The brutal war now raging in what was Yugoslavia, the author argues, is fueled not merely by interethnic hatred but also by longstanding disparities in economic well-being among republics and regions. The Communist leadership, having stated its intention when it took power to eliminate economic disparities, nonetheless failed to confront the conflict of interests that distorted the country's economic policy—and thus never worked out a coherent strategy for regional development. Interregional tensions were inflamed by the failure to close the gap between wealthy and poor areas, directly contributing to the breakup of the country. Basing her argument on longitudinal data and on in-depth interviews with Yugoslav leaders at federal and regional levels (Milovan Djilas, Svetozar Vukmanovic-Tempo, Bosko Gluscevic, Hasan Zolic, and several dozen others), Dijana PleÅ¡tina examines and assesses the economic inequalities as well as the effects that the leadership's regional policies had on them. She shows that despite the mandate for equalization that was part of socialist doctrine, Yugoslav leaders were at first unwilling, and later unable, to formulate policies that would enhance the economic well-being of the poorest regions. Instead, they adopted a strategy of "top-down" growth, which enhanced the further development of the wealthier regions. Later, partially in an effort to placate the disadvantaged, they shifted funds to some of the less-developed regions. Rather than promoting equality, such ad hoc "solutions" fostered competition for scarce resources and intensified political cleavages. PleÅ¡tina also looks at how the devolution of decisionmaking from central to regional levels, designed to increase government legitimacy and efficiency, actually provided an opportunity for regional leaders to build independent power bases. This trend, in conjunction with the economic slump of the 1980s, further eroded the unity of the federation.
Introduction -- Historical Antecedents of Regional Inequality -- 1950s: Centralization and the First Steps to Development -- 1960s: Decentralization and Reform -- 1970s: Institutional Change and the Price of Reform -- 1980s: From Decline to Disintegration -- Explanations Revisited: Summary and Conclusion -- A Note on Methods -- Formal Interview Questions -- Names and Positions of Interviewed Yugoslav Decision-Makers for Regional Development, by Republic or Region