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The resource curse

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Countries that possess rich mineral deposits, it is widely assumed, are fortunate. Such deposits are assets, part of a country's natural capital. Mining is the key that converts dormant mineral wealth into schools, homes, ports, and other forms of capital that directly contribute to economic development. Over the past two decades, however, a more negative view of mining has emerged that questions the positive relationship between mineral extraction and economic development. The impetus for the alternative view came from empirical studies suggesting that countries where mining is important have not grown as rapidly as other countries. More recent studies have explored the possible reasons behind the disappointing performance of many mineral producing countries. While the central point of contention between the conventional and alternative views — namely, whether or not mining usually promotes economic development — remains unresolved, there is widespread agreement that rich mineral deposits provide developing countries with opportunities, which in some instances have been used wisely to promote development, and in other instances have been misused, hurting development. The consensus on this issue is important, for it means that one uniform policy toward all mining in the developing world is not desirable, despite the recent suggestions by some to the contrary. The appropriate public policy question is not should we or should we not promote mining in the developing countries, but rather where should we encourage it and how can we ensure that it contributes as much as possible to economic development and poverty alleviation.
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Keywords: Developing countries; Dutch disease; Mineral policy; Mining; Resource curse

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 2005-08-01

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