Elite conflict over development. Extractive sector politics in Latin America

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Extractive industries such as mining, oil and gas have the potential to alleviate poverty in rural and remote areas and contribute positively to national development efforts in the global South. However the industry record in this regard is uneven and very disappointing with an increasing number of countries suffering from environmental degradation and resource dependency. Despite these problems and for a number of reasons many governments around the globe continue to pursue export-led development strategies that encourage foreign investment in extractive industries.
Within this context, only a handful of resource dependent countries and regions in the global South appear to be managing their non-renewables in ways that would result in increasing levels of national development and poverty alleviation and avoid the so called ‘resource curse’. Fewer cases still, question the assumption that engaging in the extraction of non-renewable resources is a worthwhile developmental option. In terms of policy making, what sets these countries and regions apart from the rest?
The article argues that these exceptions are the result of a slow shift taking place in the last 20 years in the policy making environment in Latin America. Whereas prior to the 1990s, the political and economic elites maintained near hegemonic control over the policy making environment, there are more political and institutional instances now that allow broader participation and contestation in national debates over development. This is not to say that traditional elites have lost power but rather that they may still be dominant but are no longer hegemonic. The signs of change in the policy making environment are evident in three areas of development: a) greater transparency in national earnings from non-renewables, b) increased channeling of non-renewables into national developmental and poverty alleviation efforts and c) higher levels of popular participation in decisions about the exploitation of non-renewables. In this article I will examine how these changes have impacted industrial policy in two state jurisdictions (Costa Rica and El Salvador) and one sub-national jurisdictions (the province of Mendoza in Argentina). To put these examples in context the article will first review the intellectual trajectory the concept of development in Latin America in the last 50 years and will examine the state of resource dependence and poverty alleviation in the more recent past. I will also identify the role of elites in policy making processes by making reference to Pollin’s Elite vs Egalitarian voice concept (1995), which I explain in the second part of the article. The third part of the article will include a discussion of recent changes in the policy making environments of the above mentioned case studies.
TidsskriftEnergy Research and Social Sciences
StatusUnder udarbejdelse - 1 dec. 2019

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