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The Resource Curse and Oil Revenues in Angola and Venezuela

  • City University of New York - Hunter College and Graduate Center


According to the theory of the resource curse, poor countries with large endowments of natural resources, especially oil, often do not achieve sustainable economic growth because the size and volatility of oil revenues encourage corruption, mismanagement, and authoritarian governments that fail to invest for the future or provide for the well-being of the majority of their populations. These are not consequences of resource riches per se, however, but of the political conditions under which they are exploited. Angola, a classic case of the resource curse, has experienced corrupt and authoritarian government since independence in 1975. Venezuela appears to have avoided the resource curse under President Hugo Chavez. The concept of resource curse, and accordingly its remedies, are multidimensional, encompassing honest government, sound economic management, and public welfare. The case of Venezuela shows that sound economic management is not sufficient to overcome the resource curse; a political and social revolution is required to serve the interests of the population as a whole.
Science & Society, Vol. 75, No. 3, July 2011, 348–378
The Resource Curse and Oil Revenues
in Angola and Venezuela
ABSTRACT: According to the theory of the resource curse, poor
countries with large endowments of natural resources, especially
oil, often do not achieve sustainable economic growth because
the size and volatility of oil revenues encourage corruption, mis-
management, and authoritarian governments that fail to invest for
the future or provide for the well-being of the majority of their
populations. These are not consequences of resource riches per
se, however, but of the political conditions under which they are
exploited. Angola, a classic case of the resource curse, has experi-
enced corrupt and authoritarian government since independence
in 1975. Venezuela appears to have avoided the resource curse
under President Hugo Chávez. The concept of resource curse,
and accordingly its remedies, are multidimensional, encompass-
ing honest government, sound economic management, and pub-
lic welfare. The case of Venezuela shows that sound economic
management is not suffi cient to overcome the resource curse; a
political and social revolution is required to serve the interests of
the population as a whole.
CAN POOR COUNTRIES HARNESS their oil wealth to promote
economic growth and improve the welfare of their populations,
or do they necessarily squander it in waste and corruption?
For many countries the record is not encouraging. According to the
* This is a revised version of a paper presented at the Global Studies Associa tion, New York,
June 2008, and at the Protest and Politics Workshop, City University of New York, May 2009.
I appreciate the helpful comments of Renate Bridenthal, Steve Ellner, Sujatha Fernandes,
Barbara Foley, Rose Anne Franco, Ernie Harsch, Dan Hellinger, Franz-Wilhelm Heimer,
Lenny Markowitz, George Martin, Mário Murteira, Fred Rosen, Mike Tanzer, Victor Wallis,
and Greg Wilpert.
theory of the resource curse, oil is an obstacle to development in
poor countries.
That experience, though common, is far from inevitable. But to
understand what conditions allow oil wealth to contribute to develop-
ment, one must specify what is meant by development and distinguish
among the hypothesized effects of the resource curse. Overcoming the
resource curse has been taken to mean promot ing economic growth,
diversified industrialization, improved social welfare, and government
accountability. All these goals are not the same, however, and they may
even be incompatible. For example, protecting oil from political con-
trol and sequestering revenues in investments outside of the country
have been proposed by advocates of the resource curse theory as the
remedy for economic inefficiency. Under such conditions, however,
oil revenues will not be used to meet social needs. That will be more
likely if their use is controlled by the political process.
In this paper I will compare Angola and Venezuela to illustrate
alternative ways of using oil wealth. The two countries illustrate three
different scenarios: Angola is a classic example of the resource curse,
while Venezuela has overcome it, at least to some degree. Venezuela
successfully channeled oil revenues into productive investment in the
1980s and 1990s when the national oil company operated autono-
mously from the state, preventing its revenues from being used to
finance social welfare expenditures. Since President Hugo Chávez
took office in 1999, Venezuela has reasserted political control of the
company and used its revenues for social programs. So oil is not inevi-
tably a “curse.” An oil-rich government can make political choices to
use its oil wealth to benefit its people.
The Economy of Oil Production
The price of oil rose from $8/barrel in January 1999 to a record
$147.27 on July 11, 2008. Most of that rise came after 2003, when
the price fluctuated around $28. The spectacular increase had sev-
eral causes, including price manipulation by the producer countries
through OPEC, supply disruptions due to war in Iraq and civil conflict
in Nigeria, the decline in the dollar’s value, and speculative portfolio
inflows. But the more structural cause was an increase in worldwide
demand, fueled by the industrial and consumer needs of China’s and
India’s fast-growing economies.
The boom was followed by an even more rapid crash, to a low of
$30.28 on December 23, 2008. By the following October, it rose again
above $80. The collapse followed the worldwide economic crash,
which rapidly reduced global demand. Further price movements will
depend in large measure on how quickly the world economy recovers.
But it is the tremendous increase in demand, the price rise, and the
concomitant increase in revenues to producer countries that underlay
the recent renewal of interest in the theory of the resource curse.
The claim of the resource curse is that, contrary to what might
seem to be common sense, poor countries with large oil reserves do
not often experience rapid or balanced economic growth. Oil rents
encourage inefficient management, corruption, failure to plan for the
long term, unresponsive and authoritarian government, and neglect of
the needs of the population. Oil production distorts currency exchange
rates, disrupts trade relations, and creates vested interests that leave
little space for alternative growth models. Windfall revenues encourage
excessive spending, even for legitimate purposes, without providing for
economic diversification to offset the eventual exhaustion of resources.
Many of these effects are not specific to oil but apply to the exploi-
tation of rents in general, especially mineral rents. Rent refers to
the discrepancy between the cost of production of a commodity and
its price. When the price of a commodity far exceeds its cost, actors
use political means to capture the rent. As Adam Smith observed of
ground rent, landlords “love to reap where they never sowed, and
demand a rent even for . . . natural produce” (2000, 56). Rent-seeking,
in other words, creates a bias toward unproductive activities. Own-
ers of natural resources have perverse incentives to use the rents
for consumption and short-term gain rather than investing them for
long-term development. In the case of oil, its centrality to the global
economy and the high profit on investments that are large in the
absolute but small in relation to the expected return make its effects
far more acute than is the case for other resources.
Oil as a commodity has several characteristics which underlie
the resource curse.1 First, it is vital to the international economy, a
source of energy for electrical power, transportation, and heat. Sec-
ond, it does not need to be produced, merely extracted. Third, it is
1 Hereafter, I will refer to oil specifi cally, rather than to natural resources in general. I remind
the reader, however, that other resources have the same characteristics, if in lesser degree.
depletable; oil once extracted is used, making oil revenue more like
the expenditure of an asset than like income. Fourth, production is
capital- and technology-intensive. Fifth, its price is high; its exceptional
value means that it can be sold at prices that generate large profits
relative to the cost of extraction. At the same time, however, its price
is highly volatile on the world mar ket (Humphreys, et al., 2007, 3–4;
Karl, 1997, 47–48; 2007, 3).
These characteristics are exogenous to the national economies of
oil-producing states. Endogenous characteristics, on the other hand,
are related to the fact that oil is frequently produced in an enclave.
Because it is extracted, rather than produced, the oil industry is likely
to be an economic enclave with few forward and backward linkages to
the rest of the economy. It is typically found in a geographical enclave
as well, since the location of oil deposits is random with respect to
the location of population centers and other economic activities. The
high capital and technology demands mean that transnational oil
corporations typically play a major role in production and distribu-
tion, further limiting its contribution to a national economy. Finally,
as a capital-intensive activity, it generates relatively little employment.
Taken together, all these factors often produce perverse incentives
for rent-seeking behavior. This has adverse effects, both economic and
political. On the economic side, the volatility of oil revenues, whether
because of varying cost of extraction over the life of an oil deposit
or fluctuations in the international price of oil, makes planning dif-
ficult. Because of its enclave character, oil produces few spinoffs for
the national economy as a whole; in particular, it discourages invest-
ment in infrastructure, social welfare, and education. An oil boom
makes a country vulnerable to the “Dutch disease,” whereby a rapid
increase in the exchange rate weakens domestic production in other
sectors because it becomes cheaper to import many goods rather than
produce them domestically, while goods produced for export become
more expensive in foreign markets — which does not conduce to a
diverse, sustainable economy capable of thriving after the oil boom is
over.2 The producer country becomes dependent on a transnational
2 The terms “resource curse” and “Dutch disease” are often used interchangeably (e.g., Oliveira
and Ali, 2006). In more precise usage, however, the resource curse embraces all the alleged
negative effects of oil on development, while Dutch disease refers to one aspect of the
resource curse, the infl ationary effect of a natural resources windfall (in the case of the
Netherlands, it was natural gas).
corporation whose interests are not generally the same as its own
(Humphreys, et al., 2007, 4–10; Karl, 1997, 34–37).
Political problems are a corollary. Most of the world’s poor oil-
producing states are weak states. Many of them became independent
less than half a century ago and others whose national existence goes
back further also have poorly developed institutions. The presence
of oil tends to aggravate that condition. First, oil can be an incentive
to internal political conflict, especially in ethnically divided states, as
groups compete for control of the resources (Collier and Hoeffler,
1999; Karl, 2007, 28 –29; for a contrary view, Fearon, 2005). Even in
the absence of overt conflict, states fail to develop strong institutions.
