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Buying votes versus supplying public services: Political incentives to under-invest in pro-poor policies

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  • Khemani, Stuti

Abstract

This paper provides evidence that vote buying in poor democracies is associated with lower investments in broadly delivered public services that have been shown to disproportionately benefit the poor. Using detailed data around the local institutional context in the Philippines, the paper shows how the correlation can be interpreted as arising in equilibrium under conditions of clientelism, when political strategies emphasize the provision of targeted benefits in exchange for political support. In places where households report more vote buying, government records show that municipalities invest less in basic health services for mothers and children; and, a higher percentage of children are recorded as severely under-weight. Corroborating evidence is provided using Afrobarometer surveys across 33 countries. Taken together, the evidence shows that where politicians purchase political support through targeted transfers, they are likely to trade it off against the provision of broader public services on which poor people rely.

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  • Khemani, Stuti, 2015. "Buying votes versus supplying public services: Political incentives to under-invest in pro-poor policies," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 117(C), pages 84-93.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:deveco:v:117:y:2015:i:c:p:84-93
    DOI: 10.1016/j.jdeveco.2015.07.002
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    Cited by:

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    2. Eric ROUGIER & François COMBARNOUS & Yves-André FAURE, 2017. "The ‘local economy’ effect of social transfers: A municipality-level analysis of the local growth impact of the Bolsa Familia Programme in the Brazilian Nordeste," Cahiers du GREThA (2007-2019) 2017-09, Groupe de Recherche en Economie Théorique et Appliquée (GREThA).
    3. Anindya Bhattacharya & Anirban Kar & Alita Nandi, 2016. "Local Institutional Structure and Clientelistic Access to Employment: The Case of MGNREGS in Three States of India," Working Papers id:11549, eSocialSciences.
    4. Rougier, Eric & Combarnous, François & Fauré, Yves-André, 2018. "The “Local Economy” Effect of Social Transfers: An Empirical Assessment of the Impact of the Bolsa Família Program on Local Productive Structure and Economic Growth," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 103(C), pages 199-215.
    5. Leopoldo Fergusson & Carlos A. Molina & James A. Robinson, 2020. "The Weak State Trap," NBER Working Papers 26848, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    6. Cruz, Cesi & Keefer, Philip & Labonne, Julien, 2016. "Incumbent Advantage, Voter Information and Vote Buying," IDB Publications (Working Papers) 7730, Inter-American Development Bank.
    7. Chau, Nancy H. & Liu, Yanyan & Soundararajan, Vidhya, 2017. "Political activism as a determinant of clientelistic transfers: Evidence from an Indian public works program:," IFPRI discussion papers 1700, International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI).
    8. Mogues, Tewodaj & Erman, Alvina, 2016. "Institutional arrangements to make public spending responsive to the poor—(where) have they worked?: Review of the evidence on four major intervention types," IFPRI discussion papers 1519, International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI).
    9. Stuti Khemani, 2020. "An Opportunity to Build Legitimacy and Trust in Public Institutions in the Time of COVID-19," World Bank Publications - Reports 33715, The World Bank Group.
    10. Cesi Cruz & Philip Keefer & Julien Labonne, 2016. "Incumbent Advantage, Voter Information and Vote Buying," IDB Publications (Working Papers) 94877, Inter-American Development Bank.
    11. Pranab Bardhan, 2016. "State and Development: The Need for a Reappraisal of the Current Literature," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 54(3), pages 862-892, September.
    12. Leight, Jessica & Foarta, Dana & Pande, Rohini & Ralston, Laura, 2020. "Value for money? Vote-buying and politician accountability," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 190(C).
    13. Chau, Nancy H. & Liu, Yanyan & Soundararajan, Vidhya, 2021. "Political activism as a determinant of strategic transfers: Evidence from an indian public works program," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 132(C).
    14. Das, Ritanjan & Dey, Subhasish & Neogi, Ranjita, 2021. "Across the stolen Ponds: The political geography of social welfare in rural eastern India," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 146(C).
    15. Pan, Yao & You, Jing, 2020. "Successful Social Programs over Local Political Cycles," MPRA Paper 98968, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    16. Gallego, Jorge & Li, Christopher & Wantchekon, Leonard, 2020. "Electoral Intermediaries," Working papers 45, Red Investigadores de Economía.

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