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Institutions and Development From a Historical Perspective: the Case of the Brazilian Development Bank

Alex Wilhans Antonio Palludeto and Roberto Alexandre Zanchetta Borghi

Review of Political Economy, 2021, vol. 33, issue 1, 126-144

Abstract: This paper analyzes the role played by the Brazilian Development Bank (BNDES) in different periods of Brazil’s development process since its founding in 1952. The bank’s history is nonlinear, varying with socio-economic and political changes over time. Four major periods in its history are: (i) from its creation to the debt crisis in the 1980s, a period known as ‘developmentalism’; (ii) the neoliberal movement of the 1990s; (iii) the reintroduction of the BNDES as a relevant tool for development in the 2000s; and (iv) a new neoliberal movement that arose beginning in mid-2016. Each of these periods is characterized by certain development conventions that shape how institutions, such as the BNDES, operate, and at the same time are shaped by them. In contrast to mainstream economics, which focuses on a one-size-fits-all institution for development, this paper evaluates the interactions between development and institutions as historical processes, with an emphasis on the prevailing development conventions. The trajectory and different roles assumed by the BNDES over time exemplify this permanent relationship, rejecting the idea that particular types of institutions are related to development.

Date: 2021
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DOI: 10.1080/09538259.2020.1720144

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