Portugal's African colonies have not fared well in the post-independence era. Guinea-Bissau, although spared the calamitous civil wars that have wracked Mozambique and Angola, has failed to achieve adequate social and economic development and today remains one of the world's 15 poorest countries. The author examines the ways in which government efficiency, corruption, and isolation from rural opinion are the product of Guinea-Bissau's social and political circumstances, and argues that the inputs by international leaders and donors have tended to reinforce rather than diminish these failings. Tempering the otherwise gloomy portrait of a nation in decline are some signs that renewal may be possible: the ingenuity of ordinary citizens who survive through the informal economy, and the stirrings of a pro-democracy movement among émigré intellectuals.
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