chapter  4
20 Pages


The natural resource base

In the preceding two chapters, I characterized the common historical and cultural roots of present inequalities in the distribution of wealth and income. In this chapter, we begin our exploration of economic determinants with an assessment of inter-country variations in natural resource endowments: oil, cultivable land and water, leaving variations in human resource capabilities to Chapter 6. The first section highlights the problems arising from the increasing shortage of these natural resources under growing population pressure. In the second section, we investigate the impact of the sudden oil-based affluence. The third section focuses on the welfare effects of the increasing scarcity of cultivable land and of water. The concern here is over the increasing risks of environmental deterioration and food insecurity in poorer countries which lack the economic capacity to invest in both land development and water conservation.