Dutch disease

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In economics, the Dutch disease is the apparent causal relationship between the increase in the economic development of a specific sector (for example natural resources) and a decline in other sectors (like the manufacturing sector or agriculture). The putative mechanism is that as revenues increase in the growing sector (or inflows of foreign aid), the given nation's currency becomes stronger (appreciates) compared to currencies of other nations (manifest in an exchange rate). This results in the nation's other exports becoming more expensive for other countries to buy, and imports becoming cheaper, making those sectors less competitive. While it most often refers to natural resource discovery, it can also refer to "any development that results in a large inflow of foreign currency, including a sharp surge in natural resource prices, foreign assistance, and foreign direct investment". [1]

Economics Social science that analyzes the production, distribution, and consumption of goods and services

Economics is the social science that studies the production, distribution, and consumption of goods and services.

Agriculture Cultivation of plants and animals to provide useful products

Agriculture is the science and art of cultivating plants and livestock. Agriculture was the key development in the rise of sedentary human civilization, whereby farming of domesticated species created food surpluses that enabled people to live in cities. The history of agriculture began thousands of years ago. After gathering wild grains beginning at least 105,000 years ago, nascent farmers began to plant them around 11,500 years ago. Pigs, sheep and cattle were domesticated over 10,000 years ago. Plants were independently cultivated in at least 11 regions of the world. Industrial agriculture based on large-scale monoculture in the twentieth century came to dominate agricultural output, though about 2 billion people still depended on subsistence agriculture into the twenty-first.

Exchange rate rate at which one currency will be exchanged for another

In finance, an exchange rate is the rate at which one currency will be exchanged for another. It is also regarded as the value of one country’s currency in relation to another currency. For example, an interbank exchange rate of 114 Japanese yen to the United States dollar means that ¥114 will be exchanged for each US$1 or that US$1 will be exchanged for each ¥114. In this case it is said that the price of a dollar in relation to yen is ¥114, or equivalently that the price of a yen in relation to dollars is $1/114.


The term was coined in 1977 by The Economist to describe the decline of the manufacturing sector in the Netherlands after the discovery of the large Groningen natural gas field in 1959. [2]

<i>The Economist</i> English weekly news and international affairs publication

The Economist is an English-language weekly magazine-format newspaper owned by the Economist Group and edited at offices in London. Continuous publication began under its founder James Wilson in September 1843. In 2015, its average weekly circulation was a little over 1.5 million, about half of which were sold in the United States. Pearson PLC held a 50% shareholding via The Financial Times Limited until August 2015. At that time, Pearson sold their share in the Economist. The Agnelli family's Exor paid £287m to raise their stake from 4.7% to 43.4% while the Economist paid £182m for the balance of 5.04m shares which will be distributed to current shareholders. Aside from the Agnelli family, smaller shareholders in the company include Cadbury, Rothschild (21%), Schroder, Layton and other family interests as well as a number of staff and former staff shareholders.

Netherlands Constituent country of the Kingdom of the Netherlands in Europe

The Netherlands is a country located mainly in Northwestern Europe. The European portion of the Netherlands consists of twelve separate provinces that border Germany to the east, Belgium to the south, and the North Sea to the northwest, with maritime borders in the North Sea with Belgium, Germany and the United Kingdom. Together with three island territories in the Caribbean Sea—Bonaire, Sint Eustatius and Saba—it forms a constituent country of the Kingdom of the Netherlands. The official language is Dutch, but a secondary official language in the province of Friesland is West Frisian.

Groningen gas field

The Groningen gas field is a giant natural gas field located near Slochteren in Groningen province in the northeastern part of the Netherlands. Discovered in 1959, it is the largest natural gas field in Europe and the tenth-largest in the world.


The classic economic model describing Dutch disease was developed by the economists W. Max Corden and J. Peter Neary in 1982. In the model, there is a non-tradable sector (which includes services) and two tradable sectors: the booming sector, and the lagging (or non-booming) tradable sector. The booming sector is usually the extraction of natural resources such as oil, natural gas, gold, copper, diamonds or bauxite, or the production of crops, such as coffee or cocoa. The lagging sector is usually manufacturing or agriculture.

