Can a Cartel Fuel the Engine of Economic Development? OPEC and the macroeconomics of oil
OPEC’s stated mission is to promote the economic development and growth of its member states while minimizing volatility in the oil markets. But after a promising beginning many member states’ economies have declined rather than prospered—a clear indication of OPEC’s failure to meet their development goals. Thus, we ask if a resource cartel can achieve the joint goals of development and resource market stability. In a model in which oil producing countries choose whether to join an oil cartel or remain in the fringe, we find that, in a highly elastic oil market, a profit maximizing cartel is inconsistent with oil market stability in the face of demand shocks. Thus, it is inimical to macroeconomic stability, an essential requirement for long-lasting capital investment, and therefore economic development and growth. Consequently, it may not be optimal for an oil-exporting country that cares adequately about macroeconomic stability to join the cartel. But for a country where short-run considerations overwhelm long-run concerns, cartel membership may be the correct choice. Yet the oil rich are ultimately cursed by their excessive reliance on their resource wealth—current profligacy begets future decline.
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