Extraordinary rents are an incentive to corruption and authoritari-
anism. A government living on oil revenues does not need to develop
a strong tax base or cultivate popular support through consistent pro-
grams. Deals with transnational corporations offer abundant opportu-
nities to demand bribes and kickbacks. J. S. Nye defines corruption (in
part) as “behavior which deviates from the formal duties of a public
role because of private-regarding (personal, close family, private clique)
pecuniary or status gains” (1967, 419). Corruption is an important part
of the resource curse syndrome. Especially in oil-rich societies with weak
governments, legitimate opportunities for enrichment are scarce, and
the magnitude of oil rents from international companies is vast com-
pared with other possible sources of wealth. Officials can readily divert
revenues from the public treasury to which they are officially destined.
The significance of corruption is therefore not only a matter of morality.
Nye’s definition emphasizes the formal duties of public office, which
can be defined relatively clearly. “Corruption,” therefore, can be taken
as a descriptive term implying no necessary moral judgment; that is how
I take it in this paper. The opportunity for illegitimate appropriation is
a structural feature of the economy.
Unaccountable rulers neglect the welfare of the population; in
particular, they fail to promote education and health programs. They
can maintain power by coopting or coercing different segments of the
population. Overall, rent-rich governments tend strongly to author-
itarianism and inefficiency in development and welfare pro grams
(Humphreys, et al., 2007, 10–14; Karl, 1997; 2007, 16–25). In particular,
they do not invest adequately in education — thereby neither provid-
ing for social welfare needs nor producing human capital, creating a
further impediment to development (Gylfason, 2001).
Not all of these effects occur at any one time in any one oil-
producing country. Nevertheless, they are sufficiently common to
account for the surprisingly poor growth records of oil-producing
countries as a group. Resource-poor countries grew four times as fast as
oil-producing countries between 1970 and 1993. Many oil-producing
countries lost ground after the collapse of the two oil booms of the
1970s. One of the countries examined in this paper, Venezuela, was a
catastrophic example: between 1979 and 1999, real per capita income
fell by 27% (Karl, 2007, 5; Wilpert, 2007, 13).
There are exceptions, however. None of these outcomes is fore-
ordained or intrinsic to the production of oil. All of them depend
on the nature of political institutions in an oil-producing country,
and are, at least in principle, susceptible to change through effective
public policies. That those policies are rarely adopted is a testament
to the fact that weak institutions are self-reinforcing and rents reward
corruption and authoritarianism. Countries that are exceptions to
the resource curse, such as Norway, differ significantly from the typi-
cal oil producer either in the economy of oil production or in the
allocation of revenues in the national budget. In this paper I will
contrast Angola and Venezuela. Angola has enormous oil revenues
but a corrupt, authoritarian government which does little for the
welfare of its people. Venezuela under Hugo Chávez, in contrast, has
to a degree escaped the resource curse: in particular, it has generous
social programs funded by oil.
It might be argued that the comparison of these two countries is
misleading, because they are so different in so many respects. However,
as Terry Lynn Karl shows in The Paradox of Plenty (1997), the resource
curse has arisen in countries at many different levels of development.
The five countries she examines closely (Iran, Nigeria, Algeria, and
Indonesia, as well as Venezuela), she argues, are heterogeneous in
every respect except the possession of oil; yet all of them went through
similar crises as a result of the oil shocks of the 1970s (1997, 32). That
Venezuela since 1999 is an exception, when it was the type case in The
Paradox of Plenty, shows that political changes can create conditions
to overcome the resource curse.
The resource curse is a complicated phenomenon with many
dimensions. In this paper I will emphasize three: deficient social wel-
fare provision, poor economic management, and corruption. Many
accounts of the resource curse treat all of these indistinctly. But they
do not always occur together and their remedies are not always com-
patible. In particular, a drive for economic efficiency within the oil
sector and the provision of social welfare benefits may demand dif-
ferent policies. Welfare benefits are costly and, especially in the age
of neoliberalism, have been seen as candidates for budget-cutting to
promote economic growth. In comparing Angola and Venezuela I will
argue that in searching for a cure for the resource curse it is necessary
to specify for which of its aspects a cure is sought.
The Oil Sectors of Angola and Venezuela
Angola and Venezuela have very different histories with regard
to oil exploitation. Angola became the largest producer in Africa in
2008, supplanting Nigeria. Oil contributes about 45% of the country’s
GDP, 90% of exports, and 90% of government revenues (Table 1). Oil
from Angola, like that of the other countries on the Gulf of Guinea,
is mostly offshore. These countries’ oil is attractive to foreign (espe-
cially U. S.) companies because it is high in quality and close to major
markets, notably the United States, and because its offshore location
reduces the political risk (but concomitantly accentuates its enclave
character and lack of linkages with the local economy).
Oil was discovered in Angola in 1955 and exploitation began under
the Portuguese colony. By 1973 it was Angola’s chief export, amounting
to 30% of exports. Oil exploitation continued during a 13-year war of
liberation, culminating in independence in 1975, and a civil war that
lasted from 1977 to 2002. The national oil company Sociedade Nacional
de Combustíveis de Angola (Sonangol) was established in 1976, based
on the departing SACOR, the Portuguese oil concessionaire under
the colony. Sonangol is the sole concessionaire for oil exploration and
Oil Industry, Angola and Venezuela
Angola Venezuela
% of GDP 45 33
% of exports 90 75
% of government revenue 90 50
Production, 2007 1.7 2.4
(million bpd)
Sources: Oliveira and Ali, 2006, 4; Energy Information Administration, 2007; 2008b, 148.
production in the country (Alexander and Gilbert, 2008, 18 –20; Energy
Information Administration, 2008a, 3; Ferreira, 2006, 25).
Most of Angola’s oil is in Cabinda, an enclave territorially sepa-
rate from Angola, sandwiched on the coast between the Republic of
the Congo and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. It has both
onshore and offshore oil. Angola exports 90% of its crude oil, mostly
to the United States and China. Its domestic consump tion in 2007 was
approximately 60,000 barrels per day (bpd), of which approximately
two thirds was refined at the country’s sole refinery in Luanda, the
rest imported. A new refinery is being developed in Lobito (Energy
Information Administration, 2008a, 2–5).
Angola joined OPEC in 2007. It received a quota of 1.9 million
bpd. As of January 2008, its proven reserves were calculated at 9.0 bil-
lion barrels, up from 8.0 billion a year earlier. Extensive explorations
are going on both onshore and offshore, and further major discover-
ies are expected (Energy Information Administration, 2008a, 1 –2).
Production has risen rapidly: from 701,000 bpd in 2000 it more
than doubled to 1.7 million bpd in 2007 (Oliveira, 2007, 603; Energy
Information Administration, 2008b, 148). It is carried out by Sonangol
in partnership with foreign companies. ExxonMobil, BP, Shell, and
Total, the major partners, work primarily under production sharing
agreements (PSAs) and to a lesser degree joint ventures (JVs). In a
PSA, the foreign partner pays the costs of exploration and develop-
ment; it then takes all the profit from the “cost oil” until it has recov-
ered its investment, then shares “profit oil” with the government,
so the government does not share any risk in exploration. Under a
joint venture, the foreign concessionaire and the government share
investment costs. An advantage of the PSA to the producing country
is that the oil company bears all the initial cost and risk. But since
the host government only begins to receive money from “profit oil,”
unevenness in the flow and variations in the international price of oil
make the host country’s income more uncertain than the company’s
(Alexander and Gilbert, 2008, 20; Gary and Karl, 2003, 10).
Venezuela’s oil sector is larger and its history longer than Angola’s.
The first well was drilled in the second decade of the last century
(1912 or 1913, according to different sources; Lander, 2001, 26; Wil-
pert, 2007, 87) and the first international oil company, Shell, became
involved in 1917. Oil was nationalized in 1976 and a single national
oil company, Petróleos de Venezuela SA (PDVSA), was created.
Most of the relevant data on the size, production, and potential
of the oil sector in Venezuela are politically contested. For example,
the Venezuelan embassy in Washington claims a production of 3.3
million bpd; according to the U. S. Department of Energy’s Energy
Information Administration, it is 2.8 million. Similarly controversial
is the size of its reserves: 89 billion barrels of crude oil, according to
the embassy; 80 billion, according to the EIA. In addition, its Orinoco
Belt has reserves of 1.2 trillion barrels of extra-heavy crude (embassy
estimate), more difficult and more expensive to extract and refine
(Gobierno Bolivariano de Venezuela, 2008; Energy Information
Administration, 2007).
There is no disagreement, however, that Venezuelan oil is econom-
ically, politically, and strategically important, both domestically and
internationally. Oil accounts for about 80% of Venezuela’s exports,
half of total government revenues, and one third of GDP (Table 1).
It is the ninth largest oil producer in the world, the sixth largest in oil
exports, and the fourth largest source of U. S. oil imports, amounting
to 1.41 million bpd in 2006.
