Collier (Economics/Oxford Univ.; Wars, Guns, and Votes: Democracy in Dangerous Places, 2009, etc.) presents a cogent argument for a major reassessment of natural-resource management.
Building on the startling data he analyzed in The Bottom Billion (2007), the author delves into some of the trickiest issues facing mankind, including two paradoxical questions: “Who owns natural resources?” and “Who deserves the profits that are borne from natural resources?” The answers are integral to the developing societies making up the “bottom billion,” whose potential to rise from poverty may depend on their ability to discover and manage their natural assets. Collier discusses the so-called “resource curse” and even posits—with ardent statistical support—that for a developing economy, discovering a boon of natural resources may not be in its economy’s best interest. Without proper regulation, the situation could quickly become ripe for plunder. However, if the country’s government handles the newfound commodity appropriately and correctly makes—and reinforces—a series of necessary decisions over the long term, the resources could bring about a sustained period of economic well-being. Collier details each of these decisions and their consequences. As much as 75 percent of the bottom billion’s natural resources may still be undiscovered, he writes, and the “failure to harness natural capital is the single-most important missed opportunity in economic development.” The author also argues that advanced prospecting techniques in these countries should be financed by public aid. In the second section of the book, Collier examines the same set of issues for naturally renewable commodities, a category that, while not facing the specific challenges of an issue like peak oil, deserves a close look. Despite a fair amount of dense economic analysis, the author does a nice job of presenting complex issues in easy-to-understand language.
An important book—another winner from Collier.