This book is a salute to the practitioners of integrated economic and social development planning. As a catalyst and participant in that process, the Department of Regional Development (DRD) of the Economic and Social Secretariat of the Organization of American States has learned to appreciate how routinely difficult, complex, and frustrating it is and how rarely things work out according to plan. Certainly, development professionals need not be told that there is no secret, no checklist, no single approach that triggers the development process and sustains its momentum. They know that even the best-laid development plans are fragile, temporary structures vulnerable to constantly changing conditions. They know also that good plans can direct wise investment decisions, which contribute to sustainable development that benefits large populations.
Reviewing 20 years of experience with integrated regional development planning is a humbling exercise. Mistakes and failed plans stand out clearly with the perspective of time, but so do the occasional successfully implemented projects that flowed from the plans. Less obvious but perhaps equally satisfying are the mistakes avoided because of the plans. DRD draws here exclusively on its own field experience in Latin America, leaving it to other technical assistance agencies to catalog theirs. Accordingly, the emphasis in this book is on the development of natural resources, energy, infrastructure, agriculture, industry, human settlements, and social services. In these accounts, we believe, are information and ideas of use to developing-country governments from the local to the national levels, sectoral agencies, river basin authorities, regional development corporations, other technical assistance groups, and - most of all - field study managers.
As a technical cooperation unit, DRD spends most of its efforts doing, not reflecting or theorizing. But after two decades, it has evolved a partially standardized approach to technical assistance in regional development. Although DRD's staff members have honest differences of opinion over technical issues, and the countries DRD has assisted have widely varying and constantly changing development needs, DRD does have a methodology and a philosophy. So that others can make use of both, they are synthesized here.
Kirk P. Rodgers
Department of Regional Development
Organization of American States