The Curse of Angola
Angola can be regarded as the quintessential case of the resource
curse — for Tony Hodges (2004), it is “a graphic example of how
developing countries with large natural resources — in particular oil
and other minerals — are among those most prone to poor gover-
nance, armed conflict and poor performance in economic and social
development.” Angola possesses immense mineral wealth: in addition
to being the largest oil producer in Africa, it is the world’s fourth
largest source of diamonds. This wealth financed 25 years of civil war
beginning in 1977, two years after independence from Portugal. The
hallmarks of the resource curse have followed: a corrupt, rent-seeking
government which made secret deals with foreign oil companies and
completely disregarded the well-being of the population.
As a Portuguese colony, Angola had been underdeveloped and
impoverished. In 1960 its main export was coffee. Unprocessed agricul-
tural goods constituted 56% of exports. But in the 1960s, the colonial
power began to develop its oil, at first in the Cabinda enclave (Ferreira,
2006, 25; Hodges, 2001, 90–91).
The liberation struggle against Portugal began in 1961. Three
competing factions emerged: the Popular Movement for the Lib-
eration of Angola (MPLA), the National Front for the Liberation
of Angola (FNLA), and the National Union for the Total Indepen-
dence of Angola (UNITA). They were at odds with each other as
much as with the colonial power (Hammond, 1988, 47–51; Mar-
cum, 1978).
The independence settlement nominally created a coalition
among the three forces, but they quickly fell into fighting among
themselves. Angola became a pawn in the cold war and each of the
factions had foreign patronage: the MPLA from the Soviet Union
and Cuba, UNITA from South Africa and the United States, and the
FNLA from Zaire and, during the independence struggle, China.
After a rapprochement between the governments of Angola and
Zaire in 1978 and 1979, however, the FNLA lost its sanctuaries and
rapidly crumbled (Hodges, 2001, 39). The war continued between
the MPLA and UNITA. Despite their differences in ideology and
international alliances, both were centralized and dominated by a
single leader, the MPLA by President José Eduardo dos Santos (after
the first president, Agostinho Neto, died in 1979) and UNITA by its
leader Jonas Savimbi.
In power, Dos Santos and the MPLA rapidly turned authoritarian.
Espousing Marxism–Leninism, the MPLA adopted a model of social-
ism based on a centralized command economy. It concentrated rule
in the president and created a series of mechanisms to keep itself in
power and enrich its agents. It purged factional rivals after a 1977
coup attempt. Thousands were killed in the repression that followed.
Health and education programs implemented immediately on
independence quickly collapsed as the war dominated the country
and the elite became more concerned with enriching itself than with
promoting egalitarian development (Vidal, 2008, 205–13). In a prec-
edent that was to take on much greater magnitude with the oil boom,
military expenditures were channeled outside the normal budgetary
process and kickbacks were routine. With the economy in shambles,
and with the waning of the cold war, in the 1980s the MPLA began to
contemplate abandoning its centralist economic model for market-
oriented reforms; in 1990 the MPLA formally foreswore its Marxist–
Leninist ideology and the one-party system.
But officeholders’ rent-seeking continued apace. Newly privatized
firms were appropriated by the politically favored. The creation of
an ostensible multiparty system only increased the number of people
to be bought off (Hodges, 2008; Munslow, 1999; LeBillon, 2001).
Corrupt and incompetent government compounded the ravages of
the war, which devastated the economy and displaced hundreds of
thousands as refugees (Birmingham, 2002, 173; Ferreira, 2006, 27).
After an aborted peace settlement in 1991, the war continued until
Savimbi was killed in combat in 2002. The insurgency then collapsed
and a peace agreement, now a lasting one, was reached. While conflict
with UNITA ceased, the Front for the Liberation of the Enclave of
Cabinda (FLEC) continued small-scale guerrilla operations.
Especially after the withdrawal of the competing cold war pow-
ers, the civil war was a naked struggle for power, in which “minerals
provided both the prize of victory and the means for achieving it”
(Hodges, 2004). The MPLA controlled the oil, and UNITA controlled
the extraction of diamonds. The government actively sought foreign
partners to explore and drill for oil starting in the 1980s, not only in
Cabinda but off the coast of Angola proper. Even with war raging, oil
production mounted steadily, from 120,000 bpd in 1982 to 701,000
bpd in 1997 (Oliveira, 2007, 603). Corruption was rife. Foreign conces-
sionaires’ signature bonuses, in the millions of dollars, were deposited
abroad and much of the revenue was sequestered in a secret “paral-
lel budget” with no public accountability. As James Ferguson puts
it, “neither the oil nor most of the money it brings in ever touches
Angolan soil” (2005, 378).
Since the end of the war, the combination of increased produc-
tion and record prices for oil has spurred dramatic economic growth,
bringing an ostensible boom. Cumulative economic growth reached
67.5% between 2003 and 2006 (20.6% in 2005, 18.6% in 2006), mainly
due to oil production (Centro de Estudos e Investigação Científica,
2007, 18–19; International Monetary Fund, 2006; Council on Foreign
Relations, 2007).
Most of the population received no benefit, however (Table 2).
Though oil wealth drove per capita GDP up to US$2,335 (at purchasing
power parity) in 2005, edging Angola into the ranks of middle-income
countries, income distribution is extremely skewed. The poverty rate
is estimated at 68%. Angola also ranks among the lowest in the world
on other social indicators: the Human Development Index stood at
.446 in 2005.3 Its combined (primary, secondary, and tertiary) school
enrollment ratio was 25.6% and life expectancy was 41.7 years (United
Nations Devel opment Program, 2007, 232).
The national budget shows little effort to alleviate poverty or
improve the standard of living of the population. Expenditures on
education and health, as a proportion of GDP, actually fell from 2001
to 2005: education from 3.3% to 2.1%, health from 2.8% to 1.4%
(Central Intelligence Agency, 2008; Rocha, 2006, 55–57). A rough
but serviceable measure of a country’s effort to improve its popula-
tion’s well-being can be derived by comparing its GDP per capita
to its human development index. A country whose HDI is signifi-
cantly higher than would be predicted from its average income can
be assumed to be devoting substantial efforts to improving the social
level; conversely, an HDI significantly lower than its GDP per capita
would predict suggests a weak government effort. Angola’s rank is
128 of 174 countries in GDP per capita, and 162 of 177 countries
in HDI, so the social level of the population is much lower than its
wealth should make possible. On two of the components of HDI it is
nearly the worst-off country in the world: its school enrollment ratio
is ranked 170 of 172, and its life expectancy 174 of 177 (See Table 2).
3 The Human Development Index is a measure of the social well-being of the population,
based on per capita income, literacy, school enrollment, and infant mortality. It is computed
for all countries and published annually by the United Nations Development Program in
its Human Development Report (2007). It ranges from zero to one.
Social indicators, 2005
Angola Venezuela
Adult literacy 67.4% 93.0%
Rank 109 of 139 42 of 139
Life expectancy 41.7 years 73.2 years
Rank 174 of 177 61 of 177
Human Development Index .446 .792
Rank 162 of 177 74 of 177
GNP per capita US$ 2,335 US$ 6,632
Rank 128 of 174 88 of 174
Source: United Nations Development Program, 2007: 230, 232.
Authoritarian governing practices established during the war have
continued into the present. The human rights record was rated as
poor by most observers, including Human Rights Watch (2004) and
the Department of State (2008), which reported unlawful killings by
police, military, and private security forces; arbitrary arrest, detention,
and torture in life-threatening prison conditions; lack of due process in
an inefficient and overburdened judicial system; and forced evictions.
In particular, corruption continued to be widespread and account-
ability was limited, although some steps had been taken to increase
transparency. The country has been deemed one of the most corrupt
in the world by a variety of sources. In its ranking of 163 countries in
2006 from the least to the most corrupt, Transparency International
gave Angola a rank of 142, with a score of 2.2 on a ten-point scale (an
improvement from rank 98 out of 102 with a score of 0.3 in 2002)
(Transparency International, n.d.). The Transparency International
ratings have been criticized for being based on reputation, not hard
data; but the evidence from closer studies suggests if anything an
even worse record. Corruption has been documented by journalists
(Africa Confidential, 2008; Gumede, 2006; Shaxson, 2007) and aca-
demic researchers (Hodges, 2001; 2004; Ferreira, 2005; 2006; LeBil-
lon, 2001; Munslow, 1999). It has been denounced by the IMF (2006),
the Department of State, in its annual human rights reports (DOS,
2008 and earlier years), and nongovernmental organizations — in the
United States, Human Rights Watch (2004); in the United Kingdom,
Catholic Relief Services (Gary and Karl, 2003), Global Witness (2001
and 2004), and Chatham House (Vines, et al., 2005); in South Africa,
the Institute for Democracy in South Africa (Alexander and Gilbert,
2008). The U. S. Council on Foreign Relations (2007), more measured
in its pro nouncement, nevertheless emphasizes the need for reform
and points to ways that the government, given the will, could produce
it. Angola demonstrates the close connection, noted by Amartya Sen
(2000) among others, between observance of civil and political rights,
on the one hand, and economic and social rights, on the other.
