Paul Collier

From Powerbase
Jump to: navigation, search
Mining-alcans-60px.jpg This article is part of the Mining and Metals project of Spinwatch

Paul Collier is a prolific academic and writer on development, conflict and aid in the world's poorest nations. In particular he has promoted the potential benefits of extractive industries for low income nations, and how to avoid the 'resource curse'. He is also a sceptic of organic farming and is pro genetically modified foods.

He is currently a professor of Economics, Director for the Centre for the Study of African Economies at at Oxford University. He was previously Director of the Development Research Group of the World Bank from 1998-2003[1].

According to Oxford University in 2010:

He is also a Professeur invité at CERDI, Université d’Auverge, and at Paris 1. In 2008 Paul was awarded a CBE ‘for services to scholarship and development’...Paul is currently Advisor to the Strategy and Policy Department of the International Monetary Fund, advisor to the Africa Region of the World Bank; and he has advised the British Government on its recent White Paper on economic development policy. He has been writing a monthly column for the Independent, and also writes for the New York Times, the Financial Times, the Wall Street Journal, and the Washington Post.[2]

Paul Collier is also a member of the technical group of the Natural Resource Charter, under the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative[3], which according to Collier, aims to 'spell out the entire decision chain by which natural assets can become a blessing instead of a curse'[4]

Privatisation and Resource Extraction

His first book 'The Bottom Billion: Why the Poorest Countries are Failing and What Can Be Done About It' (2005) was acclaimed by Jeffrey Sachs[5], the development economist famed for developing 'economic shock therapy'- a technique for economic growth involving mass privatisation and liberalisation[6]

His latest book “The Plundered Planet: Why We Must — and How We Can — Manage Nature for Global Prosperity” (2010) claims to be a pragmatic and practical look at how natural resources (particularly minerals for extractive industries) can be utilised to promote development and prosperity instead of corruption and 'plundering'. The book pits two binary extremes against each other and presents Collier's ideas as a third way between the 'Ostriches' who deny climate change, resource scarcity and social problems, and the 'Environmental Romantics', for example anti-genetically modified organisms campaigns, and 'back to the land' proponents[7].

In an 2010 opinion piece for the New York Times, Collier examined the potential dangers of Afghanistan using its $1 Trillion of mineral wealth unwisely, but suggested extraction of these resources would be key to its growth, as long as it benefited local people.[8] He uses the examples of other countries which he claims have profited from their minerals:

Afghanistan should follow the example of Botswana, which has used diamond revenues to build roads, power lines and schools, raising the economic standard of the country from very poor to upper-middle income. Malaysia, likewise, has used revenues from tin and oil to diversify its economy and create jobs — building, for example, a manufactured exports zone in the impoverished region of Penang.[9]

In contrast the NGO Survival International has recently drawn attention to the effects of diamond mining on Kalahari bushmen in Botswana, where they claim indigenous people have been illegally evicted from their land and had their water supply cut, causing thirst related deaths[10]

Anti Organic Farming

In his 2008 essay 'The Politics of Hunger: How Illusion and Greed Fan the Food Crisis', Collier makes a hard hitting critique of 'romantic' proponents of traditional farming methods. He claims:

The first giant that must be slain is the middle- and upper-class love affair with peasant agriculture...The peasant life forces millions of ordinary people into the role of entrepreneur, a role for which most are ill suited. In successful economies, entrepreneurship is a minority pursuit; most people opt for wage employment so that others can have the worry and grind of running a business. And reluctant peasants are right: their mode of production is ill suited to modern agricultural production, in which scale is helpful. In modern agriculture, technology is fast-evolving, investment is lumpy, the private provision of transportation infrastructure is necessary to counter the lack of its public provision, consumer food fashions are fast-changing and best met by integrated marketing chains, and regulatory standards are rising toward the holy grail of the traceability of produce back to its source. Far from being the answer to global poverty, organic self-sufficiency is a luxury lifestyle. It is appropriate for burnt-out investment bankers, not for hungry families[11].



  1. World Bank, Winter 2002, Presenters Paul Collier Accessed 04/08/10
  2. CSAE website, About, Members Professor Paul Collier Accessed 04/08/10
  3. Natural Resources Charter People Accessed 04/08/10
  4. Paul Collier, EITI website, News and Events, Blog The Natural Resource Charter and the EITI Accessed 04/08/10
  5. Writer Interviews website Paul Collier, interviewed by J. Tyler Dickovick, an Assistant Professor of Politics at Washington and Lee University Thursday, August 30, 2007. Accessed 04/08/10
  6. Sachs, Jeffrey (2005) The End of Poverty: Economic Possibilities for Our Time. The Penguin Press
  7. Collier, Paul (2010) 'The Plundered Planet: Why We Must, and How We Can, Manage Nature for Global Prosperity'
  8. Paul Collier, In Afghanistan, a Threat of Plunder, New York Times, July 19, 2010. Accessed 04/08/10
  9. Paul Collier, In Afghanistan, a Threat of Plunder, New York Times, July 19, 2010. Accessed 04/08/10
  10. Survival International, Press Release Survival targets Graff diamonds – protest tomorrow at Bond St store 9 February 2009. Accessed 04/08/10
  11. Collier, Paul (2008) The Politics of Hunger: How Illusion and Greed Fan the Food Crisis Foreign Affairs. Accessed 04/08/10