July 1, 2022


Resource Nationalism & Decarbonization

An event with Thea Riofrancos, Miguel Ángel Marmolejo Cervantes, and Martín Obaya

From Mexico to the Southern Cone, a renewed wave of left-wing electoral victories has yielded comparisons to the “pink tide” of the late-1990s and early-2000s. Where that turn took place in the context of a global commodity boom, these recent elections coincide with a surge in demand for minerals essential to the green transition.

The moment has sparked renewed assertiveness by national governments over crucial natural resources, and heated debates over how to balance development goals, global decarbonization, and the needs of communities living on the frontlines of extractive economies—often as polluting and disruptive as the old carbon regime.

In July 2022, Phenomenal World hosted a conversation on resource nationalism and the politics of decarbonization. The discussion, moderated by Alex Yablon, featured Thea Riofrancos, Miguel Ángel Marmolejo Cervantes, and Martín Obaya.

Read an edited transcript of the event here, and view the recording here.

From the discussion:

How much has resource development contributed to the overall economic revenues of the state, and what have those revenues been reinvested in? Has it contributed to developmental indicators through reinvestment in social and public services, or job growth? Has state ownership contributed to economic diversification and upgrading? The record is mixed on all fronts, which doesn’t just point to the errors of state ownership, but also the constraints of the global economic order.

There is a position of dependency on foreign capital which constrains state action. But even with this caveat, the most recent nationalizations—not “hard” nationalizations at all—did see a big boon to state finances through the forced renegotiation of contracts, majority stakes, and joint ventures. In many cases, those were invested in ways that met human needs. Putting aside corruption and mismanagement, the overall picture is that many were lifted out of poverty, and much of that was due to resource rents—in my view, that’s a success.

— Thea Riofrancos

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