Secrecy keeps the wheels of corruption rolling. Though legally
all oil revenue is required to be deposited in the National Bank of
Angola, in fact much of it goes into the parallel budget, deposited
in special accounts, often abroad, for the presidency and Sonangol,
the national oil company. Offshore money laundering, overinvoicing
of procurement and sales, loans backed by future oil production (a
deliberately deceptive method of borrowing), and overpriced military
procurement are all rife (Global Witness, 2004, 40). Transnational oil
companies cooperate in these practices because the oil (in steadily
increasing quantities) is too big a prize to resist. With respect to the
underreporting of oil revenue, the Economist Intelligence Unit said
that “Angola is clearly in a class of its own” (quoted by Gary and Karl,
2003, 33).
The government has also directly threatened oil companies that
have responded to pressures for disclosure. In February 2001, BP
offered to release data on its payments to the government, but reneged
when Sonangol threatened to terminate its contract for violation of
contractually guaranteed confidentiality (Global Witness, 2004, 56).
Calls for transparency, accountability, and efficient management in
the collection and expenditure of revenue are frequently heard from
NGOs, but the case of Sonangol illustrates the difference between
efficiency and probity. From its founding in 1976, Sonangol was kept
independent and free of the race for spoils, the anti-corporate men-
tality, and the state-led economic management that the MPLA put
into practice in the rest of the economy. Over time it has become
a major international player with diversified holdings including air
and maritime transport subsidiaries, telecommunication, insurance,
marketing and trading subsidiaries in the United States, the United
Kingdom, Hong Kong, and Singapore; its socially beneficent activities
include scholarships for children to study abroad and financing of
two Angolan football teams (Oliveira, 2007, 599–605).
Its revenues do not contribute to development, however. Instead,
as Ricardo Soares de Oliveira shows, it accumulates riches at the ser-
vice of the President and his clique. The paradoxical condition of
effective management in the company, protected from the corruption
which is otherwise general, leads Oliveira to characterize Angola as a
“successful failed state” (2007, 617) — successful at the purpose for
which it is intended, enriching the elites, even as it fails to provide for
the country as a whole. Sonangol calls into question the assumption
that efficient management will put oil revenues at the service of the
public good.
While having officially abandoned socialism, the MPLA still prac-
tices a centralized model of development, emphasizing high technol-
ogy, big projects, and international borrowing. The welfare of the
population is not a serious consideration.
Venezuela: Escaping the Resource Curse?
“Very little happens in Venezuela that does not have to do, directly
or indirectly, with oil,” according to the scholars Luis E. Lander and
Margarita López Maya (2002). The oil history of Venezuela is very
different from that of Angola, going back to the beginning of the
last century. It is also a much more developed country. But as Karl
shows, oil has had similar effects on countries with very different prior
developmental trajectories (1997, 32). The western hemisphere’s
largest oil reserves have been even more fateful for Venezuela than
have Angola’s for its own history.
The case of Venezuela is crucial to the study of the resource curse,
for two reasons: first, oil has been central to Venezuela’s fortunes
under Hugo Chávez, but the Chávez regime has partially escaped
the resource curse. Second, as I have mentioned, Venezuela (before
1999) occupies a central place in the most widely read discussion
of the resource curse, Karl’s The Paradox of Plenty (1997). Venezuela
under Chávez is an exception in two senses: to the general rule of
the resource curse in poor oil-producing countries, and to its own
history. I will examine what it is that has allowed Venezuela to escape
the typical pattern.
If the oil story in Angola is one of failure to serve public pur-
poses, the story in Venezuela is in some ways the opposite. During
the boom years of the 1970s, oil was the essential underpinning of a
social democratic project, with generous welfare provisions and great
developmental ambitions. After the bust, though PDVSA remained
nationalized, it operated much as a private transnational oil com-
pany, pursuing capitalist efficiency and insulating itself from political
demands. Though it eschewed the overtly corrupt practices which
have characterized Angola, the result was similar to that in Angola
in one sense: oil revenues financed investment for the growth of the
company, largely by acquiring foreign assets. They did not contribute
to the needs of the population, and living standards deteriorated. One
alleged effect of the resource curse is corruption and lack of transpar-
ency; another is an unresponsive government that disregards social
needs. In the former respect, Venezuela after the bust escaped the
resource curse; in the latter respect, it exemplified it.
Under President Hugo Chávez, Venezuela has taken a different
path. The Venezuelan government is using its oil revenue to underpin
his political project of “twenty-first century socialism” — economic
development under the aegis of an interventionist state, economic
redistribution and political incorporation for the poor masses of the
population, and Third World solidarity in defiance of the United
States. It promoted the revival of production quotas for OPEC coun-
tries to raise prices and revenues (aided, to be sure, by the huge
increase in worldwide demand) and has dedicated a substantial share
of those revenues to social programs in education, health, and subsi-
dized consumption. It has asserted national control over its petroleum
resources, challenging transnational oil companies. Asserting control
and financing domestic programs have made oil a political weapon.
The example of Venezuela demonstrates that the resource curse is not
inevitable but is the consequence of deliberate policy choices, and can
be exorcised by a government that applies the necessary political will.
Dominated by transnational oil companies in the early 20th cen-
tury, the Venezuelan oil industry began to shake off that domination
with a 1943 hydrocarbons law raising taxes and giving the government
greater control. Since the 1960s, Venezuela has worked to manipu-
late the international oil market in its favor. It was a major initiator
of OPEC in 1960.
At the time of the first oil price shock, oil had given Venezuela
grandiose ambitions. When Carlos Andrés Pérez became president
in 1974, he announced that he would use the new revenues to fund
ambitious projects to create la Gran Venezuela. Planning to “sow the
oil” and reap a diversified, sustainable economy, Pérez created a
welfare state with medical and social security programs and mas-
sive industrialization projects involving vast investments, many of
which failed to come to fruition. In Karl’s account, Venezuela now
experienced the resource curse at its worst. At the same time, these
ambitions exemplified what Fernando Coronil has called the “magi-
cal state” with prospects based on oil’s “power to awaken fantasies”
(1997, 2).
While the dream held, Pérez nationalized all oil holdings in 1976,
creating Petróleos de Venezuela SA (PDVSA) and compensating for-
eign owners. The second oil price shock in 1979 led to even greater
excess under Pérez’s successor, Luís Herrera Campíns. With the oil
bust, Venezuela borrowed heavily from international banks to sustain
government programs. Through boom and bust, however, the govern-
ment did not plan seriously for the future or build state structures
adequate to manage the windfall (Ellner, 2008, 51–88; Hellinger,
2006–2007; Karl, 1997, 78–184; Wilpert, 2007, 87–92).
Crisis came in 1989. Pérez was reelected president in 1988 on
a populist platform. But immediately after he took office in 1989,
under pressure from the IMF, he announced a package of austerity
measures. Rioting broke out across the country, especially in Caracas
(the caracazo) where the brutal response left hundreds dead. Pérez
was forced out of office in a corruption scandal in 1993, leaving his
successors saddled with the collapse.
The 1980s and 1990s also saw what Bernard Mommer (who later
became deputy oil minister under Chávez) characterized as two par-
allel but opposite conspiracies. The first was in the military. Young
officers led by Hugo Chávez, disgusted at the corrupt government,
founded the Bolivarian Revolutionary Army (EBR-200, later renamed
Bolivarian Revolutionary Movement) on the 200th anniversary of the
birth of Simón Bolívar. Two coups were attempted in 1992, the first
led by Chávez. Both coups failed, and Chávez was jailed for two years,
but he began to attract the popular acclaim that was to win him the
presidency seven years later.
The second conspiracy was among PDVSA executives. They had
an essentially capitalist vision which aimed to restore sound manage-
ment and operate the firm independent of the national executive
to maximize profits. They undercut OPEC by pumping as much oil
as possible even when the price was low and OPEC was calling for
restrictions. They “internationalized” the company by investing abroad
in refineries and distribution facilities (including the U. S. gasoline
company Citgo, wholly owned by PDVSA), won court decisions to
bring back foreign investment under very favorable terms, evaded
Venezuelan taxes through creative accounting, and sequestered profits
outside of the country and the Venezuelan treasury (Lander, 2001;
Mommer, 2003).
This transformation of PDVSA, known as the apertura, or opening
to foreign investment, is seen differently by different observers. For
Karl, it represented reform in response to a crisis, a solution to the
resource curse. For Hellinger, Mommer, and Wilpert, it represented
the sacrifice of national sovereignty and the general good of the popu-
lation to the interest of international capital, a perpetuation of the
resource curse in a different form.
Since 1999, and especially since 2004, Venezuela’s oil policy has
been the opposite: redirection of PDVSA to serve public purposes
and allocation of the revenues to meet the needs of the population.
This turnabout is inseparable from Chávez’ nationalist revolution,
bolstered by the soaring price of oil.
