From Resource Curse to Blessing

New discoveries of natural resources in several African countries – including Ghana, Uganda, Tanzania, and Mozambique – raise an important question: Will these windfalls be a blessing that brings prosperity and hope, or a political and economic curse, as has been the case in so many countries?

KAMPALA – New discoveries of natural resources in several African countries – including Ghana, Uganda, Tanzania, and Mozambique – raise an important question: Will these windfalls be a blessing that brings prosperity and hope, or a political and economic curse, as has been the case in so many countries?

On average, resource-rich countries have done even more poorly than countries without resources. They have grown more slowly, and with greater inequality – just the opposite of what one would expect. After all, taxing natural resources at high rates will not cause them to disappear, which means that countries whose major source of revenue is natural resources can use them to finance education, health care, development, and redistribution.

A large literature in economics and political science has developed to explain this “resource curse,”and civil-society groups (such as Revenue Watch and the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative) have been established to try to counter it. Three of the curse’s economic ingredients are well known:

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