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Resource Accounting in Measures of Unsustainability: Challenging the World Bank's Conclusions

  • Eric Neumayer

    ()

The World Bank has recently published acomprehensive study of environmental and resourceaccounting, covering 103 countries (World Bank1997a). The study concludes that many Sub-Saharan,Northern African and Middle East countries have hadnegative `genuine' saving rates over the last 20years and therefore fail to pass the test of weaksustainability. This paper argues that the Bank'sconclusions depend on a method for computing usercosts from resource exploitation that is challengedby two competing ones (the `El Serafy'-method andthe method of Repetto et al.) and is inferior to oneof its rivals. Resource rents are re-computed usingthe `El Serafy'-method for 14 countries and theSub-Saharan and Northern African and Middle Eastregions. The results are that both regions andalmost all countries either stop exhibiting signs ofunsustainability or their unsustainability can beexplained without having recourse to resourceaccounting. However, for Congo, Ecuador, Gabon,Nigeria, Mauritania and Trinidad and Tobago there isa lesson: These countries did not adequately use theopportunities they were given through their naturalresource endowments and should learn from theirmistake for the future depletion of their remainingreserves of natural resources. Copyright Kluwer Academic Publishers 2000

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Article provided by European Association of Environmental and Resource Economists in its journal Environmental and Resource Economics.

Volume (Year): 15 (2000)
Issue (Month): 3 (March)
Pages: 257-278

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Handle: RePEc:kap:enreec:v:15:y:2000:i:3:p:257-278
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  1. Kjell Arne Brekke, 1997. "Hicksian Income from Resource Extraction in an Open Economy," Land Economics, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 73(4), pages 516-527.
  2. Young, Carlos Eduardo Frickmann & da Motta, Ronaldo Seroa, 1995. "Measuring sustainable income from mineral extraction in Brazil," Resources Policy, Elsevier, vol. 21(2), pages 113-125, June.
  3. Hartwick, John M, 1995. "Constant Consumption Paths in Open Eocnomies with Exhaustible Resources," Review of International Economics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 3(3), pages 275-83, October.
  4. El Serafy, Salah, 1997. "Green accounting and economic policy," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 21(3), pages 217-229, June.
  5. Aaheim, Asbjorn & Nyborg, Karine, 1995. "On the Interpretation and Applicability of a "Green National Product."," Review of Income and Wealth, International Association for Research in Income and Wealth, vol. 41(1), pages 57-71, March.
  6. Pearce, David W. & Atkinson, Giles D., 1993. "Capital theory and the measurement of sustainable development: an indicator of "weak" sustainability," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 8(2), pages 103-108, October.
  7. Asheim, Geir B, 1994. " Net National Product as an Indicator of Sustainability," Scandinavian Journal of Economics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 96(2), pages 257-65.
  8. Asheim, Geir B., 1996. "Capital gains and net national product in open economies," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 59(3), pages 419-434, March.
  9. Hamilton, Kirk & Atkinson, Giles, 1996. "Air pollution and green accounts," Energy Policy, Elsevier, vol. 24(7), pages 675-684, July.
  10. Hamilton, Kirk, 1996. "Pollution and Pollution Abatement in the National Accounts," Review of Income and Wealth, International Association for Research in Income and Wealth, vol. 42(1), pages 13-33, March.
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