Exploiting Energy and Mineral Resources in Central Asia, Azerbaijan and Mongolia
Recent literature has focussed on institutional degradation and revenue volatility as major sources of a resource curse. Formerly centrally planned countries may be especially vulnerable due to their mutating institutions and macropolicy inexperience. This paper examines these issues through case studies of six former Soviet republics and Mongolia. The principal focus is on the methods of involving foreign partners in exploration and exploitation of natural resources and, to a lesser extent, on the use of revenues during resource booms. The consequences of alternative resource ownership patterns are difficult to model due to path dependency and the significance of the conjuncture of circumstances. Kazakhstan in the 1990s was a prime example of rent-seeking institutional degradation, but an exceptionally positive conjuncture in the 2000s (soaring oil prices, large oil and gas discoveries, and new pipelines) triggered institutional and policy evolution. Uzbekistan, by contrast, had less resource-rent-driven institutional degradation in the 1990s, but stagnated in the 2000s. Turkmenistan and Mongolia highlight the missed opportunities from not involving foreign partners, while Azerbaijan and the Kyrgyz Republic illustrate the less predictable outcomes following quick deals with foreign investors. Institutions matter, but the case studies suggest more complex relationships than revealed by simple correlations between indicators of institutional quality or of ownership patterns.
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