As the pages of history turned, the wealthiest states often turned out to be those with the greatest access to resources and technology. In some cases, where resources are aplenty but there is an absence of the technology required to harness their full potential, economic success is harder to observe. Colonial powers from the West, for example, made the best use of their advanced technology to subjugate comparatively backward powers. Their targets were often states stuck in the medieval age, which are bountiful in terms of resources. South and South-East Asia and Africa attracted the most powers then, as they do now. However, there is a strange trend observed when one studies the countries rich in resources like, say, oil. Venezuela, the largest oil producer is, against all odds, suffering from one of the worst inflation crisis’ humankind has seen. This brings to the fore the question- is there such a thing as a Resource Curse?
It’s not just economic indicators. Countries facing this paradox of plenty are also witnessing lesser or less free democracy and worse human development indicators. A trend this widespread cannot be down to just coincidence. Broadly, it is fair to look at this problem from a post-colonial lens. Extra-activist colonial regimes were simply inherited by the ruling elite in these states. The rise of the brown sahib in India and the inevitable collapse of newly formed republics into dictatorial regimes are indicative of structural issues. In countries like Angola, the rich continue to get richer as income inequality becomes starker by the day. Often, these extra-activist regimes are aided by large corporations with their own vested interests. The two often collaborate and profit at the expense of the people en masse. Unfortunately, international condemnation aside, there is rarely any action taken to prevent such a gross misuse and exploitation of resources. This inaction might stem from the idea of protecting the corporate interests of world leaders, but today, accountability rarely ever translates into tangible action.
Kwamina Panford, Assistant Professor at Northeastern University studied how Ghana’s democratic and stable government utilised the oil and gas from the country’s newly discovered deep-sea oil fields. There were and still continue to be great hopes that the benefit of this oil accrues to all, but if history is any indicator, then Ghanaians would just be the latest people to fall prey to the Resource Curse.