The Resource Curse has been Broken by some
|October 7, 2009||Posted by Jeffery J. Smith under Progress Report, The Progress Report|
The Resource Curse has been Broken by some
According to an annual report by the United Nations, what makes some nations livable, others not? We append this 2009 article from the BBC on October 5.
by the BBC
Norway is the best place in the world to live while Niger is the least desirable, according to an annual report by the United Nations.
The 182 countries were ranked according to the quality of life their citizens experienced.
Criteria examined included life expectancy, literacy rates, school enrolment, and country economies.
However the UN human development index used data collected in 2007 — before the global economic crisis.
The UN Development Programme said the index highlighted the grave disparities between rich and poor countries.
Norway’s consistently high rating for desirable living standards, is, in large part, the result of the discovery of offshore oil and gas deposits in the late 1960s.
Niger, however, is a drought-prone country which has sometimes struggled to feed its people.
Other countries to reach the top spots were Australia and Iceland.
However, living standards in Iceland have changed since the data was collected, as it was one of the countries worst hit by the credit crunch.
Best places to live
The 2008 crisis exposed the Icelandic economy’s dependence on the banking sector, leaving it particularly vulnerable to collapse. The country’s three major banks were nationalized and Iceland had to seek international support in order to stay afloat.
UN deputy director Eva Jespersen told the BBC News website that although the country’s now-reduced gross domestic product figure would “pull Iceland down” next year, its high life expectancy rates and commitment to education would “cushion the decline to some degree”.
Afghanistan was regarded the second least desirable place to live, just below Sierra Leone in third from bottom place.
The index shows that life expectancy in Niger was 50 years — approximately 30 years shorter than for those living in Norway.
For every dollar earned per person in Niger, $85 was earned in Norway.
Worst places to live
However, the Democratic Republic of Congo has the poorest people, where the average income per person was $298 per year.
China has become one of the most improved because of rising income levels and life expectancy rates.
The United States is rated as the 13th most desirable place to live, while the UK takes the 21st spot.
The index also showed that half the people in the poorest 24 nations were believed to be illiterate.
The tiny principality of Liechtenstein has the highest GDP per capita at $85,383. Its population is about 35,000.
The report’s author, Jeni Klugman, said: “Many countries have experienced setbacks over recent decades, in the face of economic downturns, conflict-related crises and the HIV and Aids epidemic.
“And this was even before the impact of the current global financial crisis was felt.”
JJS: While Norway has oil, so does Nigeria, a very hellish place to live. And while Niger lacks bountiful natural resources, so does Lichtenstein, where the average person spends (or has spent for them) over $85k p.a. So, we can rule out the absence or presence of natural resources as the key feature of livability.
What instead is the key feature? While several factors influence the outcome, one critical aspect is respect for rights. A fundamental right, especially for a country that wants to develop, is the right to some land. Indeed, when Taiwan broke up huge plantations by taxing farmland, it not only enticed owners to sell to former tenants. But also, the economy then did so well that it became the poster child for rapid development and enjoyed double-digit growth for decades.
Note, Taiwan lacks abundant natural resources. No place really needs them in order to prosper. In a sense, every region has an oil field or goldmine; that is, it has a major city. And major cities have high location values. Those values need not find their way into the pockets of speculators. Instead, a savvy jurisdiction could shift taxes off peoples buildings, businesses, and earnings, while using taxes and/or fees to recover the socially-generated value of locations. Thats the geonomic prescription to a high quality of life, and it has worked wherever tried.
Jeffery J. Smith runs the Forum on Geonomics.
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