Chávez was elected president in 1998, anticipating a wave of pro-
gressive presidents in Latin America in the new century (Hammond,
2008). Immediately on taking office in 1999, he called a referendum
to convoke a constituent assembly, then an election for the assembly,
and finally a referendum on the new constitution. Chávez’s positions
and his supporters all won handily. The constitution rings with revo-
lutionary pronouncements promising direct participation in politics
and economic and social benefits for the people (Wilpert, 2007, 21,
When Chávez was elected, the price of oil had hit a low point,
eight dollars, following the 1997 worldwide slump. He apparently
had no clear plans for PDVSA, although the new constitution guar-
anteed state ownership of the company (though existing production
agreements with foreign companies were untouched). In OPEC, on
the other hand, Chávez persuaded fellow members in 2000 to revive
production quotas (Lander, 2001, 28–30; Wilpert, 2007, 97).
At home Chávez issued a series of progressive decree-laws in
November 2001, including an agrarian reform law and a hydrocarbons
law which nearly doubled the royalties paid to the treasury by PDVSA
or foreign companies (Wilpert, 2007, 95). These measures and, even
more, its loss of influence led the opposition to start organizing, first
an attempted coup on April 11, 2002, then a strike in PDVSA begin-
ning in December. The two-month shutdown crippled production,
which fell from over three million bpd to a low of 25,000 during the
strike; it cost over seven billion dollars (Lander, 2005, 12). According
to company sources, however, production had risen again by mid-2004
almost to pre-strike levels. Others disputed the claim but agreed that
the company had made a surprising recovery (Forero, 2004). The
opposition’s next major assault was a recall referendum in August,
but Chávez won handily with 59% of the vote.
In response to these assaults, Chávez radicalized the revolution,
in economic policy generally, oil policy in particular, and social wel-
fare policy. He moved to extend control over PDVSA. Approximately
18,000 employees (about half the company’s workforce) who had
struck were fired. In 2005, joint ventures were imposed on foreign
companies to replace the existing operating agreements, with Ven-
ezuela taking majority control and changing the taxation rules to
raise revenue and make evasion more difficult. In 2007 the remaining
production sites under private control were nationalized, affecting
production of heavy crude in the Orinoco oil belt.
The significance of government control over the nation’s oil is
far greater than the economic value of the revenue. Because primary
commodity dependence has long been a mechanism of imperial-
ist domination, challenges to foreign companies and to privatizing
domestic interests are an assertion of national sovereignty and a vic-
tory over imperialism. Chávez harnesses oil production to his foreign
policy, offering discounted oil to neighboring countries to promote
Latin American integration and counter U. S. influence in the region.
Reliance on and reinforcement of OPEC asserts the power of resource
producers over against the wealthier consumer nations. Subsidies for
heating oil for poor communities in the United States form part of
the rhetorical barrage against the imperialist enemy (Ellner, 2008,
118–20; Weisbrot and Sandoval, 2008, 22; Wilpert, 2007, 25, 96–99).
The domestic counterpart of anti-imperialism is the empower-
ment of the poor and working class, and the elevation of their sym-
bolic and material status. The government has created social projects,
known as misiones, to provide health care, education, job training,
housing and urban infrastructure in the massive shantytowns, agrar-
ian reform, and subsidized food. The missions are organized locally,
involving local participants in the execution (if not necessarily in the
planning and initiation) of the projects. The significance of these
missions is greater than the provision of services; greater, even, than
the opportunity for poor people to organize and participate in run-
ning their communities. In today’s Venezuela the poor are accorded
a status and recognition that reverses the inferiority to which they had
been relegated throughout the country’s history. As Coronil (2008a,
3) puts it, “now it is impossible to participate in politics in Venezuela
without recognizing the centrality of common people.”
The prospects for Chávez’s revolution will depend on the future
course of the price of oil and on the government’s success in avoiding
the resource curse. Given the heavy dependence of the Venezuelan
economy on oil, the resource curse theory would predict that the
current prosperity is all too vulnerable to the recent price decline.
Many analysts today have suggested that Venezuela is headed for
another bust. As already mentioned, all assessments of the Venezuelan
economy appear to be highly ideological. Those who sympathize with
the Chávez government are eager to credit it with a viable strategy for
sustainable economic growth, while its opponents wish to prove cor-
ruption, mismanagement, and a coming economic collapse (see, for
example, the debate between Rosenberg, 2007, and Oil Wars, 2007,
about the management of PDVSA; that between Rodriguez, 2008, and
Weisbrot, 2008, about poverty reduction; and the collection of views
of supporters and critics of Chávez’s oil policy in Coronil, 2008b). I
will evaluate the occurrence of the resource curse in Venezuela on
the basis of four criteria: corruption, social spending, sustainable eco-
nomic growth, and the response to the price collapse in 2008. I will
argue that, while the outlook is mixed, there are signs that Venezuela’s
development strategy has defeated the resource curse.
Corruption. Political favoritism in hiring and kickbacks in purchasing
are widely rumored. Venezuela ranked 138 on the 2005 Transparency
International Index, just above Angola (Transparency International,
n.d.). Corruption is intrinsically hard to verify. It has been widely
reported in academic and journalistic sources as well as in everyday
conversation among Venezuelans, although in his first campaign for
president, Chávez promised to attack it vigorously. Complaints are even
common among Chávez supporters, especially in the grassroots orga-
nizations. But some academic accounts mention corruption only in
passing, as if taking it for granted, without specific allegations (Corrales,
205, 107; Ellner, 2008, 184; McCoy, 2005, 120; Ortiz, 2004, 87–90).
The most detailed accusations are leveled by Gustavo Coronel
of the conservative Cato Institute in Washington. Coronel, claiming
that corruption under Chávez has reached record levels, uses a broad
definition of corruption that mixes allegations of financial irregularity
with admittedly political criteria. He seems to view any expansion of
government power as necessarily corrupt. His examples range from
political control of the oil company and subsidies to oil purchasers
abroad such as Cuba and poor communities in the United States to
inadequate garbage collection. It is only by that broad definition that
he can claim that “the eight-year period of Chávez’s government has
been hypercorrupt, surpassing all preceding governments in both
incidence and intensity of corruption” (Coronel, 2006, 8).
Gregory Wilpert, an acknowledged sympathizer of the Chávez
regime, recognizes the prevalence of corruption, while also pointing
out that it is longstanding, an extension of the clientelism that has
been an integral part of Venezuela’s political and economic history
(Wilpert, 2007, 212–15). But its magnitude in Venezuela does not
appear to be comparable to that of Angola or other oil-producing
countries on the Gulf of Guinea. It appears that national control of
oil production in Venezuela precludes corruption in the assignment
of contracts to international oil companies that elsewhere rises to the
billions of dollars.
Social spending. Part of the resource curse argument is that govern-
ments of poor oil-producing countries are unresponsive to the needs
of their populations because the rulers live off the rents generated by
high oil revenues, so they are more concerned with their constituency
in the international oil business. This is clearly not a characteristic of
the current Venezuelan government. Social spending has increased
massively under Chávez, especially in the areas of health, education,
and food subsidies — from 8.2% of GDP in 1998 to 13.6% in 2006. On
a per capita basis, social spending increased by 170% between 1998
and 2006. These figures do not include social spending by PDVSA,
which itself amounted to 7.3% of GDP in 2006. Counting PDVSA’s
share, total social spending was 20.9% of GDP in 2006. In the aggre-
gate, real social spending per capita had increased by at least 314%
over 1998 (Weisbrot and Sandoval, 2008, 10–12).
In practice, all the “missions” are funded by oil revenue. In some
cases the relation is direct. Venezuela sells oil to Cuba at discounted
prices; in exchange, Cuban medical personnel provide primary care
to Venezuelans. An adult education mission is run directly by PDVSA
and the electric company CADAFE; its headquar ters are in PDVSA’s
offices (Collier, 2006; Gobierno Bolivariano de Venezuela, 2006; Gobi-
erno en línea; Wilpert, 2007).
These social programs have improved the living standards of the
population (Table 2). GDP per capita stood at US$6,632 in 2005 and
the Human Development Index was .792. Life expectancy was 73.2
years and the school enrollment ratio was 75.5%. The poverty rate
declined from a peak of 55.1% in 2003 to 26% at the end of 2008.
If we make the same comparison of HDI and GDP per capita as for
Angola, we find that while the country’s GDP rank is 88 of 174 coun-
tries, its HDI rank is 74 of 177 countries. In life expectancy it ranked
61 of 177 countries and in school enrollment, 76 of 172 countries
(UNDP, 2007, 230; Weisbrot and Sandoval, 2008, 10–12; Weisbrot,
et al., 2009, 9, 15). That the social welfare measures are better than
would be predicted from GDP (just the reverse of Angola) suggests
the effectiveness of government social welfare programs.
Social programs are costly, and Venezuela’s depend heavily on
oil revenue. I will address the effect of the 2008 price collapse below.
Investment and economic growth. The greatest claimed burden of the
resource curse is that dependence on oil, however profitable, does
not guarantee economic growth. In Venezuela, however, quantitative
economic growth in the present century has been spectacular. Turmoil
in response to the PDVSA shutdown meant major disruptions in 2002
and the first quarter of 2003. During those two years GDP fell. Recovery
began in the second quarter of 2003 and has continued at least to the
end of 2007. The country attained double-digit GDP growth levels in
2004, 2005, and 2006 (Weisbrot and Sandoval, 2008, 9).
