Research consultant, Trinidad energy, peace, security and development
Connecting the perspectives on the resource curse, such as those offered by economics, political economy, and conflict studies is a recent phenomenon. While these areas feed off one another it does not seem to do so evenly enough – and the loser of this is effective policy. Schools of economics and political economy tend to have the more dominant say over academic and policy circles than those from conflict studies.
Economists show the resource curse as the inverse relationship between resource abundance and economic performance; they look to the mechanics of price volatility and the Dutch disease. Political economists add issues of governance and institutional capacity building to these symptoms. Proponents of conflict studies look at the shadow economies infiltrating these resource based economies; they expose the web of informal exports and the criminal economy which grows regardless of progressive initiatives made in the political and economic realms of development policy.
Latin America and the Caribbean hold the unfortunate indicator – albeit controversial – of having higher levels of inequalities than any other region, which in turn produced more homicides in “peace time” than casualties during some civil wars of 20th century. Even as a proxy, such levels of violence associated more often with civil war leaves ominous conditions for more reformative development initiatives to bear fruit. Amongst the highest levels of homicides in the region are resource rich countries namely, Venezuela, Colombia, Trinidad and Tobago and Brazil. These countries are integral in the expansion of the international drug trade, often cited as a major systemic cause of increased violence and frustration for development. Implementing sound development policy for resource cursed countries should see heads of states merge it with a security and foreign policy dimension that can be engaged more substantively bilaterally and in multilateral institutions.
This begs two questions: (1) should the conflict studies discourse be expanded in academic and policy treatments of the resource curse? (2) If so, how can the merging of development, security and foreign policy be instituted for the improved governability of heads of states?
Treating the violence of the resource curse