Rosser - The political Economy of the Resource Curse: A Literature Survey

Rosser, A., The political Economy of the Resource Curse: A Literature Survey ( Brighton, United Kingdom: The Institute of Development Studies 2006)                                 

In this paper, Rosser presents a critical survey of the literature on the ‘resource curse’. His survey revolves around three main issues: (i) whether natural are resources bad for development; (ii) the causes of the resource curse; and, (iii) how the resource curse can be overcome.

 After exploring the resource curse discourse, the author makes three observations in response to the three issues that constitutes the focus of his survey. First, while the literature provides considerable evidence that natural resource abundance is associated with various negative development outcomes, this evidence is by no means conclusive. Second, existing explanations for the resource curse do not adequately account for the role of social forces or external political and economic environments in shaping development outcomes in resource abundant countries, nor for the fact that, while most resource abundant countries have performed poorly in developmental terms, a few have done quite well. Finally, recommendations for overcoming the resource curse – economic policy changes, political and economic changes - have not generally taken into account the issue of political feasibility.

On account of that, Rosser remarks that the basic problem with the literature is that researchers have been too reductionist – they have tended to explain development performance solely in terms of the size and nature of countries’ natural resource endowments. In other words, scholars have been asking the wrong question: rather than asking why natural resource wealth has fostered various political pathologies and in turn promoted poor development performance, they should have been asking what political and social factors enable some resource abundant countries to utilise their natural resources to promote development and prevent other resource abundant countries from doing the same.


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