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What have we learned about the resource curse?


Research Question of the Article: Ross’s research attempts to examine claim of natural resource wealth impact on governance of the country (240). The research study explores relationship between resource endowments (cause variable), and three effect variables of ‘incidence of civil war,’ ‘quality of state institutions,’ and ‘government accountability.’ First research question aims to explore most robust findings on the aforementioned relationship of variables. Second research attempts to address major challenges of those findings, along with their respective validity. Lastly, third research question explores the knowledge (research) gaps that are most vital to the assessment.

Main Arguments and Theories: The ‘resource curse’ is the adverse effects of a country’s natural resource on the socioeconomic and political development. The research highlights on the three main debates, that is, the conditions that facilitate the three effects of triggering violence conflicts, heightening corruption, and durability of authoritarian regimes. Second debate pertains to the mechanism that assist in generation of the conditional effects; although, the effect of petroleum on civil conflict has consensus amongst researchers on the underlying process. Third debate relates to the illusory or real nature of the resource curse, and a minority of research literature points toward econometrics issue of omitted-variable bias, and sometimes endogeneity. However, some researchers argue that the damaging effects of petroleum (resource) curse may be real, but commonly overlooked beneficial effects may counter-balance them. A limitation of the study is reliance on observational data, in existing literature, for assessment of the resource curse. The qualitative nature of the variable makes it difficult to measure the phenomena, such as the civil wars or quality of institutions.

The paper highlights on the increasing reliance on sub-national data sets in literature for analyzing the relationship in-depth, which is better than the studies relying on single observation for each country in time series manner; although, authoritarian durability is hard to measure with subnational data. The three main sections of the body includes democracy and democratization, incidence of civil war, and quality of government institutions. Existing literature suggest that higher levels of oil wealth contributes positively to the stability of autocratic government. For example, author quotes Ahmadov (2014) research findings that suggest oil has negative, robust, and nontrivial effect on democracy (Ross 243).

Closing Thoughts: The paper concludes with presentation of three harmful effects for one type mineral wealth, that is, petroleum. First, it tends to strengthen authoritarian regimes, and adds durability factor to the functioning of regimes. Second, it leads to corruption, but not all type of corruptions. Third, it also leads to conflict and violence in countries that are low and middle income. In the ‘looking ahead’ section of the paper, author concludes the considerable evidence for supporting all three broad claims, that is, higher levels of receipt from petroleum results in durable and authoritarian regimes and rulers, coupled with increasing the likelihood for government corruption, and resource wealth low and middle-income countries with marginalized ethnic groups tend to have sustained conflicts. In the section of future research gapes, researchers argue that the existing literature on the subject matter limits itself to the three research questions discussed in the paper, or generally focus on the impact of resource wealth on economic growth. However, other dimensions of sociopolitical life of people living in country with high resource wealth have unique research outcomes, which includes gender equality and education levels in the region, coupled with trends of demographics, cooperation, and conflict at international level, and government transparency.

Discussion Question: What do you think that the outcome of more corruption, less democracy, and more civil conflict makes the country less resource abundant?

Works Cited

Ross, Michael L. “What have we learned about the resource curse?.” Annual Review of Political Science 18 (2015): 239-259.



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