Economic development is a process of promoting and creating a healthy economy. This process requires a change in the different aspects of society, such as living standards, health care, education, etc. Since there are several different domains of economic development, there are several factors that determine economic development. Some of the main factors are culture, institutions, trade, geography, etc. In this essay, I’m going to talk about geography as a major part of economic development and how its influence has changed over time with improvements in transportation and communication.
Climate is a geographical feature that plays a vital role in economic development. A great example is tropical countries where the climate is extremely dry, with insufficient rainfall and intense sunlight. This extreme climate in the tropical region has an impact on crop production and productivity. The climate does not allow people to produce abundantly, and human productivity is also reduced due to extreme working conditions. While other temperate countries in Europe and North America have thrived over time as they have more fertile soil, good rainfall, and temperate climates. The effect of climate on economics can be seen in sub-Saharan areas where not many crops are produced. Furthermore, climate hazards, such as natural disasters like cyclones as well as droughts hinders development in the tropical region.
Diseases are another geographical factor that influences development. In the hot and damp tropical climates, illnesses like leishmaniasis, malaria are prominent influencing the productivity and cost of medical services. Whereas, in temperate climates, there are fewer diseases because most of the pathogens are in hibernation because of the lower temperature. The diseases also decrease life expectancy, which affects human capital and creates unfavorable conditions that hinder rapid development.
Resources are another geographical factor that plays a vital role in economic growth. As indicated by the Hecksher Ohlin model, which says how nations export what they can produce most efficiently and abundantly, and with the help of the model, we can see how nations with more resources would export it which affects the economic status of the country (Blaug, 1992). Modern economies, such as Saudi Arabia, Qatar, etc., are extremely dependent on their natural resources, i.e., oil for their economic development. These resources lead to industrialization and urbanization in the country resulting in economic development.
The location also plays a great role in the economic growth of the country. The countries with access to the busiest ports like China and the US are developed whereas landlocked countries in Africa like Lesotho and Ethiopia and Asia like Nepal and Bhutan are less developed because they must depend on other countries for their access to markets overseas. Further, countries surrounded by mountains and hills are isolated due to high development costs and difficulty to control by the central government in the upper region. The Zomia region of Southeast Asia is an example of this isolation. The plains are favorable for the control by the central government, such as the plains in Southeast Asia. Another example of development due to geography is China where homogeneous geography helped them to achieve political unification and was able to become a large centralized state (Fang et al., 2014).
Geography plays an important role in the policymaking of the nation as it affects the international trading arrangements, the policy followed by the region, and the investment in the infrastructures based on the location of economic activities. Comparing the effect of geography even in modern times and how it affects policymaking, we can see the example of Bolivia and Vietnam in the 1990s where Bolivia was a better institution as well stability wise than Vietnam. But even after than Vietnamese were more developed over time and the reason was the vast coastline with water ports located in southeast Asia economics whereas Bolivia, on the other hand, was landlocked mountainous and lacked any access to the coastline. Vietnam was able to utilize geography to make policies regarding trades and investment in Southeast Asia whereas Bolivia was not able to do that.
Even though geography plays a vital role in the development that does not mean geography is the only factor that defines economic growth. We can take the example of Australia and Mauritius who are in a tropical region and have been doing great. Other factors like infrastructures like communication and transportation also play a big role in economic growth. The ability of the country to communicate with other countries and transport goods plays a major role in the trade market which results in economic development. As Adam Smith said in the 18th century, countries with coastal area access would have a better transportation system, leading to better growth of the country (Sachs, 2001).
With the development of technology and infrastructure, the world has turned into a global village, and it has made a lot of change in the process of economic growth. The example is the global community involvement in most of the war in this era. The stability of the country is important for the development of the country as conflict and chaos hinder the development process. The US influencing the war in the Philippines resulted in the change of economic scenario in the country. Further, no country in the contemporary era is isolated economically and the integration with the international community has played a big role in the economic growth of countries. The engagement in global finance, education, trade helps the country to create policies to promote the development of the country. The example of the vaccinations of HIV/AIDS or medicine of malaria is not only the effort of individual nations but the global community. This certainly improved the productivity of manpower in tropical countries. Further, with the improvement of transportation and the growth of the idea of comparative advantage, economic growth has been highly related to the trade flows. Another affected by globalization is the increase in the rate of a foreign direct investment in which the business of one country would be controlled by the entity based on other countries. There has been an increase in technology transfer, increasing innovation at the global level. These examples show how economic development is affected by the development of infrastructures in this integrated world.
Yes, the technological progress in communication and transportation has enabled countries to have strong relations with other countries resulting in the change in the culture, institutions, and policy of the country. The example of this change in policy is the preindustrial relation of South Korea and China with the acceptance of the Chinese tribute system. This results in the economic development and growth of the political ability of South Korea (Lee, 2010). But that does not decrease the role of geography in development. Even in this era of technological processes, transportation and communication are also dependent on the geography of the country. For example, trading through waterways and roadways is much cheaper than the airways and this results in countries with coastal ports, navigable rivers, and plains having better trading options than countries with physical barriers. Moreover, the issue of remoteness created by geographical barriers in transportation can be solved with the help of the creation of a policy that promotes trade and investment flow and brings countries together. Communication is also dependent as countries with fewer barriers would have better communication with the people. The improvement of these infrastructures certainly improves the growth and might overcome the barriers of geography, but geography will keep on playing its role as a factor of development.
The role of infrastructures like transportation and communication is more important to the countries with a geographical disadvantage. The example of the role is the rural roads and the communication facilities between the market and supplier which will improve the development of the market as well as the local community. An example of this can be seen in Vietnam and Bangladesh, where after the construction of roads, the wage of the local farmers increased and the improved lifestyle. According to the research published by Calderon and Serven, infrastructure development is directly associated with the decrease in income inequality (Calderon and Serven, 2014).
The study of geography is important to understand the systematic way of development for both traditional and modern ways of development. So, we can conclude that even though transportation and communications can lead to a better life for many people and result in development, it cannot eliminate the importance of the geographical features and its effect on the social as well as economic development but it would not be able to reverse the effects that have occurred due to the restrictions of geography for the last 1000 of years and the changes it has caused in society and ideas around the world (Sowell, 2016).