17 May 2010

The Plundered Planet

Written by Published in Book Reviews

When Paul Collier brings out a book, people tend to take notice. His previous work, The Bottom Billion, has been influential to neo-liberal economists and, as Oxford Professor of Economics and former Head of Research at the World Bank, Collier comes with a formidable reputation – as demonstrated by the fact that he currently advises the UN and the British government. 

In The Plundered Planet, Collier  attempts to reconcile economic and environmental interests by showing that they are not competing, but mutually dependent. With the bottom billion wary of environmentalism, cooperation and radical rethinking is required to determine responsible choices for low-income societies rich in natural assets. While the argument that resource-rich, low-income countries must invest in their own societies at a macro level is nothing new, Collier’s expansion of the concept of plunder, the two sides of which he calls depletion and bonanza, is interesting and fresh. 

However, quite how profiteering (and the corruption of many lower-income countries’ governments) can be circumvented for constructive cooperation to be achieved, is less clear. For the head to change – for future policies required for a more sustainable future for the bottom billion to be implemented – then the collective heart must change, too. And there is nothing in contemporary mainstream politics to suggest that that might be on the horizon.

The Plundered Planet by Paul Collier (Allen Lane) £20


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