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Can HRM alleviate the negative effects of the resource curse on firms? Evidence from Brunei

Tamer K. Darwish (The Business School, University of Gloucestershire, Cheltenham, UK)
Abdul Fattaah Mohamed (Baiduri Bank Group, Bandar Seri Begawan, Brunei Darussalam)
Geoffrey Wood (Essex Business School, University of Essex, Colchester, UK)
Satwinder Singh (Business School, Brunel University, Uxbridge, UK)
Jocelyne Fleming (The Business School, University of Gloucestershire, Cheltenham, UK)

Personnel Review

ISSN: 0048-3486

Article publication date: 6 November 2017



The resource curse literature suggests that firms operating in non-oil and non-gas industries in petrostates face considerable challenges in securing competitiveness and sustaining themselves. Based on a firm-level survey within a micro-petrostate, Brunei, the purpose of this paper is to explore the relationship between specific HR policies and practices and organisational performance; analyse, compare, and contrast oil and gas with non-oil and non-gas sectors; and draw out the comparative lessons for understanding the potential and performance consequences of HR interventions in resource-centred national economies.


Data for this study were generated from a primary survey administered amongst the HR directors in companies operating in all sectors in Brunei. A statistically representative sample size of 214 was selected.


The authors confirmed that firms in the oil and gas sector indeed performed better than other sectors. However, the authors found that the negative effects associated with operating outside of oil and gas could be mitigated through strategic choices: the strategic involvement of HR directors in the affairs of the company reduced employee turnover and added positively to financial returns across sectors.

Practical implications

Developing and enhancing the role of people management is still very much easier than bringing about structural institutional reforms: the study confirms that at least part of the solution to contextual difficulties lies within, and that the firm-level consequences of the resource curse can be ameliorated through a strategic choice.


The nature of the present investigation is one of few studies conducted in South East Asia in general and in the context of Brunei, in particular. It also contributes to the authors’ understanding whether HR interventions can ameliorate the challenges of operating in a non-resource sector in a resource-rich country.



Darwish, T.K., Mohamed, A.F., Wood, G., Singh, S. and Fleming, J. (2017), "Can HRM alleviate the negative effects of the resource curse on firms? Evidence from Brunei", Personnel Review, Vol. 46 No. 8, pp. 1931-1947.



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