Transport and Third World development: Review, issues, and prescription

Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Date


Subject Area

economics - capital costs


Transport investment accounts for a major share of the capital formation of less developed countries. In fact, up to 40% of public expenditure is devoted to transport infrastructure investment with still additional amounts coming from the World Bank and advanced nation technical assistance programs (Button, 1993). These simple facts provide striking evidence once again of the prevailing recognition of the important role of transport in development. Yet, the exact role of transport in development continues to remain ambiguous and indeed has been subjected to periodic reappraisals. A legitimate question then in this light is: what do we really know about transport and development in the Third World? And perhaps even more important, what directions should our inquiries take? What are the questions which should form the basis of new research? This latter is suggested for indeed there is a widespread sense that meaningful and penetrating research on this important topic has been quite inconspicuous in recent years. Have we, as social scientists and policy makers, no new directions which are worth pursuing? This brief perspective has several purposes. First, it is intended to capsule some of the salient research on transport and development especially since the early 1980s. Second, and more important, it attempts to suggest some new research directions for consideration and possible inquiry. The commentary and review is confined largely to transport development and impact in the rural and regional context. Despite the critical importance of investments in Third World cities as well as the other modes of transport it is the land transport sector, and especially roads and regional development, that continues to receive the lion's share of the budget allocations and has the potential to affect the largest number of beneficiaries


Permission to publish abstract given by Elsevier, copyright remains with them.