J. Peter Neary FBA is an economist specialising in international trade. He is professor of economics at Oxford University, and a professorial fellow of Merton College, Oxford as well as associate member of Nuffield College, Oxford. He was previously professor of political economy at University College Dublin, from 1980 to 2006. He is also a research fellow of the Centre for Economic Policy Research.

Service (economics) intangible offering inseparable from its creators labor, which brings utility value to their client

In economics, a service is a transaction in which no physical goods are transferred from the seller to the buyer. The benefits of such a service are held to be demonstrated by the buyer's willingness to make the exchange. Public services are those that society as a whole pays for. Using resources, skill, ingenuity, and experience, service providers benefit service consumers. Service is intangible in nature.

The tradable sector of a country's economy is made up of the industry sectors whose output in terms of goods and services are traded internationally, or could be traded internationally given a plausible variation in relative prices. Most commonly, the tradable sector consists largely of sectors of the manufacturing industry, while the non-tradable sector consists of locally-rendered services, including health, education, retail and construction.

A resource boom affects this economy in two ways:

  1. In the "resource movement effect", the resource boom increases demand for labor, which causes production to shift toward the booming sector, away from the lagging sector. This shift in labor from the lagging sector to the booming sector is called direct-deindustrialization. However, this effect can be negligible, since the hydrocarbon and mineral sectors tend to employ few people. [3]
  2. The "spending effect" occurs as a result of the extra revenue brought in by the resource boom. It increases demand for labor in the non-tradable sector (services), at the expense of the lagging sector. This shift from the lagging sector to the non-tradable sector is called indirect-deindustrialization. [3] The increased demand for non-traded goods increases their price. However, prices in the traded good sector are set internationally, so they cannot change. This amounts to an increase in the real exchange rate. [4]

Resource-based international trade

In a model of international trade based on resource endowments as the Heckscher–Ohlin/Heckscher–Ohlin-Vanek, the Dutch disease can be explained by the Rybczynski Theorem.

Heckscher–Ohlin model

The Heckscher–Ohlin model is a general equilibrium mathematical model of international trade, developed by Eli Heckscher and Bertil Ohlin at the Stockholm School of Economics. It builds on David Ricardo's theory of comparative advantage by predicting patterns of commerce and production based on the factor endowments of a trading region. The model essentially says that countries export products that use their abundant and cheap factors of production, and import products that use the countries' scarce factors.


Using data on 118 countries over the period 1970–2007, a study by economists at the University of Cambridge provides evidence that the Dutch disease does not operate in primary commodity-abundant countries.[ why? ] [5] They also show that it is the volatility in commodity prices, rather than abundance per se, that drives the resource curse paradox since the negative impact of commodity terms of trade volatility on GDP per capita is larger than the growth enhancing effects of commodity booms. A study of the resource-rich Australian and Norwegian economies has shown that a booming resource sector can have positive effects (or ‘spillovers’) on non-resource sectors, which have not been captured in previous analysis. Construction and services, and to a lesser extent manufacturing benefit from these spillovers. [6] [7]

The resource curse, also known as the paradox of plenty, refers to the paradox that countries with an abundance of natural resources, tend to have less economic growth, less democracy, and worse development outcomes than countries with fewer natural resources. There are many theories and much academic debate about the reasons for, and exceptions to, these adverse outcomes. Most experts believe the resource curse is not universal or inevitable, but affects certain types of countries or regions under certain conditions.

In economics a spillover is an economic event in one context that occurs because of something else in a seemingly unrelated context. For example, externalities of economic activity are non-monetary spillover effects upon non-participants. Odors from a rendering plant are negative spillover effects upon its neighbors; the beauty of a homeowner's flower garden is a positive spillover effect upon neighbors.


Simple trade models suggest that a country should specialize in industries in which it has a comparative advantage; so a country rich in some natural resources would be better off specializing in the extraction of those natural resources.

