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Contribution of natural resources to gross domestic product About the data Accounting for the contribution of natural resources

the price of a commodity and the average cost of

savings measures the net additions or subtractions

to economic output is important in building an analyt-

producing it. This is done by estimating the world

from a country’s stock of tangible and intangible

ical framework for sustainable development. In some

price of units of specific commodities and subtract-

capital. This table is now included in the Economy

countries earnings from natural resources, especially

ing estimates of average unit costs of extraction

section as table 4.11 along with the closely related

from fossil fuels and minerals, account for a sizable

or harvesting costs (including a normal return on

table 4.10 “Toward a broader measure of income.”

share of GDP, and much of these come in the form of

capital). These unit rents are then multiplied by the

economic rents—revenues above the cost of extract-

physical quantities countries extract or harvest to

ing them. Natural resources give rise to economic

determine the rents for each commodity as a share

rents because they are not produced. For produced

of gross national income.

Definitions • Oil rents are the difference between the value of

goods and services competitive forces expand sup-

This definition of economic rent differs from that

crude oil production at world prices and total costs

ply until economic profits are driven to zero, but natu-

used in the System of National Accounts, where

of production. • Natural gas rents are the differ-

ral resources in fixed supply often command returns

rents are a form of property income, consisting of

ence between the value of natural gas production

well in excess of their cost of production. Rents from

payments to landowners by a tenant for the use of

at world prices and total costs of production. • Coal

nonrenewable resources—fossil fuels and miner-

the land or payments to the owners of subsoil assets

rents are the difference between the value of both

als—as well as rents from overharvesting of forests

by institutional units permitting them to extract sub-

hard and soft coal production at world prices and

indicate the liquidation of a country’s capital stock.

soil deposits.

their total costs of production. • Mineral rents are

When countries use such rents to support current

The Environment section of previous editions of the

the difference between the value of production for

consumption rather than to invest in new capital to

World Development Indicators included a table “Toward

a stock of minerals at world prices and their total

replace what is being used up, they are, in effect,

a broader measure of savings,” which showed the

costs of production. Minerals included in the calcu-

borrowing against their future.

derivation of adjusted net savings taking into account

lation are tin, gold, lead, zinc, iron, copper, nickel,

The estimates of natural resources rents shown in

consumption of fixed and natural capital and pollution

silver, bauxite, and phosphate. • Forest rents are

the table are calculated as the difference between

damage and additions to human capital. Adjusted net

roundwood harvest times the product of average prices and a region-specific rental rate (based on a number of reviews, World Bank 2011). • Total natu-

Oil dominates the contribution of natural resources in the Middle East and North Africa


ral resources rents are the sum of oil rents, natural gas rents, coal rents (hard and soft), mineral rents,

Natural resources rents (percent of GDP)


Natural gas




and forest rents.

25 20 15 10 5 0

East Asia & Pacific

Europe & Central Asia

Latin America & Carib.

Middle East & N. Africa

South Asia

Sub-Saharan Africa

Source: Table 3.16.

Upper middle-income countries have the highest contribution of natural resources to GDP

Natural resources rents (percent of GDP)



Natural gas




9.6 7.2

Data sources


Data on contributions of natural resources to

2.4 0.0

GDP are estimates based on sources and methLow income

Source: Table 3.16.

Lower middle income

Upper middle income

High income


ods described in The Changing Wealth of Nations: Measuring Sustainable Development in the New Millennium (World Bank 2011a).

2011 World Development Indicators


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World Development Indicators 2011 Part 1 of 2  

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