Monday, August 31, 2009

Norway's Best Friend

One of the great puzzles of modern public policy is: how come Norway got it right? Recall: nearly every polity with significant natural resources turns into a kleptocracy where gangsters wrangle over the resource pool while everybody else can go to hell. Think Putin's Russia; think Harlan County, KY.

So how did Norway get it right, emerging as the poster child for responsible management of a resource find? This is another victory that probably has a thousand fathers, but thanks to Michael for showcasing a Financial Times story that identifies at least one. He's an Iraqi who came seeking medical care for his kid.

His name is Farouk al-Kasim, an Iraqi oil technocrat, married to a Norwegian he had met while studying in London. They had three children, but the youngest had cerebral palsy and needed medical care he would not get at home. So they came back to Norway. I won't repeat the rest of Martin Sandbu's fine story, except to make it clear tht al-Kasim appears to have played a central role both in the technical and in the institutional/political part of the Norwegian story. The FT headline writer calls him "The Iraqi who saved Norway from oil," which is certainly hyperbole, but if he didn't do the job single-anded, still Sandbu makes it clear that he played an important role in making it happen. Great reading, highly recommended.

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