Managing Oil Wealth: An Exploration Of Lessons Emerging Oil Nations Can Learn From Norway And Uk

| December 14, 2016


Several oil producing and exporting countries have fallen under the pitfalls of the resource curse phenomena and the “Dutch disease’. Research studies have explored extensively in this area with most studies taking the view that resource rich countries experience slow economic growth compared to resource poor countries. Contrary to what should constitute common sense, countries that are endowed with abundant natural resources experience unbalanced economic growth compared to countries with fewer resources

Against this popular view, this proposal seeks to demonstrate how emerging economies in Africa can escape the resource curse. In particular, the proposal seeks to demonstrate how oil wealth management policies of Norway and UK can assist emerging oil nations like Ghana and Uganda to manage their natural resources. The paper identifies important literature sources which will be reviewed and outlines the methodological framework that will be used. The paper also identifies some of the limitations to its research approach and highlights ways in which reliability, validity and research limitations are to be addressed.


The impact of natural resources on economic and social development of a nation has been a controversial discussion for decades. Whilst oil exploration is associated with wealth creation and economic development, the nexus between oil, conflict and democratic failures is widely documented in literature (Basedau & Lay 2009). Despite evidence that oil exploration can act as a catalyst for development, many of the resource-rich countries have not benefited from oil production but have instead experienced great poverty and unstable living conditions, a phenomenon known as the ‘resource curse’.

Nigeria and Angola are prime examples of the resource curse. Despite being the largest oil producers in Africa and despite generating higher revenues from oil booms, Angola and Nigeria still remain amongst the poorest countries in the world. The natural endowment in both of these nations has not been positively correlated with economic growth and social progress (Andre 2010). In Angola, for instance, majority of its population still live in extreme poverty, living on less than $2 per day (Hammond 2011).

Similarly in Nigeria, despite having explored substantial oil for 50 years, oil production has not translated to substantial socioeconomic development and poverty rate remain extremely high with majority of the population living on less than US$1 per day (Muller 2010). In fact, the current poverty rate of 50% in Nigeria far exceeds that before the oil boom (35%) (Mahler 2010). Further, oil exploration in Nigeria has led to chronic internal instability and violent conflicts (Muller 2010).

Recently, Uganda discovered commercially viable oil deposits in the Albertine Graben region which will see the country joining the club of Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) (Bainomugisha et al. 2006). The discovery of oil in Uganda has raised hopes that the country will generate substantial growth from the oil revenues and escape the fangs of biting poverty. Similarly, in December 2010, Ghana joined the ranks of oil exporting countries. Just last year, the average oil production in Ghana was reported at 68,000bbl per day (Kapela 2012). This production is expected to continue over the next 20 years.

Problem statement

With the emerging countries such as Uganda and Ghana positioning themselves to join the club of oil producing and exporting countries (OPEC), it remains unclear whether the pitfalls that have faced may of the resource-rich countries in Africa will similarly affect these economies. How can the emerging economies leverage their oil wealth to become economic stars without succumbing to the pitfalls of the ‘resource curse’? (Bainomugisha et al. 2006). Whilst the availability of commercially viable oil resources may present these economies with an opportunity to boost their growth and reduce the biting fangs of poverty; the nexus between oil exploration and conflict and governance issues is widely documented.

Can Ghana and Uganda find a way out of the resource curse? How would these economies address issues of governance, accountability and transparency which have seen resources in many of the oil producing nations in Africa becoming a curse instead of a blessing? These are some of the questions that linger in the minds of many people especially considering that countries like Angola, Nigeria and Equatorial Guinea have not been able to escape the resource curse (Bainomugisha et al. 2006)

 Research aims/ objectives:

The specific objectives of this study will be as follows:

  1. To explore the potential challenges new oil nations such as Ghana and Uganda might face in oil and gas wealth management
  2. To critically examine and evaluate the oil wealth management policies of Norway and UK.
  3. To study the differences and similarities of the petroleum policies of Norway and UK.

Literature review

A number of research studies have explored extensively in the area of resource curse. Before examining some of these studies, it is worthwhile to first consider the resource curse thesis and explain what is meant by the popular ‘Dutch disease’. As such the literature will first begin with a description of the resource curse phenomena and the so called ‘Dutch disease’. This shall be followed by an analysis of transparency and accountability, good governance, revenue management and fiscal policies which have enabled Norwegian government to limit the ‘dutch disease effects and to build a competent national oil industry.

