Jack I. Stone, an internationally noted economist who focused on economic development challenges and trade issues and who was instrumental in launching the concept of the Least Developed Countries (LDCs) as a category deserving special attention, died on November 1, 2018 after a long illness. He was 98.
In a career that spanned seven decades, Mr. Stone focused on the unique economic development challenges faced by countries with geographic or political disadvantages and on ways to improve their prospects through better trade terms and improved transport access to major markets and trading hubs. Mr. Stone is considered by many as the “father” of the least developed countries concept which helped focus special attention on the often unique challenges faced by the poorest countries on the planet. First as director of Research at the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) in Geneva in the 1970s and later as Director of UNCTAD’s Special Program on Least Developed, Land-Locked and Island Developing Countries, Mr. Stone was instrumental in overcoming obstacles to and in developing political support for the Least Developed Countries concept. At the time, there was opposition to the LDC designation from a number of larger and better off developing countries who were concerned the new designation would weaken international support for their own development.
Mr. Stone kept a focus on the unique challenges faced by the world’s LDCs and built support for additional measures to assist these countries by using his position to champion rigorous analytical research, field studies and expert group reports that clearly laid out the unique impediments to growth often shared by the poorest of developing countries. While the concept of LDCs became firmly established, Mr. Stone often weighed in with his view that the category should focus on countries with solvable trade, transport and geographic challenges rather than domestic political shortcomings which could cause an otherwise relatively wealthy nation to qualify for the added attention the category provided. He also expressed concerns that the category might become too broad to be truly meaningful although he recognized the inherent political nature of the category and the need for critical mass to generate support for the category and to give it political weight.
Born in St. Cloud Minnesota on September 9, 1920, Mr. Stone’s early years coincided with the Great depression which helped fuel his interest in economic issues and his family was forced by economic necessity to move first to Seattle, where he spent most of his formative years, and then to Kansas City. Mr. Stone received an A.B. degree in 1941 from the University of Chicago where he majored in Political Science. There he decided that most political issues were grounded in economic challenges and focused increasingly on economics in graduate studies he began at the University of Chicago. In 1946, Mr. Stone joined the post war U.S. Military Government in Germany as an Economist and Statistician for the High Commission and Marshall Plan Agency where he worked for eight years. His time there, including witnessing the Berlin Airlift first hand, gave him an early insight into practical challenges in development economics. Mr. Stone returned to the US in 1954 and enrolled in the Graduate School of Public Administration at Harvard University as a mid-career Littauer Fellow. He then studied at the Department of Economics at Harvard, completing all requirements for a Ph.D. in economics except for his thesis.
In 1963 Mr. Stone returned to government service at the State Department as a Senior Economist and Deputy Chief of the Economic Program Division of the Office of Policy Planning at the US Agency for International Development. In 1966, Mr. Stone moved to Paris to join the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development as Head of the Financial Policies Division of the Development Assistance Committee. There he helped negotiate a revised agreement on terms of aid and worked on Indonesian debt rescheduling agreements. In 1970, Mr.
Mr. Stone was a life-long learner often able to bond with people of varied interests with detailed knowledge of their fields. His broad interests coupled with an ability to see problems from a number of angles likely contributed to his success. Maintaining meaningful friendships across a wide variety of age groups also enabled him to remain professionally active well into his later years.. Stone is survived by his son, Daniel Walter Stone, and two grandsons, Jacob Rafael Stone and Cody Juan Stone. Services were held in Annapolis, MD. Mr. Stone is survived by his son, Daniel Walter Stone, and two grandsons, Jacob Rafael Stone and Cody Juan Stone. Services were held in Annapolis, MD.