The IMF, Austerity, and the Rise of Entrepreneurialism

To reiterate what I mentioned in class, Cameroon is a perfect example of failed development efforts. Because developing economies tend to be small and not diverse, they are able to export only a small variety of goods, which means they are very vulnerable to any changes in the terms of trade. Terms of trade just means the price of one export good in terms of an import good. For instance, if Cameroon sold Britain oil for manufactured goods, if something happened to the price or supply of oil, Cameroon will be much more affected by this because Britain can just go to another country for oil, while Cameroon has no other products that they can trade to get manufactured goods. Their GDP will decline, and even a moderately successful country like Cameroon will be pulled into a recession. Add to this austerity measures that cut government spending, and the economic crisis is made deeper. To put this into perspective, think about how the US was able to pull itself out of the Great Depression – government spending on WWII and New Deal policies that included large government employment programs. Many developing countries install programs similar to the new deal, where many people (like the civil servants we meet in Dog Days) are reliant on the government for employment and upward mobility.

The interesting thing about Dog Days is that it looks at these vast, macroeconomic phenomena such as IMF austerity and global economic downturns, but on a micro-economic level. Actually, more than micro-economic- microcosmic, as we see how the crumbling Cameroonian economy affects the life and day to day happenings of a simple dog. One significant aspect of the economic underpinnings of this novel is the prevalence of micro-enterprises and entrepreneurs. Entrepreneurship is noted to be a really effective tool in development efforts as it helps to eliminate unemployment and efficiently use available resources to add some income into the economy. It also helps struggling individuals retain a sense of self-worth and self-reliance, which we see in the novel with Massa Yo when he opens his bar. Entrepreneurship is one kind of “improvising” that help people in developing countries make ends meet with what resources they have, and the majority of characters in the novel resort to petty trading and small-scale enterprises. These are all things that one would expect to occur in a struggling economy, but it is made more poignant in literature form.

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Posted on October 30, 2014, in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. erika926nishihara

    I think you clearly state the economic failure of Cameroon. As you said, Cameroon’s economy was unstable and unsustainable because it depends on only its oil. People’s frustration against this situation is depicted in Dog Days. As we discuss in the last class, people feel insecurity because of the economical failure and because people lose the sense of ownership. Under this situation, entrepreneurship, as you mentioned, seem to be effect to give people a conference and self-esteem. Dog Days depicts the way people used to protect their identities and self-esteem.
    The dog’s point of view enables the book, Dog Days, to reflect the society objectively. I think it is interesting that in Japan, there is a book titled ” I am a cut,” which is written by Souseki Natsume. The protagonist of this book is a cat. As dog days, the cut’s point of view enable readers to see the society objectively.

  2. It’s interesting to note how the idea of development of improving the quality of human beings are undermined with the greed of colonialism. I’m also an International Development major, and I’ve never thought that the SAPs destroy most of the self-reliance economy in the Global South. But, I do agree with you that to put it into a daily life setting, it makes the bigger picture of development more comprehensible.Moreover, the effect of development is more than about the economic struggles, but also psychological distress. It is clearly reflected in the way that Massa Yo expresses masculinity by referring everything that is close to him as his possession – “his” (including “his” wife, “his” dog, etc.). In other words, the distress leads us, as the readers, to kind of retracing the meaning of humanity when certain circumstances often don’t reflect the idea of human being powerful?

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