Kicking a Crude Habit: Diversifying Away from Oil and Gas in the 21st Century

Working Paper
17-2
February 2017
Photo Credit: 
REUTERS/Fahad Shadeed

Since the 1970s, oil and gas production has enriched many countries but also made them dangerously dependent on these resources for export revenue and government finance. As a result, development experts have counseled such countries to diversify their economies and export bases. Virtually all oil- and gas-rich countries are—and have been for decades—rhetorically committed to this goal and have allocated significant resources to infant industry development and infrastructure projects to boost their economies. However, some—such as Nigeria, Qatar, and Russia—have been more successful than others. This working paper examines the fortunes of 40 oil- and gas-dependent economies during the 21st century commodity boom and finds that in spite of oil and gas prices nearly trebling, a sizable majority (75 percent) of these countries saw oil and gas rents decrease as a share of GDP. Yet many oil- and gas-rich economies continue to rely very heavily on these resources for export revenue. Internal economic diversification in the 21st century has been less a matter of correct policy formation and implementation and more a matter of factors that shape the policymaking environment, with the findings suggesting a difficult road to economic diversification for the Gulf Cooperation Council economies.

Data Disclosure: 

The data underlying this analysis are available here.