reviewer said, part travelogue, part textbook-- on the whole, enjoyable.
For those more interested in the development business, as it is often derisively called, this book stands in sharp contrast to most others on the subject, which sharply criticize programs of the type described here (Road to Hell, Lords of Poverty). It's nice to read a positive review of one's chosen field from time to time.
That said, the author, perhaps unwittingly, damns the efforts of the more prosperous countries more than the others when all is said and done. For after all the surfing stories and tales of friends made, he leaves the country no better than he found it having accomplished nothing at all.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By S. Shewmake on May 15, 2001
Format: Paperback
Tropical Gangsters gives you an interesting look into Equatorial Guinea through the eyes of an economist, but also a human.
If you're interested in development, foreign aid, etc you'll find this book fascinating. No groundbreaking theories are found here, but the practical side is conveyed clearly and precisely.
It reads like a diary of sorts, there are insights into cultural differences, personal life and political science questions.
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