This text analyzes the contributions by Celso Furtado to interpreting the determinants of regional inequalities and to the formulation of development policies for less developed regions. It uses a backdrop the theoretical antecedents and principal global experiences of regional development policies, which served as a reference for Celso Furtado. It shows Furtado's originality when he linked questions of regional inequality with the nature of underdeveloped structures. It shows the theoretical and empirical foundations in the analysis of the Northeast question, guidelines for the future SUDENE, political pressures and the insufficiencies in the way development policies for the Northeast are carried out. Finally, it shows how Furtado's positions are still relevant, whether in the formulations prior to the creation of SUDENE or in the later theoretical developments. In these, Furtado overcomes the notion of region and begins to examine spatial structures; he introduces the central role of urban nodes, of their hierarchies and articulations; in other words, the role of the urban network in the command and structuring of the territory; of the central role of technology and innovation processes, and finally, of the need for an interdisciplinary effort for both understanding regional problems as well as for the formulation of policies and their implementation.