Liberia is a country blessed with natural resources. Its natural endowments include diamonds, gold and iron ore, extensive stands of tropical timber, abundant water and cropland, and a climate and soil conditions conducive to the cultivation of cash crops such as rubber, cocoa and coffee. Thanks to very recent discoveries, Liberia can even boast oil and gas reserves, of undetermined but potentially sizeable proportions. And yet despite this vast storehouse of natural wealth – or because of it – Liberia remains one of the poorest and least developed places on earth, with per capita GDP income of US$152 (2004), 40% of the adult population illiterate, and life expectancy at birth of under 40 years. Liberia, arguably more than anywhere in the world, is a darkly resplendent example of the resource curse, the phenomenon by which countries blessed with natural resources grow more slowly, stay poorer and offer less to their people than their comparatively resource poor neighbours.