This paper addresses the intriguing issue of whether natural disasters do not only generate negative impacts on society, but, in the long run – under favourable and effective policy and behavioural responses – also positive outcomes. This challenging and novel resilience question is formulated here as the ‘Blessing in Disguise’ hypothesis. There is quite some speculation in the literature on possible long-term and systemic effects of disasters, but there is little empirical evidence supported by solid quantitative analysis on expected positive outcomes. The challenging aim of the present study – to examine under what conditions natural hazards may lead to positive socio-economic outcomes in the long run (‘Blessing in Disguise’) – is empirically addressed from a resilience perspective. It integrates in one quantitative research framework (the ‘Pentagon model’), a Stimulus-Response approach and a Capability-Theory inspired framing of territorial opportunities in coping with natural disasters, and uses a mix of statistical and econometric analyses, such as multiple linear regression analysis, cluster analysis, and a Stimulus-Response adjusted Difference-in-Difference model. Our findings, based on a global comparative study, show that a ‘Blessing in Disguise’ scenario is frequently a valid proposition that may manifest itself differently in different geographic, social-economic, political and institutional contexts. Although there is not a single pattern of development specific in all cases, it is clear that positive recovery trends can be observed both at the state level, and also at the regional level. The analysed data show regularly incremental changes after recent natural disasters (especially in the long term) at country level, but more thorough positive changes can be identified at the regional scale. In conclusion, the management of disasters requires proper response capacities and appears to create a window of opportunity for improved capabilities, but it is only a conditional possibility that may be transformed into a sustainable form of new development.
- Analytical hierarchy cluster analysis
- Blessing in disguise
- Capability theory
- Difference-in difference method
- Natural disaster
- Pentagon model
- Stimulus-response approach