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How can poor countries beat the resource curse? CGD research fellow Justin Sandefur returns to the Podcast hotseat to update us on a project that posed this question to ordinary people in Tanzania. CGD teamed up with REPOA to bring hundreds of Tanzanians to Dar es Salaam to debate what to do with that country’s newly-discovered natural gas deposits. This week, Justin is back to share the project’s results.

“People are eager to see the natural gas extracted. They are eager to see it sold. They are eager to see that money used to spend on social service programs,” says Sandefur.

Economists might argue the benefits of saving the money, but Tanzanians were firm in their preference for spending it on health and education. And at the end of the day, says Sandefur, “Tanzania’s a democracy and these choices are going to be governed by the democratic choices of the Tanzanian electorate.”

Success in Tanzania could also benefit neighbors Uganda, Kenya, and Mozambique, all of whom are dealing with similar questions around the best use of natural gas. “We’re in a situation where many poor countries are now sitting on huge stocks of wealth,” says Sandefur, and that’s shifting the balance for international development policies: “It becomes less about aid flows and financing from abroad and more a question about, how is Tanzania as a democracy going to govern these new resources?” 

Watch the full podcast below. 

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CGD blog posts reflect the views of the authors drawing on prior research and experience in their areas of expertise. CGD does not take institutional positions.