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Politcal Foundations of the Resource Curse

  • James A. Robinson
  • Ragnar Torvik
  • Thierry Verdier

In this paper we argue that the political incentives that resource endowments generate are the key to understanding whether or not they are a curse. We show: (1) politicians tend to over-extract natural resources relative to the efficient extraction path because they discount the future too much. (2) resource booms "improve" the efficiency of the extraction path. However, (3), resource booms, by raising the value of being in power and by providing politicians with more resources which they can use to influence the outcome of elections, "increase" resource misallocation in the rest of the economy. (4), the overall impact of resource booms on the economy depends critically on institutions since these determine the extent to which political incentives map into policy outcomes. Countries with good institutions tend to benefit from resource booms since these institutions mitigate the perverse political incentives that such booms create. Countries with bad institutions suffer a "resource curse".

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Paper provided by DELTA (Ecole normale supérieure) in its series DELTA Working Papers with number 2003-33.

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Date of creation: 2003
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Handle: RePEc:del:abcdef:2003-33
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  1. Robinson, James A. & Torvik, Ragnar & Verdier, Thierry, 2006. "Political foundations of the resource curse," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 79(2), pages 447-468, April.
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  3. Mehlum, Halvor & Moene, Karl-Ove & Torvik, Ragnar, 2003. "Institutions and the resource curse," Memorandum 29/2002, Oslo University, Department of Economics.
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  6. Torvik, Ragnar, 2002. "Natural resources, rent seeking and welfare," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 67(2), pages 455-470, April.
  7. Philip R. Lane & Aaron Tornell, 1999. "The Voracity Effect," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 89(1), pages 22-46, March.
  8. Gylfason, Thorvaldur, 2000. "Natural Resources, Education, and Economic Development," CEPR Discussion Papers 2594, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  9. Bates, Robert H & Collier, Paul, 1995. "The Politics and Economics of Policy Reform in Zambia," Journal of African Economies, Centre for the Study of African Economies (CSAE), vol. 4(1), pages 115-43, May.
  10. Acemoglu, Daron & Johnson, Simon & Robinson, James A, 2002. "An African Success Story: Botswana," CEPR Discussion Papers 3219, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
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  12. Rauch, James E & Evans, Peter B., 1999. "Bureaucratic Structure and Bureaucratic Performance in Less Developed Countries," University of California at San Diego, Economics Working Paper Series qt0sb0w38d, Department of Economics, UC San Diego.
  13. Lal, Deepak & Myint, H., 1998. "The Political Economy of Poverty, Equity and Growth: A Comparative Study," OUP Catalogue, Oxford University Press, number 9780198294320, March.
  14. Daron Acemoglu, 2002. "Why Not a Political Coase Theorem? Social Conflict, Commitment and Politics," NBER Working Papers 9377, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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  16. Besley, Timothy & Coate, Stephen, 1998. "Sources of Inefficiency in a Representative Democracy: A Dynamic Analysis," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 88(1), pages 139-56, March.
  17. Bravo-Ortega, Claudio & de Gregorio, Jose, 2005. "The relative richness of the poor? natural resources, human capital, and economic growth," Policy Research Working Paper Series 3484, The World Bank.
  18. Sachs, Jeffrey D. & Warner, Andrew M., 1999. "The big push, natural resource booms and growth," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 59(1), pages 43-76, June.
  19. Anne D. Boschini & Jan Pettersson & Jesper Roine, 2007. "Resource Curse or Not: A Question of Appropriability," Scandinavian Journal of Economics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 109(3), pages 593-617, 09.
  20. Stephen Knack & Philip Keefer, 1995. "Institutions And Economic Performance: Cross-Country Tests Using Alternative Institutional Measures," Economics and Politics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 7(3), pages 207-227, November.
  21. Torvik, Ragnar, 2001. "Learning by doing and the Dutch disease," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 45(2), pages 285-306, February.
  22. Knack, Stephen & Keefer, Philip, 1995. "Institutions and Economic Performance: Cross-Country Tests Using Alternative Institutional Indicators," MPRA Paper 23118, University Library of Munich, Germany.
  23. Robinson, James A & Verdier, Thierry, 2002. "The Political Economy of Clientelism," CEPR Discussion Papers 3205, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  24. Gelb, A & Knight, John B & Sabot, R H, 1991. "Public Sector Employment, Rent Seeking and Economic Growth," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 101(408), pages 1186-99, September.
  25. Acemoglu, Daron & Robinson, James A, 1999. "Inefficient Redistribution," CEPR Discussion Papers 2122, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
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