Myth #1: Countries Are Poor Because They Don’t Have Enough Natural Resources
Photo by James Hubley
Possibly the most common answer to the question,“why is this country poor?” is “it doesn’t have enough natural resources.” The logic behind this answer is fairly straightforward: without natural resources, countries lack a fundamental source of employment and economic growth, thus leading to poverty. Many journalists and academics however, actually argue against this common rhetoric. According to the “paradox of plenty” or “resource curse” argument, which will be elaborated on later, natural resources are actually a cause of poverty, not a source of prosperity (Stewart). The reality is extremely complex, and likely doesn’t fall into the binary of either “this” or “that”. When dispelling development myths, we must be wary of not responding with myths of our own; rather, we must look at the facts, engage in debate, be open to criticism, and make sure to distinguish between causation and correlation.
The short answer to whether countries are actually poor because they don’t have enough resources, is that this may contribute to poverty in some cases; for example, a landlocked country may have no access to marine resources such as fish, or to easy trading routes, hurting its economy. On the other hand, having many natural resources, may also contribute to poverty in some cases; for example, valuable oil and mineral deposits in a country may nurture irredentist and internal conflicts over those resources, foster greed and facilitate corruption and patronage networks, or nourish vulnerability from other countries that yearn to take advantage of those resources (all assertions made by the “resource curse” argument) (Stewart).
Ultimately, not all countries that are poor are so as a result of their resources or lack thereof. There may be a correlation of either-or depending on the case at hand, but there are always other factors at play, and it is essential that we dig deep to find them.
Stewart, Patrick. “Why Natural Resources Are A Curse On Developing Countries And How To Fix it” The Atlantic.https://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2012/04/why-natural-resources-are-a-curse-on-developing-countries-and-how-to-fix-it/256508/ (Retrieved April 6th, 2017)