By Antonio Savoia, Senior Lecturer (Associate Professor) at the University of Manchester and a Non-Resident Senior Research Fellow at UNU-WIDER and Kunal Sen, Director of UNU-WIDER
Although increasingly challenged, we often hear that being resource rich can adversely affect growth prospects. Here we concentrate instead on a lesser-known aspect: how resource rich economies fare in terms of education, health, income inequality and poverty. The IMF classifies over 50 developing and emerging economies as resource rich. Many are in Africa, where a significant share of the world’s poor lives. With the increasing prices of many internationally traded commodities in the post-COVID recovery, resource revenues could provide a welcome boost to development spending for such governments.
A look at the data suggests that countries with greater income from natural resources do not seem to have a clear relationship with human development outcomes. The scatter plots in the figures 1-3 below show that there is a weak negative correlation for education and health outcomes and no correlation for poverty and inequality measures. The data also show significantly varying experiences among resource rich countries. For example, in Figure 1, Chad and Malaysia have very similar levels of resource rents as a ratio of GDP, but Malaysia’s school enrolment rate is over 70 percent while the corresponding figure for Chad is approximately 20 percent. Likewise, Somalia and Egypt have similar levels of resource abundance, but Egypt’s under-five mortality rate is less than 30 per 1,000 live births, while the corresponding figure for Somalia is about five times bigger (Figure 2). This suggests that countries with similar levels of resource rents can end up with significantly different achievements in terms of poverty, inequality, health, and education. The challenge is to explain why.Continue reading