Resource curse and the Dutch disease

The two terms ‘resource curse’ and the ‘Dutch disease’ are somewhat related. Both presumably arise from resource riches but take on different forms. On the one hand, resource curse refers to a phenomenon in which countries that are rich in natural resources tend to experience slow growth despite their abundant and rich resources. Contrary to what should constitute common sense, countries that are endowed with abundant natural resources experience unbalanced economic growth compared to countries with fewer resources (Cotet & Tsui 2009).

On the other hand, the Dutch disease is a term used by scholars to describe a phenomenon in which exports of the resource result in a rapid contraction in the non-resource traded goods sector (Larsen 2004).  In essence, the ‘Dutch disease’  describes a situation where in export of natural resources bring about appreciation in real exchange rate which make exportation of non-natural resource commodities difficult (Andre 2010). This has been particularly the case in Angola where oil exploration has led to the reallocation of productive factors and an appreciation in real exchange rate. As a result, most of the sectors have either declined or stagnated with exception of the oil sector.

A large volume of literature have explored on the resource curse phenomenon, often linking the extraction of natural resources to conflicts, corruption, civil war and economic decline. For example, studies by Humphreys (2005), Ross (2006) and Fearon (2005) have found natural resources as providing both finance and motive for armed conflict.

Auty (2001) also points out that resource rich countries have since the 1960s underperformed in terms of economic growth, often being outperformed by the resource-poor countries by a considerable margin. Similar findings have been reported by Sachs & Warner (2001), Gylfason et al. (1999) and Leite & Weidmann (1999).

Recently, a study by Neumayer (2004) which explored on the relationship between natural resource abundance and economic growth, with growth measured in terms of ‘genuine income’ (GDP less the depreciation of natural capital), produced the same results. Studies by Ross (2006), Fearson (2005) and Humphreys (2005) have similarly provided evidence supporting the resource curse thesis.

Indeed a large number of authors have shown that the resource curse thesis is a demonstrable empirical fact. This thesis has become a popular view and is even encountered in the popular press.  Scholars have widely acknowledged this view as a fact. Rather than critically exploring this causal relationship further to determine other variables that may be shaping this relationship, most of the scholars have instead researched the various ways through which the decline in growth is manifest (Cotet & Tsui 2009). As such, there exist relatively fewer studies that dispute the resource curse hypothesis.

Against the popular view, this proposal argues that nothing is inherently cursed about oil and that oil exploration does not have to take a grim picture as has been the case in the past. The UK and Norway have responsibly managed their oil exploration activities and bore sustainable, fully integrated economies and stable welfare societies (Bainomugisha et al. 2006). Similarly, it is possible for Uganda and Ghana to avoid the so-called resource curse and to translate their oil discovery into sustainable gains.

Transparency and accountability

Corruption is without doubt a huge problem that has continued to hinder growth and development in resource rich countries. It is central in explaining the resource curse phenomena. Two prominent contributions by Mehlum et al. (2006) and Robinson et al. (2006) point out to corruption as key issue, in the form of rent seeking and patronage. However, there is an emerging consensus that transparency and accountability can help curb corruption and other dysfunctions of resource-rich developing countries (Kolstad & Wiig 2008).

A number of initiatives have been undertaken to improve transparency and accountability in resource rich countries. For example, the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI) has been developed to increase transparency in revenues generated from extractive industries such as oil and minerals (Kolstad & Wiig 2008). Other initiatives include the Transparency obligation initiative of the EU, and The IMF Guide on Resource Revenue Transparency. The proposal, however, does not seek to elaborate on these initiatives in detail as it is beyond the scope of study.

Whilst there is strong empirical evidence pointing to the relationship between transparency and less corruption, it should be recognized that transparency on its own is not sufficient to address the resource curse. The effect of transparency on corruption is in fact conditional on education (Kolstad & Wiig 2008). At an individual country level, it is difficult to illustrate the conditional effect of transparency.

However, if we a draw comparison between countries such Angola and Liberia, it becomes easier. Both countries have become more transparent following the end of the civil wars. Despite being transparent, the level of corruption has only been reduced in Liberia, as measured by the Kaufmann control of corruption index (Kolstad & Wiig 2008). Angola, on the other hand, has not seen any significant improvements.

Furthermore, transparency may not necessarily address issues of corruption and may instead further exacerbate this problem. For example, whilst transparency makes it possible to identify corrupt officials, it can as well make it easier to identify relevant officials that may be bribed. That is, it reveals to potential bribers persons who can be contacted in order to acquire an unfair advantage. The identification effect may thus dominate the detection effect thereby further exacerbating problems of corruption.

Whilst transparency is one of the ways through which countries can avoid the resource curse, at present, there exist no systematic studies exploring the relative impact of transparency in comparison to other feasible policies (Kolstad & Wiig 2008). Whether transparency is more appropriate to other policy alternatives thus remains an issue for further research.

