developing countries
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Why Developing Countries Remain Stuck No Matter the Effort

Have you ever wondered why some nations are always in a dire situation? Isn’t it hard to comprehend why some developing countries like Congo, Ukraine, Panama, Afghanistan, Somalia, and Sudan are always involved in horrific civil wars? Why don’t they stop these costly wars and focus on building their economies? 

Isn’t it also hard to explain the current situation in the Middle East? Since 2010, many Arab countries have been destroyed by wars and humanitarian crises.

Look at Yemen, Syria, Libya, and Iraq. How come tyrants like the Assad regime of Syria, whose regime committed some of the worst crimes against humanity in recent history — while the world is watching — have survived this far?

Even Canada, one of the most advanced countries globally, a country that always ranks high in quality of life, has many food insecure Indigenous communities with no access to clean water.

You might be thinking that the misery of developing nations is their fault. If only they could learn to build democratic societies that allow a free market and freedom of speech, then they’d win against poverty and corruption.

You might be frustrated that we, “the developed world,” must step up for these troubled nations and pay the bill. You might be sad that many innocent kids are victims of their totalitarian regimes, and you donate generously to save them.

Or you might not care anymore because developing countries will never “get it,” so why should you care, right? 

You should care because you have been fooled! These countries have the curse of destructive wealth; a wealth that probably paid for your comfortable life and destroyed theirs. 

It is devastating that their natural resources brought poverty, corruption, and unrest to these developing countries rather than prosperity.

The curse of a rich land

Did you know that Iraq, Iran, Nigeria, Venezuela, Congo, Gabon, Libya, and Angola are among the 15 countries of OPEC (organization of the petroleum exporting countries)? All these countries are wealthy with multiple natural resources.

It is devastating that their natural resources brought poverty, corruption, and unrest to these developing countries rather than prosperity.

Here is something interesting; did you know that amid all the wars, oil production never stopped in the OPEC countries? In fact, whenever a war starts, foreign deals follow.

Halliburton was awarded a $5 billion contract deal in 2004 — which is one year after the USA invaded Baghdad.

Who do you think this contract has served? Do you think it has served the oppressed Iraqi people that the USA “liberated”? Let us not fool ourselves.

Follow the money, and you will know who has the real interest in having rich countries undermined and governed by dictators. You will find countries that lecture about freedom and yet support the most oppressive dictators.

On May 20, 2017, U.S. President Trump and Saudi Arabia’s Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud signed a series of letters of intent for the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to purchase arms from the United States, totaling the U.S. $110 billion immediately and $350 billion over ten years.

Saudi is using these arms in the war against Yemen, a country with one of the most strategic ports in the world.  

The curse of a strategic land

I am sure you have heard about the natural gas crisis in Europe. Russia achieved tremendous leverage over NATO at this point, as it controls the flow of natural gas to Germany and other countries.

Did you know that in 2011, a big pipeline project was supposed to supply Qatari natural gas to Europe through Syria?

2011 was also the year the Syrian uprise started. Is it a wonder that Russia is supporting the Syrian regime?

The current regime declined to let the pipeline go through the Syrian land, killing a strategic project for Syrians and protecting the monopoly of Russia over natural gas in Europe.

Over the last ten years, Syria has been the battlefield for the United States’ wars with Russia, Iran, and China. That is not surprising when you know Syria links four seas, the Mediterranean, Caspian, The Black Sea, and the Gulf.

So what did this prime location bring Syrians? It brought them ten years of war crimes against the civilians who dreamed of a decent future.

Syrians thought the West would support their demand for freedom, but to their shock, even chemical attacks were not a red enough line to stop their killing. 

Ukraine and Afghanistan are two developing countries whose strategic locations between energy-hungry countries (i.e., Western Europe and South Asian countries) and energy producers (i.e., Russia and Central Asian countries) have brought them crises.

Ukraine and Afghanistan are two developing countries whose strategic locations between energy-hungry countries (i.e., Western Europe and South Asian countries) and energy producers (i.e., Russia and Central Asian countries) have brought them crises.

These two nations should benefit from their strategic locations. Instead, as of February 2022, Afghanistan is back to the Taliban ruling, and Ukraine might be facing a war soon.

Closer to home

The struggle against land colonization everywhere is the same. When the first settlers came to Canada around the 1500s, they took the land from the Indigenous people and forced them to move to remote uninhabitable reserves.

The settlers instituted the Indian act to wipe out the indigenous culture. Many generations suffered under this act, economically and socially. (It is beyond this article to address the horror of the residential school or the colonization past.)

With the discovery of the resources during early 1914, one expects these nations would be extremely rich by now. Yet, many of these nations are still poor.

As of 2021, 25 percent of indigenous people (1 out of 4 people) live under the poverty line. This poverty statistic is disturbing, considering that indigenous people directly control 20 percent of Canada’s land.

While the average Canadian household’s income increased over the year, poverty has persisted in the Indigenous resource-rich community.

For many years, Indigenous Nations did not see the benefit of the natural resources in their reserves; they only saw environmental crises and high unemployment rates in their communities. 

(Thankfully, things have changed recently in Canada with the success of the indigenous legal movement and the Indigenomics movement

Open your eyes

I hope by now you know why many of the natural resource wealthy nations are suffering. It is not because they are against economic development, freedom, or democracy, but rather because they are under indirect colonization.

Major powerful countries have no problem extracting the resources from other nations, ruining the environment, supporting dictators, killing the socioeconomic future of many generations, and then blaming all these disasters on the poor citizens. 

It has always been about the land, the resources of the land (i.e., oil and natural resource-rich countries), and the location of the land (i.e., Syria, Afghanistan, and Ukraine, to name a few).

The resources give the modern colonizers power to control the world and leverage their interests. 

Muslims don’t hate freedom and democracy. Black people are not hateful people. Indigenous people do not oppose natural resources development.

Quite the opposite; all humans want to live in prosperity, all nations want a seat at the economic table, and they all do not want other nations who benefit from corruption.

Corruption and wars have been sludged (i.e., made the process more difficult with the goal of creating friction) by the “developed” countries’ greed. 

So, please don’t blame the survivors. Let us not be fooled again.

Najah Al-Atassi is a Syrian Canadian, working mom, Supply Chain Director, and a recent MBA graduate. Through her MBA program, she took a couple of courses about sustainability, business, and indigenous people in Canada, when she realized that it is always about the land.