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He also said Uganda’s aging railroads “ought to be in a museum.”

June 2, 2009

Are we going to run out of resources? Often, care for the environment is set against human population growth, as if the two are mutually exclusive. Or people will make dire predictions about limited, fixed supplies of a particular resource, oil for example, and our growing consumption of it. How many times have we heard that we’re going to run out of a particular resource?

However, perhaps people are the resource without which other so-called resources are just stuff in the ground. On 9 October 2007 I was in Uganda and watched a live TV broadcast of Ugandan President Museveni giving his Independence Day speech for Uganda’s 45th Independence Day. He discussed four things necessary for Uganda’s continued economic growth. Here are my notes on his fourth point regarding the recent discovery of petroleum reserves in Uganda and the need for policy to benefit all Ugandans:

While discussing the oil policy, Museveni explained the following about what resources matter most. “People are the primary factor in the development of a country,” he said, “not natural resources.” He showed this by comparing Saudi Arabia and Japan, as shown in the table below.

Saudi Arabia Japan
Area 2,149,690 km2 377,873 km2
Natural Resources many few
Population 25 million 125 million
GDP 360 billion USD 4,600 billion USD
GDP per capita 10,600 USD 37,000 USD

What Museveni’s statistics show is that even though Saudi Arabia is much larger and has more natural resources than Japan, the Japanese economy has grown because they capitalized on their people as a resource. There are three reasons he cited that Japan is better off economically than Saudi Arabia:
1. Humans are consumers. People consume things, so if you have more people you will have more consumption in your economy.
2. The human brain and hand make products from the natural resources, and without the human input the natural resources would never develop.
3. Intellectual products are worth more than natural resources.

Last time I checked, glass, fine aggregates for concrete, and silicon for computer chips are each made from sand.
U2‘s song, Lemon, says:

A man builds a city
With banks and cathedrals
A man melts the sand so he can
See the world outside

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