Asia & the Pacific Policy Studies

The rentier state at work: comparative experiences of the resource curse in East Asia and the Pacific


Countries rich in natural resources do not all experience the resource curse in the same way. The rentier state logic holds that the main political–economic impacts of resource dependence rest on how the state handles windfall resource rents. I differentiate how countries experience the resource curse by disaggregating the rentier effect into how governments generate and distribute resource rents. A simple typology of variation in rentier state experiences explains how the overall credibility of intertemporal commitment and degree of political inclusiveness in a country determine its distinct experience of the resource curse. Four brief country cases—comparing the micro political economy of natural resource governance in Laos, Papua New Guinea, Mongolia, and Timor-Leste—illustrate how intertemporal credibility and political inclusiveness affect patterns of resource rent generation and rent distribution. Different countries experience the resource curse in different ways, with implications for policy attempts at mitigation.


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