Role of Geography and institutions in economic development
Over the years, there have been debates on the role that geography of a nation or continent plays in contribution to the economy of a region. On one hand, there are scholars who argue that the geography of a location is central and plays a big role in determining the economy of a region and yet on the other hand, there are those scholars who argue that the economy of a region is mostly determined by the institutions that are within the population and how they are managed by the people in the management positions. Each side of the arguments have been quick to point out a few facts that are in support of their arguments and even drawn examples from the community and used them to justify their side of the argument. Each side has also given practical calculations of the value added to the society by the geography and the institutions to the economies of a region, and with some success, they have managed to sail through with their arguments. This paper will look at the arguments and examples that are given by both sides and later take a stand on the approach that best fits the situation.
First, we will begin with the side that argues that it is the geography of a place that contributes significantly to the economy of a region and not the institutions that are in the society. There are some key geographical and ecological features like the disease ecology, the climate zones as well as the distance from the coast lines that contribute significantly to the economy of a region. The effects of these geographical features affect the economy of a region through two major channels which are the direct channel like the geographical effect on production and agriculture, influence on trade and investment ad its effect on population growth. There is also the indirect channel which is its effect that comes through the choice of economic and political institutions. Both of these means have been seen to be significantly viable in influencing the economy of a region since a disadvantageous geographical environment may make room for the development of institutions that are less productive and weak hence bringing down the economy of the region.
In this particular case, the issue of malaria a geographical feature has been used to illustrate how the geographical features of a region can influence the economy of the region and directly have effects on the per capita income of the region. It is open that the areas that have high cases of malaria have a lower per capita income than areas that do not have high prevalence of malaria. It is worth noting that malaria transmission does not just depend on the geographical features but also on the type of mosquito vectors and the climatic conditions also referred to as the ecological conditions. This then is a perfect way of measuring the fact that malaria causes more economic problems and poverty for a region than it creates wealth and not the institutions.
Malaria may cause death independently or may be fused with another infection to cause death. There are some deaths that may be due to other reasons or infections but may be related to malaria since the victim may have had malaria on top of the infection that may have killed him. On the other hand, there are some deaths that may be attributed to other infections yet may be having malaria as a co-factor in the death of an individual though not the sole reason to the death of the individual.
It is obvious that malaria is basically a disease of the warm tropical regions due to the fact that the better part of the life of a malaria parasite depends on the high temperatures that are provided by the tropical climate. This is the fact that makes malaria to be the disease of the sub-tropics and the tropics. The malaria parasite also depends on the conducive conditions for the breeding of the mosquito, these are the pools of clean water that are usually occasioned by the rainfall that are collected in disposed tines, wet area in pools and puddles, and so on. This dependence on the rainfall to multiply makes malaria to have a particular cycle of the infections in these tropic regions. The dry and the wet seasons usually alternate, hence the malaria outbreaks usually follow the rainy seasons.
It is also worth noting that the intensity of the malaria transmission is tied on the type of mosquito vector that is in a given region. It is true that the anopheles mosquito is responsible for transmission of malaria, but it has been noted that those mosquitoes from the sub-Saharan region prefer taking their blood meal from humans as opposed to cattle or other animals, hence this leads to a more serious infection pattern than those that draw blood meal from animals.
Therefore, the temperature that is conducive for malaria, the high number of mosquitoes and the particular vector that is prevalent in a region all referred to as Malaria Ecology (ME) can help in the prediction of malaria risks and the problems that come with it.
Due to the ME, and other factors that accompany it like the transport cost in search of malaria cure, it is expected that the people who live along the coastal line, where the climate is not suitable for the breeding of the malaria, should be enjoying a much better economy with a higher per capita income. This is a true situation in the coastal countries in comparison to the countries that are land locked or further inland with rainy and . It is also worth noting that in the regions that were colonized by the Europeans, they chose the with lesser cases of malaria and it is these regions that they developed and consequently had higher economic standings than other regions.
Using the malaria incidence as a geographical variable is one of the several means to indicate that the economy of a region can and mostly depends on the geographical features of a place than the institutions. There are however other examples like the regions prone to flooding like Indonesia, that are predominantly poor due to the geography of the regions as well as other rainfall deprived regions like the communities in the Sahara regions.
On the other hand, there is the group that argues that the institutions that are found in a given region play a significant role in the development or the economy of the region as opposed to the geography of a region. According to these theory, in order for any community to enjoy relative economic stability, there is need to be a solid mechanism of justice administration, sense of security and rule of law.
Here, the role of property rights as well as the rule of law is the centre piece for the economic development of a region. The quality of the institutions that are found in a given community has the most significant determinant in the economy of the region than the geography of the region and even the integration of the region to other trade zones. It is with the right institutions that the favorable laws to trading with other regions will be formed. It is again of significance to note that the acceptance of other regions to trade with a given area will entirely depend on the suitable laws that are in existence in the area. Geography of a region may be negative for the economic growth of a region and even the integration with other regions may be negative but the laws and the institutions of a given region will always come in with a positive approach to make the and not prohibitive to the people intending to trade in the region.
Bearing the two arguments, I would consider the geographical argument to be more powerful than the institutions argument. This is because even if an area has the right institutions, but the geographical features are too hostile for productions of anything, like the storms, floods, earthquake, the diseases and so on, there can never be any significant economic progress, yet these are natural things that man has no control over.