A commentator looking at Venezuela and the use of the money from its oil reserves suggests oil money should be spent on development in “glittering cities”:
While oil has ushered in spectacular construction projects for glittering Middle Eastern cities, including the world’s tallest building in Dubai and plans for branches of the Louvre and Guggenheim museums in Abu Dhabi, it’s brought relatively meager changes to Venezuela, which holds the world’s largest proven oil reserves.
Nearly 14 years after President Hugo Chavez took office, and despite the biggest oil bonanza in Venezuela’s history, there’s little outward sign of the nearly one trillion petrodollars that have flowed into the country.
It would be interesting to hear experts talk about whether the urban development projects in the Middle East are really the best use of money from natural resources. On one hand, the cities look impressive. Dubai is now on the map partly because of the Burj Kalifa. American universities and European museums want to locate in such new cities. The buildings are all so new and exciting. At least in appearance, these cities can now compete with the best big cities in the world. Going further, some would argue cities are the engines of innovation and growth so spending money there on infrastructure and facilities could go a long way. Similarly, glittering cities might the result of financial and economic power.
On the other hand, money spent on buildings and cities is money that could be spent on education, health care, the development of human capital, and sustainable projects that will outlive the oil reserves. Cities may only be as good as its workers and residents who can contribute to social, economic, and political life. Could glittering cities simply be facades that mask a host of underlying social ills papered over by mineral wealth? Money may be spent in urban centers and yet residents in slums and in more rural areas may be essentially forgotten. More broadly, does a city necessarily have to be “glittering” to be successful? Indeed, are there cities in the world that are clearly successful and offer a high standard of living but are not glittering such as the Scandinavian capitals?