The Curse of Black Gold: Oil Is Bad News for a Country; Far from Bringing Prosperity, It Is the Harbinger of Poverty, Malnutrition and Oppressive Government
Cohen, Nick, New Statesman (1996)
In the great 1970s sitcom Rising Damp, the late Leonard Rossiter played Rigsby, the miserable owner of a boarding house. In one episode, he was forced to find reasons to be cheerful when he had to talk a suicidal lodger down from the roof. After toying with the joys of the springtime, inspiration hit him. "Think of North Sea oil!" he cried. Those of us of a certain age can remember the thrill those three little words produced. Oil was going to take us from the dowdy 1970s and transform Britain into a prosperous and contented land.
It didn't quite work out like that. The dowdy 1970s were followed by the calamitous early 1980s, when unemployment went from one to four million. Much of the blame for the collapse of British manufacturing rested with Margaret Thatcher's demented monetarist experiment. North Sea oil revenues helped pay for the cost of keeping millions on benefit, so in that sense oil mitigated the worst effects of Thatcherism. But oil revenues also allowed Britain to tolerate mass unemployment and deeply damaged exports by further forcing up the already unsustainably high value of sterling.
Looking back, it is hard to see the oil as a blessing. In the developing world, the blessings of oil have been even more elusive. At about the time Rigsby was reeling in his tenant, Juan Pablo Perez Alfonzo, a Venezuelan oil minister and founder of the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries, gave a prophetic speech to his countrymen. "Ten years from now, 20 years from now, you will see, oil will bring us ruin. It's the devil's excrement. We are drowning in the devil's excrement."
The usual complaints about the dependence on oil are that it destroys the environment and starts wars. A new report from Christian Aid adds poverty and corruption to the list. * It is written …
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Publication information: Article title: The Curse of Black Gold: Oil Is Bad News for a Country; Far from Bringing Prosperity, It Is the Harbinger of Poverty, Malnutrition and Oppressive Government. Contributors: Cohen, Nick - Author. Magazine title: New Statesman (1996). Volume: 132. Issue: 4640 Publication date: June 2, 2003. Page number: 25+. © Not available. COPYRIGHT 2003 Gale Group.
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