Oil: The Gift and the Curse


Published: November 15, 2007

For undemocratic Middle Eastern nations, oil is a scourge. To some, this statement might seem a bit ridiculous. Most people would think that a nation rich in natural resources, such as oil, would be technologically advanced and that its people would be highly educated. After all, oil rich nations like Norway and, at one time, the United States have put their oil resources to good use. The infrastructures of both nations are highly advanced and in many cases set the bar for other countries.  In reality, however, at least in terms of many oil rich Middle Eastern nations, oil is a scourge that prevents these societies from developing.

Many Middle Eastern Islamic nations have corrupt governments that care nothing for their subjects, who face serious issues such as high illiteracy rates. Why else would terrorist factions opt to spread their message through audio cassette tapes in many of those countries? According to a UNESCO report conducted this year, “On average, only two-thirds of adults across the Arab States can read and write with understanding, one of the lowest adult literacy rates in the world. The rate increased by 16 percentage points between 1990 and 2000-2004, and the absolute number of adult illiterates declined from about 64 million to around 58 million. This trend is expected to continue, although more slowly, with the number of illiterates remaining as high as 55 million by 2015.”

Illiteracy is only one symptom of a much larger social issue in the Middle East. The major issue facing that region of the globe is the corruption of the government. Iran, for example, might appear to be a free democratic nation, but in reality it is Iran’s Ayatollah who determines the nation’s future. One can also look at Egypt, which appears to be a democracy but in reality is more of a monarchy, because it is a well known fact that the current president, Muhammad Hosni Said Mubarak, will be succeeded by his son. This is not a disputed fact, and while his son will be “democratically” elected there is no doubt that he will be the next ruler of Egypt.

Not only is the corruption of the government a major issue in Iran and Egypt, but the abundance of oil or other natural resources in both nations is also a problem. These corrupt governments coupled with an abundance of oil makes nation building an unnecessary duty of the ruling parties. Indeed, why would a government who cares little for its people spend massive amount of money on their people when they can line their own pockets by raping their nations of its oil profits?

One might wonder why exactly the money gained from Iranian and Egyptian natural resources is not reinvested into the future of the nation’s people. Put simply the answer is this: the nations’ leaders could care less. If oil profits would be used to bolster its citizens, we would see an explosion of construction and educational programs in the next 10 years. Should the Egyptian government invest in its people and infrastructure than more and more affluent Egyptian business men and scholars would opt to stay in Egypt and help the nation along. Currently, affluent citizens are taxed at such a high rate that they opt to leave, which the exception of the rich citizens who are in the government. Ironically, most Iranians and Egyptians don’t even ask these types of questions. This is partially because those governments, indeed most Middle Eastern Islamic nations, have found other social issues to cloud the minds of the general public.

These issues range from a hatred of the Israeli state to the hatred of American interests overseas. While many Middle Easterners do have valid grievances with America and Israel, they cannot legitimately accuse America and Israel for being responsible for the vast illiteracy, unemployment and poverty issues facing Iran and other surrounding nations. It is sad that the majority of downtrodden Middle Easterners do not focus their hatred on the rulers who keep them in poverty and illiteracy. The only parties to blame for the poor state of Middle Eastern nations are either the royal families or the so called “elected” presidents who don’t really serve for the good of their people, but only further the self-serving objectives of their  governments. What we have going on in the Middle East is no less than a raping of the region’s natural resources and its sale to western nations.

For an undemocratic nation, an abundance of oil enables a corrupt government to line its own pockets with cash and not invest in its people’s infrastructure and future. I mean, how can the over 4,000 or so princes in the Middle East truly relate to or understand the conditions of the poorest people in their nations? They do not understand and they seemingly do not care. Why should they? The undemocratically elected government officials in the Middle East are perfectly content living in their lavish palaces bought with oil revenue while the people who live on their land are not treated as citizens, but regarded as subjects. Perhaps the solution to this problem would be for these royals to figure out some way to maintain their lavish lifestyles and at the same time help their people. Ironically, if these royals would just begin to invest in their people, it is logical to assume that the masses would praise them. The next step would be some type of government similar to…say that of the English. The monarchy would have no real power, but could still be able to live like kings.