The Journal of Technology Transfer

, Volume 31, Issue 1, pp 91–100 | Cite as

Small Islands versus Big Cities: Lessons in the Political Economy of Regional Development from the World’s Small Islands

  • Godfrey Baldacchino


Population, employment and economic capacity continue to concentrate in and around large urban centres. If geography (measured as proximity to large centres of population) increasingly matters in the knowledge economy, then there may be no future for periphery locations. This paper critically reviews and refutes this hypothesis by looking at the world’s small islands. Handicapped by size and distance, they are unable to generate scale dynamics nor to regularly access any neighbouring, large metropolitan centres. Nevertheless, jurisdictional resourcefulness resulting from sovereignty or sub-national autonomy fosters compensatory policy capacity. Demand for niche-technology manufactures and craft-based, labour-intensive or place-specific services is likely to persist. Cyclical migration strategies allow islanders seeking work or education off island to tap the metropole and re-inject resources to reinvigorate the periphery. Remittances, aid, bureaucracy and other “rents” can provide significant fiscal resources necessary for survival.


innovation space knowledge regions 

JEL Classification

O11 P16 


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Amin, A.Thrift , N. eds. 1994Globalization, Institutions and Regional Development in EuropeOxford University PressOxfordGoogle Scholar
  2. Armstrong, H.W. and R. Read, 1998. ‘The International Political Economy of Micro-States: An Overview,’ paper presented at Islands V Conference, University of Mauritius, Mauritius, July.Google Scholar
  3. Armstrong, H.W., Read, R. 2000Comparing the Economic Performance of Dependent Territories and Sovereign MicrostatesEconomic Development and Cultural Change48285306CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Armstrong, H.W., Read, R. 2002The Phantom of Liberty? Economic Growth and the Vulnerability of Small StatesJournal of International Development14435458Google Scholar
  5. Armstrong, H.W., Read, R. 2003Microstates and Subnational Regions: Mutual Insustrial Policy LessonsInternational Regional Science Review26117141CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Baldacchino, G. 1998Far Better to Serve in Heaven than to Reign in Hell: Malta’s Logic of Relating to the European UnionGodfrey and Greenwood, Robert,  eds. Competing Strategies of Socio-Economic Development for Small IslandsInstitute of Island Studies, University of Prince Edward IslandCharlottetown, Canada213237Google Scholar
  7. Baldacchino, G. 2004‘Autonomous but not Sovereign? A Review of Island Sub-Nationalism’Canadian Review of Studies in Nationalism317789Google Scholar
  8. Baldacchino, G.Milne, D. eds. 2000Lessons from the Political Economy of Small Islands: The Resourcefulness of JurisdictionMacmillanBasingstokeGoogle Scholar
  9. Bartmann, B. 2002Meeting the Needs of Microstate SecurityThe Round Table365361374CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Bell, D. 1987The World and the United States in 2013Daedalus116131Google Scholar
  11. Bertram, I.G. 2004On the Convergence of Small Island Economies with their Metropolitan PatronsWorld Development32343364CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Benjamin, N.C., Devarajan, S., Weiner, R.J. 1989The Dutch Disease in a Developing Country: oil reserves in CameroonJournal of Development Economics307192CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Bertram, I.G., Watters, R.F. 1985The MIRAB Economy in South Pacific MicrostatesPacific Viewpoint6497519Google Scholar
  14. Briguglio, L. 1995Small Island Developing States and their VulnerabilitiesWorld Development2316151632CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Connell, J. 1988‘Sovereignty and Survival: Island Microstates in the Third World,’University of Sydney, Department of GeographySydneyResearch Monograph No. 3Google Scholar
  16. Courchene, T.J. 1995Glocalisation: The Regional/International InterfaceCanadian Journal of Regional Science18120Google Scholar
  17. Courchene T.J. 2003. ‘Knowledge And Human Capital: The Winning ca.combo For The Information Era,’ paper prepared for the TD Forum on Canada’s Standard of Living, available at: (Accessed 09 Feb 2004)
  18. Cullen, R. 1990Federalism in ActionFederalist PressNSW, AustraliaGoogle Scholar
