IDEAS home Printed from
   My bibliography  Save this paper

In pursuit of votes: The capture of the allocation of local public goods by the central state in Ghana


  • Horowitz, Leah
  • Palaniswamy, Nethra


Decentralization reforms have been the overwhelming response to failures in the targeting of public resources by the central state in developing countries. The policy debate on decentralization typically revolves around several a priori hypotheses on how the design of formal institutions of local government, such as electoral rules, affects accountability in the provision and targeting of public goods. Yet a growing body of research suggests that many rules that structure political incentives and policy outcomes are informal. Indeed, it is widely acknowledged that informal rules such as legislative norms and clientelism can strongly influence political behavior and policy outcomes. This evidence makes a compelling case for both the impact of these informal institutions on political incentives and their role in complementing formal institutions and shaping the status quo when formal venues are absent or weak. How much do these formal institutions matter? How do they shape policy outcomes? In particular, do they merely substitute for weak or absent formal institutions or do they exist alongside and dominate these formal rules and institutions? In this paper, we examine the effect of informal institutions on decentralized public-resource allocation in Ghana. The decentralization policy debate in Ghana, as elsewhere, typically focuses on the role of formal institutions of local government in the targeting of local public resources. Through a comparative case study of two districts in northern Ghana, we argue that informal institutions, grounded in the rationale of partisan politics of the central state, are the key determinants of decentralized public-resource allocation outcomes. In particular, we show that this political rationale is expressed through an informal model of vote buying, and this vote buying is dictated by a national political agenda. Our findings suggest that ignoring this informal institution is likely to undermine the current efforts to reform decentralized public-resource allocation in Ghana.

Suggested Citation

  • Horowitz, Leah & Palaniswamy, Nethra, 2010. "In pursuit of votes: The capture of the allocation of local public goods by the central state in Ghana," IFPRI discussion papers 1039, International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI).
  • Handle: RePEc:fpr:ifprid:1039

    Download full text from publisher

    File URL:
    Download Restriction: no

    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Bardhan, Pranab & Mookherjee, Dilip, 2006. "Pro-poor targeting and accountability of local governments in West Bengal," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 79(2), pages 303-327, April.
    2. Banful, Afua Branoah, 2009. "Do institutions limit clientelism?: A study of the district assemblies common fund in Ghana," IFPRI discussion papers 855, International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI).
    3. Keefer, Philip & Khemani, Stuti, 2003. "Democracy, public expenditures, and the poor," Policy Research Working Paper Series 3164, The World Bank.
    4. Khemani, Stuti, 2004. "Political cycles in a developing economy: effect of elections in the Indian States," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 73(1), pages 125-154, February.
    5. Timothy Besley & Rohini Pande & Lupin Rahman & Vijayendra Rao, 2004. "The Politics of Public Good Provision: Evidence from Indian Local Governments," Journal of the European Economic Association, MIT Press, vol. 2(2-3), pages 416-426, 04/05.
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)


    Citations are extracted by the CitEc Project, subscribe to its RSS feed for this item.

    Cited by:

    1. Dreher, Axel & Fuchs, Andreas & Hodler, Roland & Parks, Bradley C. & Raschky, Paul A. & Tierney, Michael J., 2015. "Aid on Demand: African Leaders and the Geography of China's Foreign Assistance," CEPR Discussion Papers 10704, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
    2. Ehizuelen Michael Mitchell Omoruyi, 2016. "The Dragon's Goodwill: Examining China's External Finance and African Leaders' Preferentialism," Journal of International Commerce, Economics and Policy (JICEP), World Scientific Publishing Co. Pte. Ltd., vol. 7(03), pages 1-30, October.


    All material on this site has been provided by the respective publishers and authors. You can help correct errors and omissions. When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:fpr:ifprid:1039. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (). General contact details of provider: .

    If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

    If CitEc recognized a reference but did not link an item in RePEc to it, you can help with this form .

    If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your RePEc Author Service profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

    Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

    IDEAS is a RePEc service hosted by the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis . RePEc uses bibliographic data supplied by the respective publishers.