Good governance

The issue of transparency and accountability is closely tied with good governance. Recent studies exploring the resource curse phenomena have stressed the importance of having in place good governance to ensure transformation of resource rents into favourable development outcomes. In particular, two prominent contributions see good governance as key to avoiding the resource curse.

According to Mehlum et al (2006), resource rents tend to draw skilled workforce out of productive activities and into rent-seeking. As such, the key to addressing this problem is to increase attractiveness of the productive sector by having in place good institutions. Sharing a somewhat similar view, Robinson et al. (2006) argues that patronage is the main cause of resource curse. Hence, they suggest that the key to avoiding it is putting in place institutions that will limit the government’s ability to distribute public sector positions to political supporters.

Revenue management

Democracy is yet another issue of great importance. Studies by Ross (2001) and Aslasken (2007) have shown that oil hinders democracy. These authors have attributed this hindrance to the rentier effect. Since governments have control over substantial revenues from oil booms, they can hinder democracy through patronage, that is, by providing its supporters with certain advantages such as public sector positions. In order to address the resource curse, there is need for proper management and optimal use of revenues.

Natural resources are exhaustible in nature and as such may be rendered obsolete. Measurements of permanent income thus have to take account of these characteristics. Spending must be based on present value of expected revenues, having taken into consideration uncertainty of the prices and the time of resource depletion (Kolstad & Wiig 2008). In other words, revenues ought to be saved and properly managed to ensure a permanent stream of income.

Fiscal policies

Fiscal policies also have an important role to play in addressing the problem of resource curse and the “Dutch disease” which can be minimized through decoupling of fiscal policy from revenue fluctuations. This is made possible through containment of fiscal spending, inflation and containment of nominal exchange rate appreciation (Coutinho 2011). Norway is a prime example of a country that has benefited from its fiscal policies.

To avoid overspending its oil revenues, Norway adopted fiscal guidelines in 2001. Norway’s fiscal guidelines include a rule that ensures that the central government’s non-oil structural deficit is within 4% of the expected real return on Petroleum Fund assets (Coutinho 2011). This conservative approach which the Norwegian government has taken has enabled it to counter the uncertainty of its oil wealth. As pointed out by Jafarov & Moriyama (2005), Norwegian’s oil revenue policy has enabled the country to limit the Dutch disease effects by protecting the non-resource sectors from the impact of fluctuations in petroleum prices.

Whilst the Norwegian oil policy could be regarded as a prime example of a successful policy framework, Humphrey & Sandbu (2007) have pointed out that the institutional restrictions imposed by Norway’s fund on policy makers are weak and may not be effective in environments with weak institutional framework. Nonetheless, the Norwegian oil policy has enabled the country to built a competent national oil industry which has been well-managed up to date (Ryggvik 2010).

UK and Norway as oil and gas countries.

The UK and Norway are prime examples of countries which have successfully managed their natural resource wealth. In particular Norway, which is currently the second largest export of oil across the world, shows no symptoms of a resource abundance curse. However, one factor that may be pointed out that differentiates the experience of Norway from the other oil producing countries is the timing of natural resource discovery. Unlike many other OPEC countries, the discovery of oil occurred at a time when Norway was already a developed country (Mehboob 2012).

Nonetheless, the Norwegian government has successfully managed its natural resources, escaping the resource curse which has afflicted many of the OPEC countries. In fact, Norway was ranked as number one in the democracy index by a recent UK economic intelligence report. This decision was based on a number of criteria including transparency, accountability, election freedom and fairness, influence of foreign powers and ability to implement policies (Campbell 2012). Voluminous research has also shown that good policies and good governance have been central to the success of Norwegian oil sector.

From this lengthy literature survey, two observations can be made. First, whilst there is strong evidence pointing to the association between natural resource abundance and adverse outcomes on the economy, the evidence is by no means conclusive. The second observation is that there are no adequate accounts for the role of social forces or political environments in shaping development outcomes. Research has tended to take a reductionist approach, explaining development performance solely in terms of the size and a country’s endowment of the natural resources.

Although a consensus is emerging that the relationship between a country’s resource wealth and development outcomes may be shaped by certain political and social variables; scholars have tended to ignore these variables and instead taken the view that resource rich countries experience slow growth compared to resource poor countries. Contrary to this view, this proposal demonstrates how emerging economies in Africa can escape the resource curse which has afflicted many of the petro-countries.

