Scandinavian Working Papers in Economics
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Department of Economics, School of Business, Economics and Law, University of Gothenburg Working Papers in Economics

No 17:
Used Clothes As Development Aid: The political economy of rags

Rick Wicks and Arne Bigsten

Abstract: Should Swedish used-clothes exports continue to be subsidized as development aid? Theoretical analysis and review of empirical evidence regarding effects of both commercial and charitable (subsidized) used-clothes imports in LDCs. Includes statistics on the world used-clothes trade, including 127 gross used-clothes- exporting countries and 181 importing countries in 1990 (with values, weights, average prices, and weights-per-capita), and some specifics of U.S. and Swedish imports and exports. Discussion of images of the trade in labor and popular media; trends in national trade policies and practices; NGO attitudes and involvement; similar issues with food aid; and excerpts regarding the trade in 18th century Britain. Conclusion: Greater benefits are possible for poor people with a more imaginative approach. Poor people who need clothes need many things. Used clothes can be sold and the proceeds used, along with erstwhile subsidy funds, for income-generating projects. A possible exception: if supply has broken down due to catastrophe, and clothing is not available in the market.

Keywords: used clothes; second-hand; imports; exports; LDCs; development aid; (follow links to similar papers)

JEL-Codes: O10; O20; (follow links to similar papers)

161 pages, February 1, 1996

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