Terry Karl, Gildred Professor of Latin American Studies and professor of Political Science at Stanford University, discusses overcoming the resource curse. Also known as the paradox of plenty it is the fact that most resource rich, in this case oil rich countries are performing far poorer than non resource rich countries in terms of development and governance indicators, defying logical economic thought. This is largely a phenomenon in countries which have poor governing systems and high incomes (from the oil) increasing the likelihood of corruption. These oil rents/income break the traditional relationship of governments and people with the tax, representation, accountability dynamic found in developed countries such as Europe and the US. When government coffers are not dependent on taxes and are almost exclusively dependent on secret transactions between oil companies and governments it leads to the continuation of this corruption cycle. Government leaders can spend this money however they like, building up military and buying off certain key sections of the population (religious, ethnic, regional groups, etc.) and keep control of government through more autocratic means. A story that exists in the majority of oil producing countries.
Terry argues that transparency in disclosing payments made from oil companies to countries is a key first step in breaking the cycle of secrecy which helps shape the current political situations of civil war and conflict in many of these oil producing countries. Without it, development and democracy will be permanently hindered. It also has large ramifications for the world as a whole. Reporting on oil production and reserves is highly dubious in terms of accuracy and the biggest, most profitable market in the world uses this extremely bad information to predict oil prices. This helps breed uncertainty, speculation and ultimately volatility in the marketplace which is bad for every consumer of oil but also completes a viscous circle with oil producing countries as their incomes yoyo up and down, causing any budget planning to go out the window. This also helps breed mistrust between the various parties, particularly with the left out sections of the population of the oil producing countries, increasing likelihood of conflict, interruptions in oil production and further market volatility. The resource curse affects us all.