A number of studies suggest that natural resources can have a negative impact on the developing prospects of countries. Empirical results suggest that political economy models of patronage and rent-seeking are central to understanding why such a resource curse arises. In other words, the resource curse is created by certain resource rents leading to dysfunctional behaviour. This article introduces the term impartiality enhancing institutions to structure policy debates by distinguishing conditions under which negative effects of resources can be mitigated. Moreover, it is argued that viewing institutions as an equilibrium outcome has implications for the analysis of institutional change. Policy initiatives that do not promote the impartiality of institutions, nor attend to the underlying interests and incentives keeping a bad institutional equilibrium in place, will not help lift the resource curse.

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