The picture is mixed with regard to investment and diversifica-
tion — “sowing the oil” to create an economy less dependent on
oil. Some critics have argued that Chávez’s nationalization of oil
extraction and some non-oil industrial firms has scared away foreign
investment (Romero, 2008). But investment has nevertheless been
strong, both in the public and private sectors. Gross fixed capi-
tal formation, which stagnated during the first years of the Chávez
administration and then collapsed during the PDVSA strike, has
come back strong, exceeding the levels of before the strike by a wide
margin: its real growth was 49.7% year-over-year in 2004, 38.4% in
2005, and 26.6% in 2006. For the first three quarters of 2007, it was
up 24.6% year-over-year. Oil Minister Rafael Ramírez said in January
2008 that PDVSA invested US$5.8 billion in 2006 and $10 billion
in 2007, and would invest US$15.6 billion in 2008, which would
increase oil production to 5.8 million bpd (Alvarez, 2007; PDVSA,
2008; Weisbrot and Sandoval, 2008, 21).
To diversify the economy, the government is investing in small
producer cooperatives. It is clear, however, that the economy remains
concentrated in the oil sector, and outside of that sector, growth in
manufacturing has not been as strong as growth in finance and other
services (Weisbrot and Sandoval, 2008, 8; Wilpert, 2007, 76–81).
Inflation posed a threat to economic growth in 2007 and the
first half of 2008 as food and energy prices surged worldwide, but
then abated with the worldwide decline in demand. The Chávez
government has successfully pursued a policy of keeping public
debt, especially foreign debt, low (it has in fact been reduced) and
maintaining a balance of payments surplus which should help to
contain inflation (Weisbrot and Sandoval, 2008, 15–16; Weisbrot,
et al., 2009, 19–20).
After the price collapse. If Venezuela did not succumb to the resource
curse during the oil boom, its response to the loss of oil revenue since
the sudden, steep price collapse that began in July 2008 is an impor-
tant further test. As of this writing (October 2009), it is too soon to
be certain, but there are signs that Venezuela has some resources that
will enable it to weather the storm better than might be expected.
Venezuela has attempted to protect itself against the price decline
by conservative budgeting and promoting output controls in OPEC
(Mouawad, 2008). What appeared to be a conservative accounting
measure estimated oil revenues at $60 a barrel for 2009; after the
collapse the price recovered to above that level. Finance Minister Alí
Rodríguez, presenting the 2009 budget to the National Assembly,
anticipated curtailment in financing for the missions — though he
did not say by how much (Morgan, 2009).
If evaluations of the present status of Venezuela’s oil industry are
politically contested, projections of its future are even more so. Some
economists predict a complete economic collapse. Others have argued
for a conservative fiscal policy to prevent a recurrence of inflation. But
according to Mark Weisbrot and Rebecca Ray (2008), the key issue is
the current account balance. Inflation, in their view, is less of a danger
to continued economic growth than is the prospect of having to cut
imports. The current account balance has been strongly positive for
several years, allowing the country to accumulate a dollar reserve that
provided a cushion to pro tect the economy at least to the end of 2008.
Weisbrot and Ray argued (in November 2008) that if oil remained at
$50/barrel, the accounts balance would remain positive. It is too soon
to tell whether the recent price recovery will be sustained and prevent
a deficit in 2009. But assuming recovery from recession at the global
level, the price of oil will remain higher than at the end of 2008. In
the meantime, Venezuela’s ample cash reserves — $40 billion in the
Central Bank, $37 billion in other accounts, amounting to 23% of
GDP — provide an enormous cushion against a trade deficit.
Why has Venezuela avoided the resource curse (at least partly
and for a time), while Angola has not? Can Venezuela’s success offer
guidance for other countries facing the threat?
The resource curse is a complex phenomenon. To review, the
three main problems that proponents of the resource curse theory
point to are corrupt diversion of revenues, economic mismanagement,
and neglect of the living standards of the population.
Most of the remedies proposed for the resource curse address the
issue of corruption. They concentrate on “good government” mea-
sures to assure transparency and accountability to avoid corruption or
political interference. Often recommendations express an optimism
about the prospects of reform that is belied by the conditions they
are addressing: for example, hopeful observers claimed that the end
of the war in Angola offered an “unprecedented opportunity” (the
phrase is used by Hodges, 2004, and Human Rights Watch, 2004, 3)
to institute transparent and accountable use of oil revenues.
Some who call for reform and an end to corruption see a solution
in civil society. If its organizations were strengthened, they could com-
pel rulers to comply with their demand for honesty in government.
Many advocates of this solution come from NGOs and regard their own
organizations as exemplars of civil society. Some offer more detailed
proposals in the same vein: they call for countervailing political and
social pressures, for building the political capacity of groups that do
not share the interests of corrupt governments and international oil
companies, for instituting a merit-based civil service, for taxation not
based on oil, and for democratic institutions to rein in the alliance
between multinational oil companies and political leaders (Alexander,
2008, 23–24; Gary and Karl, 2003).
Oliveira and Ali (2006) place their confidence in the transnational
oil corporations’ embrace of corporate social responsibility. Others
who have less confidence in the good faith of corporations neverthe-
less also see them as the appropriate pressure point. A coalition of
NGOs proposed the “Publish What You Pay” initiative in 2002, a plan
to require oil companies to disclose the royalties they pay to producer
countries. In 2003, British Prime Minister Tony Blair offered an alter-
native, the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative, calling on
producer countries to comply voluntarily. Neither proposal, however,
carried any means of enforcement. And when BP offered to disclose
its payments to Angola, as mentioned earlier, Sonangol forced it to
back down (Alexander and Gilbert, 2008, 72; Shaxson, 2007, 217–18).
None of the proposals to put an end to corruption, therefore,
offers much prospect of a change in the relation between the Angolan
government and its oil industry. Any demand that the corrupt put an
end to their corruption has an air of unreality, since it asks them to
surrender their power and privilege voluntarily. All these proposals
require a change in political will, but none explains what might pro-
duce it. If such a change would harm the interests of the oil oligarchy
and the transnational corporations, they have the power to prevent
it (Hodges, 2008, 198). Corruption is a systematic consequence of
the political economy of oil production, as I have emphasized. It is
encouraged by the centralization of political authority that the delink-
age of oil from the national economy permits, and the rent-seeking
that provides a perverse incentive, as Smith recognized.
The term “corruption” of course carries a moral connotation;
but its causes and consequences must be understood independent
of any moral (or moralizing) evaluation. Corruption can take many
forms; the form most consequential in poor oil-producing societies is
the diversion of oil revenues from the public treasury by government
officials at great cost to the majority of the population.
Those who focus on the inefficiency associated with the resource
curse propose technical solutions to stave off its economic effects. For
example, they argue that to protect an economy from inflation and the
Dutch disease, revenues should be sterilized by being held outside the
country in a sovereign wealth fund (Humphreys and Sandbu, 2007,
194–233; Karl, 1997, 66). PDVSA isolated oil revenues from political
control during the period of apertura — revenues were reinvested,
often outside of the country, so that they could not be spent for politi-
cal purposes. That is no guarantee against corruption, however, as the
case of Sonangol shows. It reaps money through corrupt oil-related
transactions and invests it around the world, functioning somewhat
like a sovereign wealth fund (Africa Confidential, 2008, 10–11). Keep-
ing money outside the country is hardly a guarantee of transparency.
Even if it were, it raises the question: in whose benefit is the
resource curse being exorcised? Achieving sound management and
economic efficiency will not necessarily benefit the entire population.
Reform advocates from the NGO world generally call on govern-
ments to account for their revenues honestly so that the money will
be applied to improving the welfare of their populations. But they
appear to assume that better social policies will follow automatically
from transparency and honest government. That is not necessarily
the case.
Others who call for transparency and efficiency are fundamentally
concerned about profit maximization without regard for the uses to
which the profits are put. If oil is the patrimony of a nation and all
its citizens are entitled to share in its rewards, however, oil wealth
belongs to them by right. If profit maximization is the goal, those
who appropriate the profits violate that right whether appropriation
proceeds by legal or illegal means.
Economists who privilege efficiency have learned too well the
lesson of Adam Smith, cited earlier, that rent-seeking creates a bias
toward unproductive activities. This unproductive bias must be
guarded against; it is nevertheless not a necessary consequence of
rent-seeking. If rent-seeking means using monopoly power to get the
highest price for natural resources, it is no different from the capital-
ist pursuit of gain in general. The producer who forces the price of
oil up is engaging in rational behavior. Successful rent-seeking will
produce income for the benefit of some people on the side of the
producer. The question is for whom.
The goals of efficiency and public benefit can conflict with each
other unless the first is put explicitly in the service of the second. My
argument is that Venezuela has done so, and overcome this more
fundamental aspect of the resource curse.
How then do we explain Venezuela’s success in addressing the
resource curse and using its oil to fund the welfare of the whole popula-
tion? Some claim that the Bolivarian revolution is purely personalistic,
due to the ambitions, ideology, and ego of President Chávez. But his
program of 21st century socialism goes well beyond personal self-
aggrandizement. Venezuela is addressing the resource curse with a
fundamental social revolution and has decided to operate according
to principles of international third-world solidarity and redistribut-
ing the benefits of the oil revenue. This offers the best opportunity
to make oil work as a blessing rather than a curse.