Whilst there is strong evidence linking the ‘resource curse theorem’ with poor development outcomes in many of the resource rich countries in Africa, emerging economies such as  Uganda and Ghana can avoid this phenomena by ensuring good governance, transparency and accountability, effective revenue management and implementing fiscal policies that would help build competent national oil industries. The UK and Norway are prime examples of countries that have successfully managed their oil wealth. Emerging economies can learn from these two countries.

Research questions

This research study seeks to address the following research questions:

  1. How can new and emerging oil nations ensure realization of oil and gas policies to avoid the resource curse?
  2. How can the oil wealth management policies of Norway and UK assist emerging oil nations like Ghana and Uganda?

Research methodology

Research strategy/Approach

Whether one is familiar with a dissertation topic or not, it is important to have in a place a research strategy that will help the researcher to collect the necessary data for analysis. In this regard, a research strategy is a methodological approach that is taken by the researcher to investigate a particular research issue. As defined by Saunders et al. (2009), it is a general plan that guides the researcher in investigating a particular research issue. In a similar vein, Bryman (2008) defines research strategy as “a general orientation to the conduct of research” (pp698). Saunders et al. (2009) further states that a particular strategy has to be selected based on research objectives and questions, extent of existing knowledge about the topic under study, time and availability of resources, and the philosophical underpinnings of the researcher ( Saunders et al. 2009, p.600).

Based on this criterion, different research strategies may be employed by the researcher. Whilst there are various research strategies, Saunders et al (2009) and Yin (2003) acknowledge that a large overlap exists among these strategies. As such, of great importance would be to select the most advantageous strategy. Among the most commonly used research strategies are survey, experiment, case study, ethnography, grounded theory, cross sectional studies and participative inquiry among others. The proposed dissertation seeks to employ a case study research strategy. While examining the overall emerging economies in Africa, the study will devote particular focus to Uganda and Ghana as the case studies.

Rationale for selecting case study research approach

According to Robson (2002), a case study research strategy refers to a research strategy that involves an observed investigation of a particular phenomenon within a real life context (Robson 2002: p.178). Case study is considered ideal for the proposed dissertation as it allows the researcher to focus on the specific context, and for in-depth investigation of the issue at hand.

Further, Case study research has been preferred over other research strategies as the research questions take the form of ‘how’. This research study has been developed to answer to the research questions: 1. how can new and emerging oil nations ensure realization of oil and gas policies to avoid the resource curse? 2. How can the oil wealth management policies of Norway and UK assist emerging oil nations like Ghana and Uganda?

It is evident that the research questions predominantly consist of ‘how’ type of research questions, hence suited for a case study research. Chetty (1996) also points out that case study research is important as it leads to the observation of new insights that would otherwise not have emerged with other research strategies such as surveys. The qualitative case study will explore the oil and gas management policies and theories in Norway and UK, and examine how emerging nations, particularly Uganda and Ghana, can learn from these countries which have built competent oil sectors. The case study strategy is expected to capture the complexity surrounding management of oil wealth in these emerging economies.

Qualitative method

A number of scholars have differentiated between qualitative and quantitative research. One of the key issues that have been used to draw distinction between the two is the nature of data. With quantitative research method, the data is hard, objective and standardized. But with qualitative method, the data is rich and deep (Corbetta 2003). Bickman et al. (1998) and Maxwell (1998) have further added interactivity as one of the features of qualitative research.

The nature of data needed for the proposed dissertation is rich and deep. The richness of the information is necessary in order to identify the current management practices employed by Norway and the UK in the management of their oil wealth which will then be reflected in designing an applicable management model for emerging countries such as Uganda and Ghana.

Data collection

The research question:  ‘how can new and emerging oil nations ensure realization of oil and gas policies to avoid the resource curse?’ requires an extensive amount of investigation. As such in-depth interviewing is deemed more appropriate for this study. Interviews will be used as the primary source of collecting data. Interviews will be conduct with key informants in Norway and the UK who will shed a light on the policies governing the management of oil and provide an explanation as to how these economies have been able to escape the resource curse phenomena and the ‘Dutch disease’. The interviewees will comprise of key informants in the oil industry such as the local leaders and policy practitioners, international and national diplomats, and policy drivers in transnational agencies, consultants and experts in the oil industry. A total of 30 respondents will be interviewed.

Further, a desk study will be conduct to supplement the primary data. This will involve collecting secondary qualitative data which will be derived from previous research studies. Both documentary and on-line material related to the research topic will be reviewed. The secondary qualitative data will be obtained from archival documents, official government publications, policy papers, statistical data and several other publications including books and academic journals.

Peer reviewed journals will include the European Economic Review, Journal of Peace Research, Cyprus Economic Policy Review, Journal of Conflict Resolution, The Economic Journal, and Journal of Development Economics among others.  This secondary information will supplement the primary data collected and improve accuracy and validity of the research findings.

