In this groundbreaking book, William Ascher discovers the complex political and programmatic reasons why government officials in Third World countries often willfully adopt wasteful natural resource policies. Drawing on sixteen case studies from Africa, Asia, and Latin America, Ascher goes beyond the trite answers of greed and incompetence to document how clashes among government agencies have led to results ranging from Indonesia's deforestation to the collapse of the Mexican water system, from the destruction of cocoa farms in Ghana to the waste of Nigeria's oil wealth.
Covering a broad range of natural resources -- forests, land, minerals, oil, and water -- Ascher finds striking parallels in both the rationales for abusing natural resources and the strategies governments employ to pursue other goals at the expense of sustainable natural resource exploitation. Yet he also finds parallels -- across world regions and for the whole range of resources -- for overcoming political and institutional obstacles to better natural resource policies and practices.
At a time when the depletion of natural resources threatens to undermine the economic prospects of many developing countries, this book offers structural reform recommendations that get to the heart of faulty natural resource management. Amid the tragedies of squandered resources, some hopeful reverses point the way to constructive reform strategies. This book will be of interest to government officials, activists, and the international community.