When PDVSA adopted “sound” management practices in the
1980s and 1990s and curbed the spending that some scholars identify
with the resource curse, it made the oil company an independent
entity that operated without regard for national goals. This policy
brought efficient capitalist management, but it deliberately excluded
applying oil revenues to the development of the country. With Chávez’s
election the orientation changed: PDVSA was newly subject to political
direction — contrary to good business practices, according to some,
but operating in the interna tional environment to maximize returns
and domestically to harness oil revenues in the service of investment
in human and physical capital and general welfare.
Venezuela has not only found a cure for the disease. It has also
found a cure for the cure.
Sociology Department
Hunter College and Graduate Center, CUNY
695 Park Avenue
New York, NY 10065
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... For example, in some studies, the existence of oil and the rise in prices have led to economic growth [10]. Some other studies have concluded that oil revenues and rising oil prices have had a negative impact on economic growth and development [6,32,33]. ...
... Also, in current conditions, the current price of oil is about $ 50, while Iran-Saudi relations are lower at moderate levels and the tension level in OPEC countries is also close to moderate (50, 50 and 50, respectively), output quantities are respectively oil price forecasts, economic growth and employment are equal to $ 70, $ 2.32, and $ 834,000, which, in particular, does not meet the expectations of governmentdesignated programs. According to the theoretical foundations of the research [10,6,32,33], the oil variable can somehow cause Improving economic growth or increasing employment levels, and in the current state, not expecting more than 2.5 percent of economic growth or employment of 800,000. Therefore, economic planners should either think about improving other variables such as increasing private sector investment, increasing foreign investment, improving tourism conditions, etc. ...
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The prediction of economic variables is one of the main issues in a country's macro decisions. Since in many cases there is no historical data for this purpose and it is necessary to have more than one output, it is necessary to use expert opinions and consequently, model expert opinions in the form of mathematical functions, adds to the complexity of the task and the importance of the problem. To solve such problems, this paper presents a ten-step process using fuzzy rule-based systems. At the first step, the three inputs that include: the price of OPEC oil, the level of Iran and Saudi relations and the level of political tension in OPEC member countries and also the three output variables that include: the amount of employment, the economic growth, and the oil price forecast, have been modeled in the form of trapezoidal and triangular functions. Then, these variables have been converted to linear functions. In the next steps, the three-dimensional decision tables were designed and then by using the fuzzy rule-based systems (if, ... Then...), the preconditions and sequences (results) of the decision rules were written and coded in the Matlab software. The results indicate that the outputs are in line with the existing economic realities of Iran and that three input variables to a certain extent can cause changes in the three output variables. Less technical so far with problems with this complexity of problems are capable of results with this obvious.
... Most resource rich nations often get trapped in "boom-bust" cycles where the revenue are spent on legacy projects (such as large government buildings and airports) and later make painful spending cuts when revenue declined (Vincente, P. C. 2010). Several pertinent literatures have demonstrated that resource rich nations usually have greater tendency to over-spend on government salaries, inefficient fuel subsidies and large monuments (Singer, 1950;Bulte et al., 2005;Hammond, 2011). ...
... In most cases, these resource rich governments often over burrowed thinking that their economies received colossal revenues. Hence, this form of behavior led to the debt crisis in countries like Nigeria, Mexico and Venezuela (Hammond, 2011). This study confirmed the thought of Loayza et al. (2013) that this scenario was believed to reason for exposure of private industries, and their subsequent over investing during the boom times as well as experiencing prevalent bankruptcy afterwards. ...
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It is a common axiom that most resource rich countries are thought to be having greater tendency of contracting natural resource effects. Being a resource rich country has pressed many developing economies to over-spend on recurrent expenditure, wasteful spending on provision of subsidies, palliatives, social relief packages as well as construction of monuments ignoring the essential sector of the economy and welfare; such as healthcare services, infrastructures, education, industries, etc. This discourse is a review of critically underpinning framework of natural resource curse effects through identifying key driving mechanisms. This study uncovered that these key mechanisms are classified into the economic mechanism on one part and the political mechanism on the other part. The economic mechanisms were thought to be closely associated with regional economic realities and their momentous poor fiscal performance, whereas the political mechanisms were believed to be confined to political complexities of the natural resource regions and institutions. However, the study further identified a recent consensus on recent political variables on linkages between regional natural resource wealth and development outcomes and also emphasized on comprehensive indulgence of varieties of social feasibility issues. Moreover, this discourse further affirmed the essential need for more studies at country considering the close affiliation of resource curse rents and the decision of political elites and ruling class.
... Investment in commodity extraction and supporting industries weakens, impacting not only actual output but also potential output (Christensen 2016). Several authors have established a negative relationship between commodity price shocks and economic growth (Deaton and Miller 1995;Dehn 2000;Karl 2004;Bruckner and Ciccone 2010;Hammond 2011;Christensen 2016). African commodity exporters experience economic growth averaging 5% each year. ...
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This study examines the impact of commodity price shocks on the banking sector stability of 18 African commodity-exporting economies using an unbalanced panel dataset spanning a 16-year period from 2000–2015. The study on the impact of commodity price shocks on African commodity exporting economies’ banking sectors was estimated using a panel fixed effects model. The empirical findings indicate that commodity price shocks increase bank credit risk (non-performing loans) and, thus, pose a risk to the banking sector stability of African commodity-exporting economies. The results for the disaggregated shocks reveal that both positive and negative shocks weaken banking sector stability. In addition, commodity price shocks are discovered to decrease credit extension to the private sector, highlighting an additional channel through which the impact of commodity price shocks may be perpetuated to the real economy.
... Hence, despite having oil wealth, These countries have low social welfare and high poverty levels. They also face low levels of political participation and development (Hammond, 2011). ...
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Oil as the main source of economic and political power has played a significant role in oil governments’ political and social developments and has been one of the main pillars of power. But historical experiences have shown that having huge oil resources didn’t lead the countries to a certain development and welfare stage. The national dependence of oil-rich countries had various multidimensional consequences. The dynamics of political developments in countries where a major share of revenues come from oil or other natural resources have always shown a type of government with unparalleled authority in social and economic policy-making, which extends themselves beyond social classes, parties, and groups. One of the main reasons for this attitude is undoubtedly the reliance on oil revenues. Unlike other oil-rich countries, Norway focuses on human development instead of its natural assets, using oil wealth as support and engine of development. This support engine works by storing oil revenues in a Foreign Exchange Reserve Fund, investing it in different foreign industries within a clear framework, and preventing it from entering directly into the country’s budget plan. These frameworks prevent the country and the government from becoming a rentier government or state. Using this indirect revenue stream strategy is a method that helped Norway to advance its economic, political, social, and cultural programs. Hence, in the case of Norway, not only oil does not have negative and anti-developmental consequencesin political, social, and cultural aspects, but also the existence of oil as a natural gift that is used efficiently and with capable management like Norway’s sovereign fund, can fuel development and enhance countries’ economic capabilities and help develop various national industries. This developmental view has saved Norway from falling into the trap of rentierism. This paper aims to study the framework that helped Norway escape the trap of rentierism and become one of the few cases of developed oil-exporting countries.
... 3 For more discussion on the resource curse topic, see Shaxon (2007), Mehrara (2009), Hammond (2011), Ramsay (2011), Bjorvatn, Farzanegan, and Schneider (2012), and Farzanegan (2011. 4 Oil rents are the difference between the value of crude oil production at world prices and total costs of production (World Bank 2020). ...
We examine the effects of oil prices on unemployment rates in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) over the period of 1991–2017. Using the panel nonlinear autoregressive distributed lag (panel NARDL) model, the results show that in the long run, positive changes of oil prices exert a positive (increasing) impact on the unemployment rate. However, negative changes in oil prices have a significant decreasing effect on the unemployment rate in the MENA region. We also find that the short run changes in oil prices do not show a significant effect on unemployment rates. Our findings are robust to an alternative measure of oil rents per capita and in line with predictions of the resource curse hypothesis. Countries with higher dependency on natural resource rents experience, on average, a slower long run economic growth rate (and thus higher unemployment rates), compared with countries with lower dependency.
... Apesar dos enormes recursos naturais, Angola é um Estado relativamente frágil [1]. Sendo o segundo maior produtor de petróleo da África subsariana, Angola é atormentada com o fenómeno da 'maldição de recursos' ou 'paradoxo da abundância' [2,3]. Neste contexto, o setor da saúde, e a sua força de trabalho, é dos que mais se ressente da instabilidade económica resultante. ...
