World Politics

Research Article

Defying the Resource Curse: Explaining Successful State-Owned Enterprises in Rentier States

Steffen Hertoga1*

a1 Durham University, Email:


The article explains how several Gulf rentier monarchies have managed to create highly profitable and well-managed state-owned enterprises (SOEs), confounding expectations of both general SOE inefficiency and the particularly poor quality of rentier public sectors. It argues that a combination of two factors explains the outcome: the absence of a populist-mobilizational history and substantive regime autonomy in economic policy-making. The author concludes that it is necessary to rethink the commonly accepted generalizations both about rentier states and, arguably, about public sectors in the developing world.

Steffen Hertog is a professor at the Chaire Moyen-Orient Méditerranée at Sciences Po Paris and a lecturer in political economy at Durham University. He is the author of Princes, Brokers and Bureaucrats: Oil and State in Saudi Arabia (2010) and (with Diego Gambetta) of Engineers of Jihad (forthcoming).


* I would like to thank Jeff Colgan, Sebastian Karcher, Victor Lapuente gine, and four anonymous reviewers for comments on various earlier versions of this paper, and Markaz Financial Center for help with data.