UPPER SIXTH
RESOURCES AND DEVELOPMENT

There are many different definitions of resources. Perhaps the best definition, due to its generalistic nature is that given by Bradford and Kent;
“A resource is anything that people in society value and can use”
Similarly, there are many definitions for a commodity. Law and Smith define it as;
“the term used to define a resource which has entered the world financial markets”

Commodity values change through time, e.g. the price per barrel of crude oil, because they are related to a multitude of factors which have economic value. Both resources and commodities can be further sub divided, in accordance with the different values placed on them by those who use them. We can group these thus;

·       Economic; the resource is a source of profit and employment through discover, exploitation, processing and marketing.
·       Technology; can make a resource available or make it redundant.
·       Political value may be imparted on a different scale. It is good for a country to be self sufficient, as opposed to heavily reliant on imports.
·       Strategic resources have value to the military or the government, e.g. the Panama/Suez Canal control access to the oceans.
·       Religious resources, e.g. ownership of the Holy City of Jerusalem is disputed by three religions, Christian, Muslim and Judaism.
·       Geographical (Aesthetic) resources, e.g. access to open land, landscape and aesthetic value of the land.
Resources can be more simply divided in to renewable and non renewable, commonly used terms, which are relatively self explanatory. Renewable resources can be further divided in to another two groups;
·       Non Critical; available for ever, e.g. water/solar power.
·       Critical/Sustainable; resources which require careful management in order to be fully preserved, e.g. soil, fish, forestry.

World Trade and Commodities;
·       The world’s resources are unevenly distributed. Trade must take place in order to exist.
·       Trade of commodities and manufactured goods has been taking place for thousands of years. The Egyptians of 4000 years ago exported gold and wine to Syria in exchange for wood and pottery.
·       Structure of  modern world trade has its origins in the colonial period.
·       Much of the wealth of the MEDCs was founded upon the supply of commodities from the LEDCs.
·       Most LEDCs still rely on the export of commodities for their income.
·       MEDCs have imported raw materials as commodities as cheaply as possible to manufacture goods for export. Goods are then sold back to the colonies or LEDCs at as high a price as possible.
·       Pattern fits the economic theory of mercantilism. This suggests that the wealth of a nation is dependent on gaining natural resources through foreign trade.
·       Dependency upon commodity exports by LEDCs makes them vulnerable to fluctuations in the markets for their goods. LEDC competition is discouraged by high tariffs.
·       LEDC competition is discouraged by high tariffs.
·       Trade blocs exist to protect closed markets or closed economies by tariffs and trade restrictions.
·       Attempts to stabilise prices by trade groups has generally failed. Notable exception is OPEC (Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries), which consists of the Middle Eastern countries, and their successful cartel which controls world oil prices.
·       Volume of commodity trade in the last two decades has increase; but their value has decreased.
·       The pattern of suppliers and consumers remains today, in the division between MEDCs and LEDCs. Some LEDCs have attempted to bridge the gap by industrialising with foreign investment. These Newly Industrialising Countries are dealt with elsewhere.