  19. Drucker P., 1986. ‘The Changed World Economy,’ Foreign Affairs, Spring, 3–17Google Scholar
  20. Fagerlund, N. 1997Autonomous European Island Regions enjoying a special relationship with the European UnionLyse, Lyck eds. Constitutional and Economic Space of the Small Nordic JurisdictionsNordRefoCopenhagen90121Google Scholar
  21. Friedmann, J.Alonso, W. eds. 1995Regional Policy: Readings in Theory and ApplicationsMIT PressCambridge, MAGoogle Scholar
  22. Henry, R.M. 1990Cooperation in Human Resource Utilisation in the Commonwealth CaribbeanBulletin of Eastern Caribbean Affairs162528Google Scholar
  23. Kakazu, H. 1994Sustainable Development of Small Island EconomiesWestview PressBoulder, COGoogle Scholar
  24. Katzenstein, P.J. 1985Small States in World MarketsCornel University PressCornell, NYGoogle Scholar
  25. King, R.Connell, J. eds. 1999Small Worlds, Global Lives: Islands and MigrationPinterLondonGoogle Scholar
  26. Krugman, P. 1991Geography and TradeMIT PressCambridge, MAGoogle Scholar
  27. Landes, D.S. 1999The Wealth and Poverty of Nations: Why Some are so Rich and Some so PoorW.W. NortonNew YorkGoogle Scholar
  28. McElroy, J.L., Mahoney, M. 1999The Propensity for Political Dependence in Island MicrostatesINSULA: International Journal of Island Affairs93235Google Scholar
  29. McKee, D.L., Tisdell, C.A. 1990Development Issues in Small Island EconomiesPraegerNew YorkGoogle Scholar
  30. McKercher, W.R. 2000‘The Isle of Man: Jurisdictional Catapult to Development,’Baldacchino, G.Milne, D. eds. Lessons from the Political Economy of Small Islands: The Resourcefulness of JurisdictionMacmillanBasingstoke91106Google Scholar
  31. Ohmae, K. 2001The Invisible Continent: Four Strategic Imperatives of the New EconomyHarperBusinessNew YorkGoogle Scholar
  32. Planistat Europe, 2003. ‘Analysis of the Island Regions and Outermost Regions of the European Union-Part 1: The Island Regions and Territories, March,’ available at: es/pdf/ilesrup/islands_part1_summary_en.pdf (Accessed 09 Feb 2004)
  33. Piore, M., Sabel, C. 1984The Second Industrial Divide: Possibilities for ProsperityBasic BooksNew YorkGoogle Scholar
  34. Poirine, B. 1998Should We Hate or Love MIRAB?The Contemporary Pacific1065107Google Scholar
  35. Polanyi, K. 1944The Great TransformationBeacon HillBoston MAGoogle Scholar
  36. Porter, M.E., 1998. ‘Clusters and the New Economics of Competition,’ Harvard Business Review, December, 77–90Google Scholar
  37. Robertson, R. 1994‘Globalisation or Glocalisation?’Journal of International Communication13352Google Scholar
  38. Rosenau, J.N. 2003Distant Proximities: Dynamics Beyond GlobalisationPrinceton University PressPrinceton, NJGoogle Scholar
  39. Royle, S.A. 1989A Human Geography of IslandsGeography74106116Google Scholar
  40. Royle, S.A., 1997. ‘The benefits of insularity on development: the case of Batan Island, Indonesia,’ paper presented to Development Studies Association Conference, Norwich, University of East Anglia, September.Google Scholar
  41. Sachs, J.D., Warner, A.M. 1995‘Natural Resource Abundance and Economic Growth,’National Bureau of Economic ResearchCambridge, MANBER Working Papers 5398Google Scholar
  42. The Economist, 1971. ‘Damned Dots,’ London: The Economist Magazine, July 31st, p. 16Google Scholar
  43. The Economist, 2003a. ‘On the World’s Rich List,’ London: The Economist Magazine, May 17th, p. 33Google Scholar
  44. The Economist, 2003b. ‘Brain Gain,’ London: The Economist Magazine, October 11th, pp. 38, 42Google Scholar
  45. Trompf , G. eds. 1993Islands and Enclaves: Nationalisms and Separatist Pressures in Island and Littoral ContextsSterling PublishersNew DelhiGoogle Scholar
  46. Watts, R.L. 2000‘Islands in Comparative Constitutional Perspective,’Milne, D.Baldacchino, G. eds. Lessons from the Political Economy of Small Islands: The Resourcefulness of JurisdictionMacmillanBasingstoke1737Google Scholar
  47. Weber, M. 1914/1978Economy and Society: An Outline of Interpretative Sociology, 2 volsUniversity of California PressBerkeley, CAGoogle Scholar
  48. Wriggins, H.W. 1976Up for Auction: Malta Bargains with Great BritainWalter, Zartman eds. The Fifty Per Cent SolutionDoubledayNew York208234Google Scholar
  49. Wright Mills, C. 1959The Sociological ImaginationOxford University PressNew YorkGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, Inc. 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Canada Research Chair in Island StudiesUniversity of Prince Edward IslandCharlottetownCanada

Personalised recommendations