Natural resources are regarded as a principal factor that influences the development of an economy. When discussing natural resources, it is important to understand the term “land.” In economic terms, the land is seen as that part of the earth that encompasses forest wealth, minerals, climate, and water resources (in lakes, seas, and the ocean), among others. Successful development is greatly supported by the availability of abundant natural resources. Countries that have plentiful natural resources develop more rapidly as compared to those that have less. It is important to note that less developed countries can have unexploited, underexploited, or misused natural resources. This inclination to the use of land results in backwardness, which slows development.
Thus, the availability of abundant natural resources is not sufficient for economic growth. In such cases, proper exploitation and utilization are necessary for successful development. These days, natural resources are better exploited using technological means, which are strengthened by modern knowledge. The significance of natural resources dates back to the era of agricultural revolutions in Britain (1740 to 1760) and France, where methods such as rotational cropping were practiced to increase production. This essay seeks to establish whether the availability of natural resources in-country is necessary for successful development. Particular attention is given to the United Arab Emirates (a developed country), and China (a developing country), which have that has benefitted tremendously from energy mineral resources.
The Significance of Oil and Mineral Resources in developing the Economy of the United Arab Emirates (UAE)
The United Arab Emirates (UAE) is a developed federation of hereditary monarchies governed by a Federal Supreme Council that was formed in 1971. Consisting of seven emirates, including Abu Dhabi, Fujairah, Sharjah, Umm al-Qaiwain, Dubai, Ras al-Khaimah, and Ajman, the country greatly benefitted from the abundance of both offshore and onshore natural resources such as petroleum and gas. Development in the UAE has largely hooked on the discovery and utilization of oil and mineral resources since the early 1970s.
The UAE population, consisting of 9.4 million people, is a blend of indigenous folks and a large number of expatriates (comprising more than three-quarters of the country’s total population). Currently, the human development index (HDI) in the UAE stands at 0.84, which places the country in a superior human development class (UNDP, 2016; Human Development Report, 2016). The discovery of oil and mineral resources led to increased inward migration that resulted in rapid population growth.
Overall, the dominant features in the UAE include a small number of indigenous folks, a large expatriate population, and massive riches accumulated from the oil business. It is important to note that the population size, age composition, and social factors in the United Arab Emirates greatly influence the country’s labor force. The gender inequality index (GII) was 0.232 by 2015, ranking it 46 out of 159 countries (Human Development Report, 2016).
Nevertheless, the employment pattern in the United Arab Emirates does not mirror productivity. For instance, employment in the oil sector stands at 1.6% of the total labor force in the country (Ozturk & Al-Mulali, 2015).). This situation unveils the capital-intensiveness in the oil industry. The UAE is blessed with extensive offshore and onshore oil reserves. Oil is the most treasured natural resource in this country. Over two million barrels are produced each day from the country’s oil reserves. Besides, the country is estimated to have over 6 trillion cubic meters of natural gas reserves (Smith, 2013). These natural assets have been used to generate massive capital for the exploitation of other resources through economic activities such as farming.
Despite having a vast resource base of oil and gas reserves, the UAE has very limited agricultural potential owing to factors such as unavailability of land, water scarcity, and unfavorable climatic conditions. However, the unavailability of these resources has not stopped development in the country. Although agricultural productivity is considered an important facet of successful development, it has been an exception in the United Arab Emirates since the country is endowed with minerals (Smith, 2013).
To sustain successful development, the country generates huge amounts of capital from the exportation of oil and mineral resources to world markets. In this manner, it uses this capital to purchase sufficient food imports to cover its deficit in agricultural productivity. This point is important because it implies that the abundance of natural resources is not exclusively a factor in successful development (Smith, 2013). It requires the interventions of both technological means and increased human knowledge to utilize the available resources efficiently to generate adequate capital that can support all dimensions of economic growth.
Natural Resources and Development in China
On the other hand, China is a developing country whose demand for natural resources, mainly oil, gas, coal, and iron ore, continues to grow each day. China also has plentiful resources and an expedient opportunity to their obtainability, exploration, and exploitation in its vast territory (covering about 96,000,000km2). However, unlike the UAE, natural resources in China are characterized by their shortage per capita and the existence of unfavorable natural conditions (Mudakkar, Zaman, Khan, & Ahmad, 2013).
It is undeniable that the country is in the process of relatively fast industrialization and urbanization as compared to many other developing nations around the world. However, its unsustainable consumption of natural resources has continued to threaten the future of human society globally.
The Chinese population stood at 1376 million (1.376 billion – roughly 19% of the world’s population) people as of 2016 (UNDP, 2016). The country’s current human development index is 0.738, which makes it rank position 90 out of 188 countries and territories. Its current gender development index is 0.954, placing China in group 2. With this kind of population statistics, the country is unsustainably utilizing natural resources without considering conservational measures. As a result, its per capita resources have been decreasing uninterruptedly in addition to deteriorating ecological value. The scarcity of water in both industrial and agricultural production has resulted in restrained day-to-day lives of the Chinese people, forcing many of them to seek refuge in other places around the world.
Venables (2016) reveals that China heavily relies on traditional economic development, which focuses on natural resources and energy as the core inputs in production processes. This approach to economic success is accompanied by resource wastage, pollution, and over-exploitation (Barnett & Morse,2013).
Despite the fact that the country ranks as the world’s second-largest economy, unsuitable administrative policies have adversely affected the distribution of natural resources and the establishment of free markets for them. However, ignoring other factors such as pollution and failure to observe conservational measures, the application of technology and modern knowledge has led to overexploitation of China’s natural resources. This situation has resulted in the successful development of the country’s economy.
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Ozturk, I., & Al-Mulali, U. (2015). Natural gas consumption and economic growth nexus: Panel data analysis for GCC countries. Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews, 51(1), 998-1003.
Smith, V. K. (2013). Scarcity and growth reconsidered. New York, NY: Routledge.
UNDP. (2016). United Nations development program: Human development reports. Web.
Venables, A. J. (2016). Using natural resources for development: Why has it proven so difficult? The Journal of Economic Perspectives, 30(1), 161-183.