Corruption is the main reason why resource-rich countries perform badly in economic terms. Corruption in resource-rich countries takes two main forms, rent-seeking and patronage. Resource rents induce rent-seeking as individuals compete for a share of the rents rather than use their time and skills more productively. And resource revenues induce patronage as governments pay off supporters to stay in power, resulting in reduced accountability and an inferior allocation of public funds. This paper systematically reviews the literature on natural resources and corruption, and outlines the main policy implications for donors and domestic policy makers. A main conclusion is that priority should be given to policies that address rent-seeking and patronage. In other words, policy in resource-rich countries should be less about macro-economic management and more about institutions to prevent rent-seeking and patronage, and about giving the right incentives to players in the resource sector. Moreover, all policies need to take into account their impact on rent-seeking and patronage, and some current policies may actually be harmful in this respect.

Ivar Kolstad

Associated Research Professor