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Oil Rents Damaging Political and Social Outcomes in MENA

As we discussed in class, one of the main types of rent is resource rent; revenue a state receives with minimal effort by simply owning the resource-rich land. Specifically in the MENA and Gulf region, oil rent is one of the most common resource rents and has led to the rentier effect; in particular the “taxation effect,” in which the government are likely to tax their population less heavily or not all since its’ main source of revenue is from oil. Because the government is not receiving or receiving little taxes from the public, they are less likely to listen to the populace, and vice versa, the public will be less likely to demand accountability or representation from their government; no representation without taxation (Ross 332).

Middle East Oil Production by Country

Another effect of oil rent is the “repression effect:” governments using their oil wealth for militarized or coercive programs that help reduce pressures of democracy (Ross 333). As the most heavily militarized region in the world, MENA states typically use a large portion of their revenue on security spending and even creating oppressive apparatuses such as “mukhabarat states.” In particular, RRLP states in the Gulf, are known for using their oil revenue to reduce dissent through militarization and force.

Looking at these two main effects, I would argue that oil rent serves as a means to damaging political and social outcomes. However, the factors that really impact these outcomes is how the government uses the revenue based on factors such as cultural or historical features, ideological or religious factors, or a simple reliance and dependency on a singular resource, oil.


Ross, M. L. (2001). Does oil hinder democracy? World Politics, 53(3), 325–361. https://doi.org/10.1353/wp.2001.0011


Anderson’s “Searching Where the Light Shines: Studying Democratization in the Middle East”


Connecting ‘A Siege of Salt and Sand’ with Cammett et al.’s ‘A Political Economy of the Middle East’

1 Comment

  1. Ed Webb

    As we noted in class, while RRLP states certainly invest heavily in repression, they also mix it with patronage and welfare to generate legitimacy. In the RRLA states the lower ratio of rents to population size means that the state is more limited in its ability to buy off segments of the public and so repression becomes even more important than in the RRLP states.

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