The Oil Curse: How Petroleum Wealth Shapes the Development of Nations

By Michael L. Ross | Go to book overview

CHAPTER ONE
The Paradoxical Wealth of Nations

It is the devil’s excrement. We are drowning in the devil’s
excrement.

—Juan Pablo Pérez Alfonso, former Venezuelan oil minister

I wish your people had discovered water.

—King Idris of Libya, on being told that a
US consortium had found oil

SINCE 1980, the developing world has become wealthier, more democratic, and more peaceful. Yet this is only true for countries without oil. The oil states—scattered across the Middle East, Africa, Latin America, and Asia—are no wealthier, or more democratic or peaceful, than they were three decades ago. Some are worse off. From 1980 to 2006, per capita incomes fell 6 percent in Venezuela, 45 percent in Gabon, and 85 percent in Iraq. Many oil producers—like Algeria, Angola, Colombia, Nigeria, Sudan, and again, Iraq—have been scarred by decades of civil war.

These political and economic ailments constitute what is called the resource curse. It is more accurately a mineral curse, since these maladies are not caused by other kinds of natural resources, like forests, fresh water, or fertile cropland. Among minerals, petroleum—which accounts for more than 90 percent of the world’s minerals trade—produces the largest problems for the greatest number of countries. The resource curse is overwhelmingly an oil curse.1

Before 1980 there was little evidence of a resource curse. In the developing world, the oil states were just as likely as the non-oil states to have authoritarian governments and suffer from civil wars. Today, the oil states are 50 percent more likely to be ruled by autocrats and more than twice as likely to have civil wars as the non-oil states. They are also more secretive, more financially volatile, and provide women with

1 I use the term “oil” to refer to both oil and natural gas, and use “oil wealth,” “petroleum wealth,” “oil production,” and “oil income” interchangeably. In appendix 1.1, I explain how I define and measure the value of a country’s oil and gas production. I classify countries as “oil producers” or “oil states” if they generate at least a hundred dollars per capita (in 2000 dollars) in income from oil and gas in a given year. In 2009, there were fifty-six oil states scattered across all regions of the globe (see table 1.1).

-1-

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The Oil Curse: How Petroleum Wealth Shapes the Development of Nations
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Illustrations ix
  • Tables xi
  • Preface xiii
  • Abbreviations xvii
  • Country Abbreviations xix
  • Chapter One - The Paradoxical Wealth of Nations 1
  • Chapter Two - The Trouble with Oil Revenues 27
  • Chapter Three - More Petroleum, Less Democracy 63
  • Chapter Four - Petroleum Perpetuates Patriarchy 111
  • Chapter Five - Oil-Based Violence 145
  • Chapter Six - Oil, Economic Growth, and Political Institutions 189
  • Chapter Seven - Good News and Bad News about Oil 223
  • References 255
  • Index 281
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