Data analysis

The data obtained from in-depth interviews is rich in detail, contextually laden and subjective. Such data must be reworked or reduced to represent major themes that describe the phenomenon under study. As such, thematic analysis has been chosen as the main approach to analyzing the qualitative data in the proposed in dissertation.  As defined by Saunders et al. (2009), thematic analysis refers to quantitative content analysis that involves the identification of patterns and themes within data.

Thematic analysis is particularly common with qualitative research. It involves identification of a number of emerging themes which reflect the textual data. Whilst it may sound easy, thematic analysis require the researcher to be familiar with their data in order to provide insightful analysis. Data familiarization is thus key to thematic analysis.

Limitations of qualitative research

Whilst positive that research objectives of this research can be achieved, there certain challenges that may be encountered with the methodological approach. As pointed out by Bryman (2004), qualitative findings tend to rely much on researchers often unsystematic views on what is important and significant, and research findings may be influenced by the researcher’s biases.

Moreover, the findings obtained from a qualitative case study may not be generalizable given the set of few respondents. The scope of qualitative research is often limited to single cases and as such, it becomes difficult to generalize the findings. Also, respondents may choose to provide false information which may affect the accuracy of the findings. Despite these criticisms, qualitative research has been chosen as the research approach in the present study.

Generalizability, validity and reliability

The researcher will avoid the bias associated with qualitative research by deliberately seeking data from various sources including official government documents, policy papers and other relevant secondary sources. This secondary information will be used to supplement the findings obtained from the primary interviews.

Ethical considerations

A number of ethical issues may arise with interviews with key informants. Given the secrecy of information of this nature, some participants may not be at liberty to reveal certain sensitive information. However, the researcher assured the participant about confidentiality of their information. Another ethical concern relates to the issue of utilizing secondary sources without the author’s permission. To address this concern, the researcher is going to acknowledge the contributions made by the original authors of the secondary sources in the proposed dissertation.


Clearly, we have seen that many resource rich countries especially the African countries such as Nigeria and Angola have suffered from ‘resource curse’ and the ‘Dutch disease’. Despite being the largest oil producers, these resource rich countries still remain at amongst the poorest in the world. Their natural endowment has not been positively correlated with economic growth and social progress. We’ve also seen a close and strong link between ‘resource curse’ and corruption, bad governance, lack of accountability and transparency, poor revenue management and poor fiscal policies.

On a lighter note, we’ve seen some of the resource rich countries which have been able to escape the ‘resource curse’ and ‘Dutch disease’. We’ve seen that the UK and Norway have successfully managed their natural resources. This is explained by the fact that they have pursued good policies in some areas and have enjoyed the advantages of having resource rent. However, we’ve noted that unlike many other OPEC countries, the discovery of oil occurred at a time when Norway was already a developed country. This perhaps point to the differentiated experience in the management of oil wealth between Norway and other oil producing countries.

Nonetheless, we argue that the emerging economies such as Ghana and Uganda can learn from Norway and the UK, and leverage their oil wealth in order to emerge as economic stars without succumbing to pitfalls of the resource curse. Clearly, this research is of paramount importance and would contribute significantly to the management of natural resources.

Resource requirement

To successfully execute this dissertation, the researcher intends to use a variety of secondary sources.  In particular, articles and academic journals would inform this analysis. The internet, online-library and computers would aid in the data collection and analysis. There is a plethora of literature on management of oil wealth. The dissertation will thus be based on a critical review of published literature such as journals, articles, and textbooks. In addition, the researcher intends to review press releases, government documents and annual work plans such as the 2012 Work Plan of Environmental Management in the Oil and Gas Sector. This would ensure that the dissertation is consistent, professional and of the highest quality.

Given the great deal of research conducted on this topic, the researcher is positive the dissertation will be successfully accomplished without much cost or future hindrance. Further, frantic efforts and time would be devoted towards analyzing the published literature and augmenting it with the primary data collected.

Timetable/ Gantt chart

Activity  September   October    November   December    January  
weeks  1 2 3 4 1 2 3 4 1 2 3 4 1 2 3 4 1 2 3 4
A review of prior studies and any relevant literature                                        
draft of the literature review                                        
research design and strategy                                        
Design of interview questions                                        
Communication with key informants and scheduling of interviews                                        
Interviews with key informants                                        
Data collection                                        
Data analysis (Thematic analysis)                                        
composition of the draft of the project                                        
submit to tutor for the revision                                        
final check of the data and accuracy of the written project                                        
final submission                                        


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