It is widely believed that natural mineral resources are desirable. However there is growing evidence that this may not always be the case. Indeed, it seems that this 'natural asset' can distort the economy to such a degree that the benefit actually becomes a curse.
In Sustaining Development in Mineral Economies, Richard Auty highlights these drawbacks and the devastating effect they can have on developing economies. With reference to six ore-exporters (viz. Peru, Bolivia, Chile, Jamaica, Zambia, and Papua New Guinea) he outlines how things can go badly wrong. He particularly stresses the need to avoid 'Dutch Disease' whereby competitiveness is drained out of the agriculture and manufacturing sectors so that in the long term growth falters.
Sustainable development in mineral economies requires rapid economic growth so that resource-conserving technology can be adopted and diversification is encouraged to complement the depleting mineral asset. In the course of examining the interaction between macroeconomic policy and sectoral performance, clear prescriptions for avoiding these dangers emerge. While accepting that overly-interventionist policies lie at the root of the mineral economies' disappointing performance, the author also rejects fashionable doctrinaire orthodox policies in favour of more pragmatic ones. He argues that the mineral cycle can be smoother and competitive industrialisation promoted to ensure that the growth and diversification of the economy will persist through boom and downswing alike. Sustaining Development in Mineral Economies offers a systemic examination of the resource curse thesis and the inter-disciplinary approach synthesises neo-liberal, political, institutionalist and environmentalist approaches.