In This Review

Plundered Nations?: Successes and Failures in Natural Resource Extraction
Plundered Nations?: Successes and Failures in Natural Resource Extraction
Edited by Paul Collier and Anthony J. Venables
Palgrave Macmillan, 2011, 376 pp

In the 1980s and 1990s, a number of economists put forward the notion of a “resource curse.” According to this idea, a country rich in natural resources was condemned, at best, to lack development in tradable nonresource goods (due to having a too strong currency) and to possibly become a nonproductive rent-seeking society. At worse, the curse would lead to endemic corruption or even violent conflict over control of the dominant resource. Of the eight countries this book examines, only two -- Chile (copper) and Malaysia (rubber, then oil) -- have managed to convert their resource bases successfully into more diversified economies with sustainably rising standards of living. The only clear failure is Cameroon (oil), where the well-being of its citizens fell following the resource boom. The others -- Iran, Kazakhstan, Nigeria (all oil), Russia (mainly oil and gas), and Zambia (copper) -- have experienced mixed results. The editors provide an excellent analytic overview and suggest guidelines more likely to assure success, such as the creation and maintenance of overseas funds into which some of the proceeds from the exhaustible resource could be channeled. But the book also emphasizes the fact that there is no single way to manage resources and that for a country to be successful, its resource policies must take into account its particular circumstances.