Isobel Coleman

Democracy in Development

Coleman maps the intersections between political reform, economic growth, and U.S. policy in the developing world.

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Missing Pieces: The Resource Curse, the Swelling Middle Class, and More

by Isobel Coleman
April 30, 2012

Afghan Mining Minister Wahidullah Shahrani speaks during a conference on Afghan mining opportunities in London, June 25, 2010 (Paul Hackett/Courtesy Reuters).


In this edition of Missing Pieces, Charles Landow reviews items on resource wealth, the global middle class, international justice, and demography. Enjoy the selection as always.
  • The Resource Curse: With oil, gas, and minerals being found from Afghanistan to Mozambique to Papua New Guinea, the question of how to make natural resources a blessing instead of a curse remains crucial. CFR’s Terra Lawson-Remer takes it on in a new Policy Innovation Memo. To help countries counter corruption and boost transparency and accountability, she suggests extending the International Finance Corporation’s Sustainability Framework to bilateral as well as World Bank investments, boosting support for civil society in resource-rich countries, “internationaliz[ing] extractive-industry transparency requirements” across the world’s main stock markets, and strengthening monitoring of the Equator Principles for banks. CFR’s Stewart Patrick reviews the memo and the broader context on his blog.
  • The Swelling Middle Class: In the Financial Times, Philip Stephens highlights a new report from the EU’s Institute for Security Studies on the expanding global middle class. By 2030, “for the first time in human history more people will be middle class than poor,” Stephens writes. He argues that greater wealth and education will likely lead many people to “embrace basic values such as individual freedom, human dignity, and the rule of law.” A piece in the OECD Observer, meanwhile, contends that many middle-income citizens in emerging countries remain outside the formal sector and social protection schemes. They are demanding better public services as their aspirations rise. Should these services fall short, the article argues, “friction, conflicts, and political upheaval” could result.
  • The Charles Taylor Verdict: Former Liberian president Charles Taylor was convicted last week of aiding and abetting war crimes during Sierra Leone’s civil war. The New York Times offers a comprehensive report. Reactions from African and Western voices varied widely. A GlobalPost piece reports mixed views among Liberians and celebration in Sierra Leone. Mwangi Kimenyi and John Mbaku of the Brookings Institution generally applaud the verdict but argue that it “exposes the failure by Liberians” to build an effective judicial system. On John Campbell’s blog, Mohamed Jallow, a former CFR staffer who grew up in Sierra Leone during the war, rejoices in the conviction and describes his personal struggle to grapple with Taylor’s crimes. Alex Vines of Chatham House analyzes the Taylor case in the context of the longstanding debate over justice vs. peace.
  • Demography and Development: In the May/June Foreign Affairs, Steven Philip Kramer paints a dire picture of depopulation and decline for many industrialized countries, from Germany and Italy to Japan and South Korea. But he argues that countries can boost falling birthrates through policies that help women have both families and careers. Parental leave, strong public schools, and financial incentives are all part of the mix. The problem is that these measures cost money and require “the acceptance of non-traditional family structures.” Another country facing population decline is China, whose rapid aging will test its economic model and social fabric in the coming decades, according to an Economist piece last week. “China,” the piece says bluntly, “will grow old before it gets rich.”

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