The law or principle of comparative advantage holds that under free trade, an agent will produce more of and consume less of a good for which they have a comparative advantage. Comparative advantage is the economic reality describing the work gains from trade for individuals, firms, or nations, which arise from differences in their factor endowments or technological progress. In an economic model, agents have a comparative advantage over others in producing a particular good if they can produce that good at a lower relative opportunity cost or autarky price, i.e. at a lower relative marginal cost prior to trade. One shouldn't compare the monetary costs of production or even the resource costs of production. Instead, one must compare the opportunity costs of producing goods across countries.

However, other theories suggest that this is detrimental, for example when the natural resources deplete. Also, prices may decrease and competitive manufacturing cannot return as quickly as it left. This may happen because technological growth is smaller in the booming sector and the non-tradable sector than the non-booming tradable sector. [8] Because that economy had smaller technological growth than did other countries, its comparative advantage in non-booming tradable goods will have shrunk, thus leading firms not to invest in the tradables sector. [9]

Also, volatility in the price of natural resources, and thus the real exchange rate, limits investment by private firms, because firms will not invest if they are not sure what the future economic conditions will be. [10] Commodity exports such as raw materials, drive up the value of the currency. This is what leads to the lack of competition in the other sectors of the economy. The extraction of natural resources is also extremely capital intensive, resulting in few new jobs being created. [11]


There are two basic ways to reduce the threat of Dutch disease: slowing the appreciation of the real exchange rate, and boosting the competitiveness of the adversely affected sectors. One approach is to sterilize the boom revenues, that is, not to bring all the revenues into the country all at once, and to save some of the revenues abroad in special funds and bring them in slowly. In developing countries, this can be politically difficult as there is often pressure to spend the boom revenues immediately to alleviate poverty, but this ignores broader macroeconomic implications.

Sterilization will reduce the spending effect, alleviating some of the effects of inflation. Another benefit of letting the revenues into the country slowly is that it can give a country a stable revenue stream, giving more certainty to revenues from year to year. Also, by saving the boom revenues, a country is saving some of the revenues for future generations. Examples of these sovereign wealth funds include the Australian Government Future Fund, Iranian national development fund, the Government Pension Fund in Norway, the Stabilization Fund of the Russian Federation, the State Oil Fund of Azerbaijan, Alberta Heritage Savings Trust Fund of Alberta, Canada, and the Future Generations Fund of the State of Kuwait established in 1976. Recent[ when? ] talks led by the United Nations Development Programme in Cambodia – International Oil and Gas Conference on fueling poverty reduction – point out the need for better education of state officials and energy CaDREs (Capacity Needs Diagnostics for Renewable Energies) linked to a sovereign wealth fund to avoid the resource curse (Paradox of plenty). [12]

Another strategy for avoiding real exchange rate appreciation is to increase saving in the economy in order to reduce large capital inflows which may appreciate the real exchange rate. This can be done if the country runs a budget surplus. A country can encourage individuals and firms to save more by reducing income and profit taxes. By increasing saving, a country can reduce the need for loans to finance government deficits and foreign direct investment.

Investments in education and infrastructure can increase the competitiveness of the lagging manufacturing or agriculture sector. Another approach is government protectionism of the lagging sector, that is, increase in subsidies or tariffs. However, this could worsen the effects of Dutch disease, as large inflows of foreign capital are usually provided by the export sector and bought up by the import sector. Imposing tariffs on imported goods will artificially reduce that sector's demand for foreign currency, leading to further appreciation of the real exchange rate. [13]


It is usually difficult to be certain that a country has Dutch disease because it is difficult to prove the relationship between an increase in natural resource revenues, the real-exchange rate, and a decline in the lagging sector. An appreciation in the real exchange rate could be caused by other things such as productivity increases in the Balassa-Samuelson effect, changes in the terms of trade and large capital inflows. [14] Often these capital inflows are caused by foreign direct investment or to finance a country's debt.


See also

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