September 29, 2013
THE SOONER WE BREAK THE DEPENDENCE THE MORE OF IT STAYS IN THE GROUND:
The resource curse, or the paradox of poverty from plenty (NICHOLAS SHAXSON, 23 September 2013, Open Democracy)
Posted by Orrin Judd at September 29, 2013 1:30 PMAs I arrived in Angola in 1993 a British academic, Richard Auty, was putting a name to a then poorly-understood phenomenon: what is now widely known as the 'Resource Curse'. Countries that depend heavily on natural resources like oil or diamonds often perform worse than their resource-poor peers in terms of human development, governance and long-term economic growth. Studies by renowned economists such as Jeffrey Sachs, Paul Collier, Terry Lynn Karl, Joseph Stiglitz and many others have now established the Resource Curse in the academic literature, and in the public mind too.A weak version of this Curse, which few would disagree with, holds that resource-dependent countries tend to be bad at harnessing those resources to benefit their populations. The windfalls are squandered. A stronger version is more surprising: natural resources tend to make matters even worse than if they had been left in the ground, leading to higher rates of conflict, more corruption, steeper inequality, deeper absolute poverty, more authoritarian government, and lower long-term economic growth. I am in no doubt that the stronger version of the curse applied to Angola on all these metrics when I lived there.To be fair, the wider cross-country evidence here is more complicated. Some countries like Norway that already have good governance in place before resources are discovered seem to fare relatively well - but being rich first is no guarantee of success either. Michael Edwardes, the former chairman of ailing British car manufacturer British Leyland, spoke of this with some prescience in 1980, following the OPEC oil price shocks: "If the cabinet does not have the wit and imagination to reconcile our industrial needs with the fact of North Sea oil, they would do better to leave the bloody stuff in the ground." Even if some rich countries can suffer from mineral windfalls, it is poor, badly governed countries that tend to suffer the most.