This IMF report on the oil-rich economies of central Africa contains few novel insights, but it does shed some light on the fiscal affairs of some of the most corrupt states in the world. Without attracting much outside scrutiny, these countries have managed to squander enormous amounts of oil money while barely improving the lives of their citizens. The report reveals some particularly damning facts: for instance, Cameroon cannot account for an estimated 35 percent of its oil revenues since 1977. The report’s central argument is that these states could improve how they spend their oil wealth, increasing economic growth and alleviating poverty in the process. Each of these countries lags sharply behind other countries at its national income level in terms of social indicators such as literacy and infant mortality. The contributors, mostly staff economists of the IMF, are too polite to acknowledge that the improvements in policy they advocate are highly unlikely to come about so long as the governments that rule these countries continue their practice of using oil wealth to purchase the loyalty and unity of elites.
Get the best of Foreign Affairs' book reviews delivered to you.