mai 23

Ugg orion

Does any of this absolve the private companies that come and take the minerals, natural gas or whatever out of the ground from any responsibility to the local communities?  Of course not, especially when – as in the case of the Antamina spill – local companies fail to protect local citizens. Too often, natural resource extraction industries have despoiled local environments, exploited local workers and – as a result of corrupting public officials – gotten away with it.  But while by no means perfect – and it varies by country and company – international and national standards have often constrained the ability of international companies to run roughshod over environmental, labor and developmental standards.

But in all of this, governmental incompetence and corruption remain the primary drag on basic development needs – public investments in education, infrastructure and health care, for example.The bulk of the new-found wealth hasn’t gone to social programs. Instead, it has funded massive, ridiculous Mussolini-esque public works: the refurbishment of town plazas, the improvement of (and often the construction of new) municipal buildings and, in the case of Chavín, the construction of a massive sports facility that includes an Olympic swimming pool that has yet to be filled (in the Peruvian highlands – not a region known for water sports). This is also not to mention the incredible stories of personal enrichment and corruption and the mysterious car accident that killed (or did it?) the former mayor of San Marcos.

The larger goals of development are public goods, delivered through governmental institutions.  When national or local public offices lack the capacity, oversight and leadership to do more than just accomplish personal or short-term goals, it isn’t merely the fault of the private sector. But these knotty, long-term challenges are embedded in the sad history of exploitation of local governments and the degradation of the public and political sector in these countries. Overcoming them is a long-term problem that goes beyond the friction between companies and communities, one that will shape the capacity of countries and investors to continue to provide natural resources for global economic growth.