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Formação inicial em ciências da saúde em Angola: comparação dos perfis dos alunos de diferentes cursos (medicina, enfermagem e TDT), em diferentes níveis de ensino (básico, médio e superior) Initial training in health sciences in Angola: comparison of profiles of students from different courses (medicine, nursing and allied health workers), in different levels of education (basic, medium and higher) Resumo Introdução: Descrevemos a evolução da formação de técnicos de saúde (TdS) em Angola e verificamos que o Plano de Desenvolvimento de Recursos Humanos (PDRH) 1997-2007 teve um profundo impacto no desenvolvimen-to da formação da força de trabalho em saúde em Angola. Este artigo relata um estudo feito no âmbito da elaboração do segundo PDRH 2013-2025 tendo por objetivo obter dados comparáveis sobre o perfil dos estudantes que fre-quentavam os diferentes cursos de ciências da saúde em Angola. Métodos: A metodologia foi baseada na utlizada em estudos semelhantes noutros países lusófonos e em Angola em 2007. O estudo decorreu no pri-meiro quadrimestre de 2014 subcontratado a uma empresa especializada. Os dados foram inseridos em SPSS v.20 em 2014 e estatísticas descritivas (conta-gem, frequência relativa, média e desvio padrão e medianas) foram calculadas com SPSS v 25 durante 2020. Resultados: Os resultados do estudo revelam uma mensagem positiva. Os alunos foram recrutados com uma ampla base geográfica; estavam satisfeitos com a escolha da formação e o seu desempenho era, em geral, satisfatório, embora a percentagem de estudantes de técnicas de diagnóstico e terapêutica (TDT) com disciplinas em atraso mereça atenção. Após a formação preten-diam estabelecer-se em Angola, de preferência numa prática hospitalar, de preferência na rede pública. Como o setor público não tem capacidade para absorver todos os alunos, é gratificante constatar que muitos estavam abertos à prática no setor privado, principalmente nas capitais provinciais ou nacionais, preferencialmente em acumulação com trabalhos do setor público. Discussão e conclusões: Em fim de ciclo do Plano Nacional de Formação de Quadros 2013-2020, este estudo destaca algumas das questões que terão de ser abordadas pelas instituições de formação a fim de contribuir para uma força de trabalho de saúde equilibrada em Angola, com TdS em quantidade com a qualidade e distribuição necessárias para dar reposta às necessidades do sistema de saúde e da população. Palavras chaves: Angola, formação de técnicos de saúde, estudantes de medicina, estudantes de enfermagem, estudantes de TDT. Abstract Introduction: We describe the evolution of the training of health technicians (HT) in Angola and find that the Human Resources Development Plan (HRDP) 1997-2007 had a profound impact on the development of the training of the health workforce in Angola. This article reports on a study carried out within the scope of the preparation of the second HRDP 2013-2025 with the objective of obtaining comparable data on the profile of students who attended the different health sciences courses in Angola. Methods: The methodology was based on that used in similar studies in other Portuguese-speaking countries and in Angola in 2007. The study took place in the first four months of 2014, subcontracted to a specialized company. Data were entered in SPSS v.20 in 2014 and descriptive statistics (count, relative frequency, mean and standard deviation and medians) were calculated with SPSS v 25 during 2020. Results: The study results reveal a positive message. The students were recruited with a wide geographic base; they were satisfied with the choice of training and their performance was, in general, satisfactory, although the percentage of students in the Allied Health Sciences (AHS) with overdue subjects deserves attention. After training, they intended to settle in Angola, preferably in a hospital practice, preferably in the public network. As the public sector does not have the capacity to absorb all students, it is gratifying to note that many were open to practice in the private sector, mainly in provincial or national capitals, preferably in accumulation with public sector work. Discussion and conclusions: At the end of the cycle of the National Staff Training Plan 2013-2020, this study highlights some of the issues that will have to be addressed by training institutions in order to contribute to a balanced health workforce in Angola, with HT in quantity with the quality and distribution needed to respond to the needs of the health system and the population.
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Background We describe the profile of Angolan final year allied health workers (AHW) students: where they come from, their experience of training and expectations regarding professional future. Methods It was a questionnaire based observational cross-sectional study applied to final year AHW students in 24 public and private sector , higher and mid-level training institutions in 14 of the 18 provinces of Angola during 2014. Results Most AHW students were women, satisfied with their choice of training. Satisfaction with teachers was high but low regarding support systems such as access to library, laboratories and clinical cases. After training AHW students wanted to settle in Angola, preferable in hospital practice, preferably in the public sector and in a national or provincial capital, rather than in the municipal hospitals. Conclusions This study highlights some of the issues that will have to be addressed by training institutions in order to contribute to a balanced health workforce in Angola, with AHW in quantity with the quality and distribution necessary to address health system and population needs. It highlights the importance of private education institutions in meeting this need. As training is a significant investment by students or their relatives, training institutions must strive to improve support systems in terms of access to libraries, laboratories, clinical cases, informatic support, canteens, accommodation and leisure activities.
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In the pursuit of structural transformation and inclusive growth, this paper identifies industries in Tanzania which can accumulate new productive knowledge and diversify the economy. The analysis has two main components. First, a Product Space analysis identifies niches primarily within the manufacturing sector, which Tanzania should promote in order to move up the complexity scale and stimulate structural change. The identification process applies a supply-side network method following the literature on Economic Complexity and combines it with a demand-driven gravity model on merchandise export. Hence, we identify industries that are tangible given Tanzania’s current productive knowledge and are most feasible for Tanzania to target given product-specific trade resistance and geographically dispersed demand. Second, as generating jobs for the rapidly growing labour force is a prime political priority in Tanzania, we construct a labour opportunity index in order to display which industries are correlated with a high labour intensity. We find that there is a larger scope for learning spillovers in the relatively more complex sectors, such as machinery and chemicals, whereas the less complex sectors, such as agro-processing and construction, are correlated with higher employment creation. The paper is, to the best of our knowledge, the first comprehensive study of economic complexity and structural change in Tanzania that systematically accounts for both supply and demand-side factors.
Venezuela's private sector, in contrast to most of its regional counterparts, was diverse and powerful in 1958 when the Pacto de Punto Fijo was signed.1 At the beginning of the twentieth century, when agriculture and commerce predominated and petroleum played no significant role, names such as Vollmer, Boulton, Phelps, Delfino, Mendoza, Zuloaga, Machado, Branger, Velutini, Sosa, and Perez-Dupuy dominated the economy. These same family groups controlled Venezuela's private sector throughout most of the twentieth century, although beginning with the 1973 oil boom they were forced to share economic power with other private groups that benefited from the infusion of new resources. The complex alliances and rivalries of traditional and emerging elites determined private sector policy through the remainder of the Punto Fijo era and into the Fifth Republic.2.
Even critics of Hugo Chavez tend to concede that he has made helping the poor his top priority. But in fact, Chavez's government has not done any more to fight poverty than past Venezuelan governments, and his much-heralded social programs have had little effect. A dose look at the evidence reveals just how much Chavez's "revolution" has hurt Venezuela's economy-and that the poor are hurting most of all.
The People's Republic of China (PRC) is an authoritarian state in which the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) constitutionally is the paramount authority. CCP members hold almost all top government, police, and military positions. Ultimate authority rests with the 25-member Political Bureau (Politburo) of the CCP and its nine-member Standing Committee. Hu Jintao holds the three most powerful positions as CCP general secretary, president, and chairman of the Central Military Commission. Civilian authorities generally maintained effective control of the security forces. Deterioration in key aspects of the country's human rights situation continued. Repression and coercion, particularly against organizations and individuals involved in rights advocacy and public interest issues, were routine. Individuals and groups seen as politically sensitive by the authorities continued to face tight restrictions on their freedom to assemble, practice religion, and travel. Efforts to silence political activists and public interest lawyers were stepped up, and, increasingly, authorities resorted to extralegal measures including enforced disappearance, "soft detention," and strict house arrest, including house arrest of family members, to prevent the public voicing of independent opinions. Public interest law firms that took on sensitive cases continued to face harassment, disbarment of legal staff, and closure. The authorities increased attempts to limit freedom of speech and to control the press, the Internet, and Internet access. The authorities continued severe cultural and religious repression of ethnic minorities in Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region (XUAR) and Tibetan areas. Abuses peaked around high-profile events, such as the visit of foreign officials, sensitive anniversaries, and in response to Internet-based calls for "Jasmine Revolution" protests. As in previous years, citizens did not have the right to change their government. Other human rights problems during the year included: extrajudicial killings, including executions without due process; enforced disappearance and incommunicado detention, including prolonged illegal detentions at unofficial holding facilities known as "black jails"; torture and coerced confessions of prisoners; detention and harassment of lawyers, journalists, writers, dissidents, petitioners, and others who sought to peacefully exercise their rights under the law; a lack of due process in judicial proceedings; political control of courts and judges; closed trials; the use of administrative detention; restrictions on freedom to assemble, practice religion, and travel; failure to protect refugees and asylum seekers; pressure on other countries to forcibly return citizens to China; intense scrutiny of and restrictions on nongovernmental organizations (NGOs); discrimination against women, minorities, and persons with disabilities; a coercive birth limitation policy that in some cases resulted in forced abortion or forced sterilization; trafficking in persons; prohibitions on independent unions and a lack of protection for workers' right to strike; and the use of forced labor, including prison labor. Corruption remained widespread. The authorities prosecuted a number of abuses of power, particularly with regard to corruption. However, the internal disciplinary procedures of the CCP were opaque, and it was not clear whether human rights and administrative abuses were consistently punished.