Mark Gradstein, Marc Klemp, 23 June 2017

A large literature has argued that natural resources have a negative effect on economic development. The Brazilian data used in this column fail to confirm these findings. Economic activity, as measured using night-time light data, increases more during periods of rising oil prices in localities with better access to oil.  Oil revenue windfalls accruing to oil-rich locations and spillovers to adjacent locations drive this effect. 

Thorsten Beck, Steven Poelhekke, 26 February 2017

The financial sector plays a critical role in intermediating domestic savings into domestic investment, so it should serve as an important absorption tool for natural resource windfalls. Using a panel dataset of over 150 developed and developing countries, this column argues that unexpected exogenous windfalls from natural resource rents are not intermediated. The findings are consistent with the negative long-term relationship between the reliance of a country on natural resources and financial sector development.

James Robinson, Ragnar Torvik, Thierry Verdier, 27 July 2015

Economists have long understood that policy chosen by politics is unlikely to be socially optimal. This is because politicians face the probability of losing power and may discount the future too much, or act to improve their re-election probability. This column explores these issues taking into account the fact that future government revenue is uncertain. Public income volatility acts to reduce the efficiency of public policy. This has important implications for developing countries that rely on income from volatile sources, such as natural resource extraction.

Peter Debaere, Amanda Kurzendoerfer, 12 May 2015

Water management is a major challenge today. To guide efficient water allocation, it is essential to understand the drivers of water use. This column sheds light on this issue using US data from the 1950s until today. The findings show that US water withdrawal has stabilised, and has even decreased in the past decades. Technological improvements have been crucial towards that end. However, the shifting demand from agriculture and manufacturing to less-water intensive sectors has been just as important.

Mercedes Delgado, Christian Ketels, Michael Porter, Scott Stern, 18 September 2014

There is a consensus among economists that ‘deep roots’ – geography, natural endowments, and institutions – are important determinants of prosperity differences across countries. This column argues that deep roots matter, but they are neither the whole story nor an excuse for political inaction today. Current policies are important – especially the broad range of policies that shape the business environment and the sophistication of companies – and they are affected but not determined by the past.

Ernesto Crivelli, Sanjeev Gupta, 27 May 2014

Resource-rich countries face a peculiar set of challenges; natural wealth can be both a blessing and a curse. This column looks at links between natural-resource revenues and other taxes. Results suggest that these countries tend to substitute domestic taxes with natural-resource-based revenue; 30 cents in non-resource tax revenue are lost with each dollar of resource revenue. Worryingly, the substitution occurs disproportionately for growth-friendly taxes.

Ganeshan Wignaraja, 21 February 2013

Until 2012, the past decade saw Indonesia’s growth maintain a respectable momentum. This column argues that recent hints of political dirigisme presents Indonesia with a stark development choice. Policymakers can continue their tightening of political control – staving off the trade effects of a global crisis in the run up to elections next year – or they can orient the economy outward, with complementary policies to sustain long-term growth.

Otaviano Canuto, Matheus Cavallari, 12 October 2012

Using data series recently released by the World Bank (2011) on natural capital and other forms of countries’ wealth, this column revisits some of the conclusions reached in the literature on the relationship between natural resource abundance and income levels. The findings support the assertion that there is no clear deterministic evidence of natural resource abundance as a curse or a blessing; therefore, the effect on a country depends on other determinants.

Rabah Arezki, Thorvaldur Gylfason, Amadou Sy, 08 July 2012

The presence of natural resources poses a number of potential economic challenges, especially for developing countries. This column argues resource-rich countries need to look beyond the so-called resource curse and put into action innovative policies and institutions to confront their many challenges and reap the benefits of widely shared natural-resource wealth.

Erwin Bulte , Christa Brunnschweiler, 28 May 2012

The so-called resource curse suggests that resource booms are bad for development. One reason put forward is that fighting over resource rents leads to armed conflict. This column argues the evidence identifying resources as a cause of conflicts is weak and that the policy focus should be on institutional reform, rather than on resources per se.

Céline Carrère, Julien Gourdon, Marcelo Olarreaga, 15 May 2012

Regional integration schemes that include natural-resource-abundant countries have by and large been unsuccessful. Part of the reason is the uneven distribution of gains when resource-poor and resource-rich countries integrate. This column presents new evidence suggesting that the slow progress of regional integration efforts in the Middle East and North Africa can be explained by the reluctance of resource-rich countries to enter into trade agreements that will hurt them.

Michele Ruta, Anthony Venables, 21 April 2012

Around one fifth of global merchandise trade is in natural resources. Yet national policies manipulate trade flows and prices, and the problem is exacerbated by market failure in long-run extraction contracts. This column argues these problems could be addressed by extending the role of the WTO in the enforcement of resource-extraction agreements.

Marco Annunziata, 18 March 2012

Oil prices are again on the rise – will this derail the economic recovery? And what if there is an oil shock on the horizon? This column presents an overview of the oil market and its possible effects on the global economy. It argues that if there is a shock, the list of casualties will have Europe at the top with the US close behind.

Axel Dreher, Andreas Fuchs, 27 January 2012

China is often accused of providing ‘rogue aid’. China is said to be more interested in securing natural resources, export markets, and political alliances than concerned about the development of needy countries This column looks at the data on China’s aid allocations between 1996 and 2005. It finds that China is in fact no more self-serving than most Western donors.

Francesco Caselli, Andrea Tesei, 22 December 2011

Oil and other natural resources can be both a blessing and a curse. Incomes may rise, but the politics can soon turn nasty. This column looks at a large panel of countries and finds that this isn’t always the case. Discovering natural resources has no effect on the political system – if the country is already a democracy.

Mariya Aleksynska, Olena Havrylchyk, 22 September 2011

Foreign direct investment is a vital tool for building infrastructure and raising economic activity in the world’s poorer countries. This column describes the emergence of FDI between developing and transition economies (the South). It argues that these are different from traditional North-South flows. Although investors from the South are sometimes deterred by countries that have bad institutions, this is often outweighed by the presence of natural resources.

Antonio Cabrales, Esther Hauk, 17 June 2011

The natural-resource curse is now a staple in the development economist’s diet. Natural resources have tended to lead to lower economic growth, except in democratic countries or those with robust institutions. This column presents a political economy model to explain this phenomenon, focusing on the threat of revolutions.

Thorvaldur Gylfason, Per Wijkman, 13 November 2010

Since discovering oil in 1990, Equatorial Guinea has experienced massive growth that multiplied its GDP per capita many times over. But its oil wealth has not improved the well being of most of its inhabitants. This column argues that such resources belong to the citizenry under international law, and unelected governments that expropriate natural wealth are violating human rights.

Rick van der Ploeg, Anthony Venables, 01 November 2010

Dutch disease symptoms often plague economies that experience surges in foreign exchange due to natural resource or aid income. Discussion Paper 8086 analyses how an economy's capacity for absorbing capital determines the incidence and extent of Dutch disease.

Michele Ruta, 04 August 2010

Trade in natural resources accounts for a growing share of world trade and a growing share of policymakers’ attention. Given the economic, environmental, and political implications of natural resources, this column asks how to design rules that can promote mutual gains from resources trade. It provides recommendations for export policy, conservation policy, and domestic policy.