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The Role of Natural Resources in Economic Development

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  • Edward Barbier

    (Dept of Economics and Finance, University of Wyoming, USA)

Abstract

In recent years economists have recognized that, along with physical and human capital, environmental resources should be viewed as important economic assets, which can be called natural capital. However, the services provided by natural capital are unique. They include the use of resources for material and energy inputs, the "assimilative capacity" to absorb waste, and the provision of ecological services. The latter services are particularly not well understood, and lie at the heart of the debate over the role of natural capital in sustainable development. That is, does the environment have a unique or "essential" role in sustaining human welfare, and if so, are special "compensation rules" required to ensure that future generations are not made worse off by natural capital depletion today? A further debate has emerged over whether environmental degradation in an economy may initially increase, but eventually declines, as per capita income increases. This hypothesis, called the environmental Kuznets curve (EKC) has led to a number of attempts to estimate empirically an "inverted U" shaped relationship between a variety of indicators of environmental pollution or resource depletion and the level of per capita income. Finally, recent economic theories and empirical evidence have questioned whether poorer economies that are endowed with abundant natural resources develop more rapidly than economies that are relatively resource poor. It is possible that resource abundant economies are not reinvesting the rents generated from natural resource exploitation into productive assets, or that resource booms actually divert economic resources from more productive and innovative sectors. The result is a "boom and bust" pattern of economic development. There is evidence of this phenomenon particularly with regard to economic development and land expansion, especially in Latin America. Overall, although our understanding of the role of natural resources in economic development has improved markedly in recent decades, there is still much to learn. How natural resource depletion is affecting the ecological services provided by the environment is one concern. In the case of the poor economies, there is increasing evidence that their prospects for economic "take off" are being adversely affected by the lack of efficient and sustainable management of their natural resource base. Yet the "underpricing" and "undervaluing" of natural capital makes it difficult to design appropriate policies for ensuring that natural resource rents are reinvested in other productive assets of the economy.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by University of Adelaide, Centre for International Economic Studies in its series Centre for International Economic Studies Working Papers with number 2002-27.

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Length: 45 pages
Date of creation: Oct 2002
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:adl:cieswp:2002-27

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Keywords: Economic development; Environmental Kuznets curve; Natural capital; Natural resources; Resource-abundant economies; Sustainable development;

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References

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  1. John Hartwick, 1976. "Intergenerational Equity and the Investing of Rents from Exhaustible Resources," Working Papers 220, Queen's University, Department of Economics.
  2. Koop, Gary & Tole, Lise, 1999. "Is there an environmental Kuznets curve for deforestation?," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 58(1), pages 231-244, February.
  3. Lopez Ramon, 1994. "The Environment as a Factor of Production: The Effects of Economic Growth and Trade Liberalization," Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, Elsevier, vol. 27(2), pages 163-184, September.
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Citations

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Cited by:
  1. Edward Barbier, 2007. "Frontiers and sustainable economic development," Environmental & Resource Economics, European Association of Environmental and Resource Economists, vol. 37(1), pages 271-295, May.
  2. Barbier, Edward B. & Damania, Richard & Leonard, Daniel, 2005. "Corruption, trade and resource conversion," Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, Elsevier, vol. 50(2), pages 276-299, September.
  3. Valeria Costantini & Salvatore Monni, 2006. "Environment, human development and economic growth," Departmental Working Papers of Economics - University 'Roma Tre' 0062, Department of Economics - University Roma Tre.
  4. Shahida Wizarat, 2013. "Natural Resources, Conflict and Growth Nexus," Asian Economic and Financial Review, Asian Economic and Social Society, vol. 3(8), pages 1063-1082, August.
  5. Jean-Louis COMBES & Pascale COMBES MOTEL & Philippe DELACOTE, 2014. "Public expenses, credit and natural capital: Substitution or complementarity?," Working Papers 201409, CERDI.
  6. Park, Sun-Young & Yoo, Seung-Hoon, 2013. "The economic value of LNG in the Korean manufacturing industry," Energy Policy, Elsevier, vol. 58(C), pages 403-407.
  7. Ulla Lehmijoki, 2004. "On the Beach? Sustainability, Optimal Pollution, and Optimal Population," DEGIT Conference Papers c009_039, DEGIT, Dynamics, Economic Growth, and International Trade.

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