Saturday, May 10, 2008

Sounds Familiar?

Ever heard of Nauru? It is a tiny island nation in the Pacific Ocean. This island relied on a natural resource: phosphates that was formed by many years of seagull-dropping on coral. Foreign companies came to mine and money started rolling in to the islanders making the island briefly in the 70s one of the world’s richest in terms of income per head.

The story continues as described in an article in The Economist:

As the money rolled in many islanders chose to remain unemployed, cashing the royalty cheques while foreign workers dug out the deposits. Nauruans literally grew fat on their earnings; rates of obesity and diabetes soared. But strip mining has left the island a barren, jagged wasteland. The wealth it generated was squandered in a number of disastrous investments, as Nauru tried its hand as an early sovereign-wealth fund, and got its fingers burnt. It tried to reinvent itself as an offshore tax haven, and took to hosting all manner of shady banking nameplates.

The story does not end there. The island does not have a functioning government and becomes host to detention center for people seeking asylum in Australia. Australia is now closing the detention center and taking away an important source of income for the island.

As I read the story I could not help reflecting on our situation.. This sounds too familiar and I hope we manage to reach a better outcome.


Grey said...

Very similar , i agree.. Al Watan news say 70% of the local population is obese now ! the alarm bells should have rung by now !

Anonymous said...

the Nauru story is an edifying story of what not to do with windfall wealth. unfortunately i dont think enough people in kuwait have heard of it but even if they did they can't see the forest for the trees and they will continue in their old ways because the alternative is just too hard for them to accept.

i love the Nauru story though since its like watching Kuwait in fast forward. the similarities are striking too.