Introduction: lesser quality that they were used to.

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Aim, Scope and Format of this thesis

Resource-based economies have effects on the locations where they are
based. In many cases the discovery of one particular type of economic resource,
like petroleum or precious metal, has led to the influx of capital and labour
to remotest places which have been desolate or rural with little or no
population service. This had been observed in the American West with the
California Gold Rush, Texas with the discovery of petroleum, the Arabian
Peninsula with the discovery of petroleum as well, and in many other locations
all over the globe.

As a consequence, Petroleum industries can provide an example of this
urbanisation pattern, called for the sake of simplicity ‘Petroleum Cities’
here. For such Petroleum cities can be seen as a typical example for the
special features and shortcomings of such a type of urbanisation: The
extraction of petroleum from the ground, the processes it undergoes to extract
the variable economic components of the ore, and the production and
manufacturing of intermediate and final goods from it, as well as the
production of fuels, constitute together huge industrial processes usually in
cascade formation. These processes act as anchors for other economic activities
in the locations where they are settled. The presence of amble economic
opportunities in these locations attracts investments, services, and ultimately
retains population, which in turn attracts service providers, opens up the
service economy, and so on. The rapidly increasing population and demand for
services make it hard for supply to catch up – taking into consideration the
very basic state of those services before the discovery of such resource. This
leads to the deterioration in the quality of services, to inflation of the
prices of services and commodities, and finally to out-migration of the
original citizens who are not able to tap into the benefits of the
resource-based economy and hence could not cope with the new prices. Housing
can be an example for this cycle, as with the start of the inflow of capital
and labour, there is a sharp  increase in demand for housing with limited
stock. Increasing the volume of the housing stock takes time. This leads to
increased competition and hence increased rents on one side, and on the other
side those who could not cope either from the original residents tend to settle
for lesser quality that they were used to. Finally, those who cannot cope –
especially from the original residents – opt for leaving.

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For these reasons of growth, such cities that sprang around resource
extraction and processing locations came to be known as boomtowns. This
phenomenon has been witnessed in different places around the world and was not
solely attributed to petroleum, but also to other economic activities, be theyextractive,
productive, or commercial. Some of these cities rise sharply and drop after
they reach a peak while others plateau after reaching a certain extent in
development. There is also a group of boomtowns that exhibit contraction or
even obliteration of urban population. This cycle is called the Boom-Bust
cycle or Boomtown Syndrome. In this thesis, these patterns will be
studied in relation to the discovery and processing of petroleum in three
cities; these case examples are Houston, USA, Sekondi-Takoradi, Ghana, and
finally Ras Gharib in Egypt. In the former two examples. the cities had
substantial urban masses before the advent of petroleum based on other economic
activities like agriculture and transportation. However with the discovery of
petroleum in their vicinities both cities were catapulted into national and
international sphere of interest. Houston represents the mature version of a
city impacted by petroleum since its discovery in huge reserves in nearby
Spindletop around the turn of the 20th century. Since then, the city
served as an anchor for national and international businesses working in the
field and with time, it became the fourth most populous city in the United
States. On the other hand, Sekondi-Takoradi is considered a newcomer to the
petroleum arena though the government and the society is anticipating change.
 Ras Gharib differs from both cases. The city did not exist before
petroleum. It started as a labour camp run by the Anglo-Egyptian Oilfields
Company until it was incorporated as a city by the Egyptian Government in 1962.
And even though it is home to almost two thirds of Egypt’s petroleum extraction
processes; however, contrary to other petroleum production centers around the
world, it failed to retain a population of more than fifty-six thousands.

It is the aim of this study to extract lessons from other cities like
these that attributed their growth to the discovery of petroleum, and compare
it to the situation in Ras Gharib, and try to diagnose how the Boomtown
Syndrome has affected the city. This comparison will shed light on the
organizational structure of the petroleum industry encompassing the public and
private sectors and how it was reflected in city life in Ras Gharib in
particular. Finally, the study will examine the potentials of Ras Gharib in
fields other than petroleum in order to provide a roadmap for an ex-petroleum

In more general terms, the thesis intends to focus on boomtowns as
social phenomena. It attempts to look at the nexus of economic and political
reasons as well as the institutional framework pertaining the governing
structure of the resource extraction and processing industry, as well as the
impacts it has on the residents in these cities and towns. ‘Petroleum Cities’
as a title is meant to indicate that the study is about cities that sprang from,
and around, petroleum extraction.  However, it can be seen as a particular
case of the boomtown syndrome. In fact, it is the contention of this thesis
that Petroleum Cities are one of the main types of Boomtowns.

This thesis aims to accentuate the core features that are pinpointed by
the research work and literature on the Boomtown syndrome so far, taking Ras
Gharib as a typical example. The main question around which it revolves is how
much of the Boomtown syndrome has Ras Gharib got?

Given these intentions, the format of the thesis is as follows:

The first
chapter attempts to dissect the above mentioned array of cities as typical
boomtowns. Essentially, this chapter presents the results of literature
research. It will conclude by giving the typical features of
boomtowns/petroleum cities in order to define the symptoms of the Boomtown
syndrome (like e.g. typical trajectory/ growth pattern etc..)

The following
chapters of the thesis will link this diagnosis and case history of the
other cities to a more or less definitive diagnosis for Ras Gharib.

Finally, the
last chapter will concentrate on policy recommendations. It will give a
summary and, by way of conclusion, it attempts to sketch out a tentative
therapy to prevent, avoid, or compensate for, the most common

Categories: Industry


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