Transparency in Commodity-Rich Countries: Is State Ownership to Blame?

Publication Date: 
16 January 2019
Publication Language: 
Appearing in: 
Review of European and Russian Affairs

Since the late 1990s, transparency has emerged as a major governance pillar helping resource-rich countries improve their performance and escape the resource curse. Within this debate, a few scholars have pointed to the correlation between ownership structure and transparency, and have argued that under state ownership, transparency should not be expected, as government officials refrain from strengthening institutions to retain their discretionary power.

This study attempts to challenge scholarly existing knowledge by comparing transparency performances in two resource-rich countries with similar ownership structures, Norway and Russia. To this end, it analyses data from the Revenue Governance Index (2017). Overall, such a correlation is not confirmed. While in some cases, state ownership can in fact generate greater opacity, the example of Norway confirms that retaining control can also enhance transparency. As a result, it is suggested to look attentively at the features of state ownership, and in particular, at countries’ institutional quality.

Transparency, State Ownership, Norway, Russia, Oil and Gas