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The Political Economy of Public Sector Absence: Experimental Evidence from Pakistan

Author

Listed:
  • Michael Callen
  • Saad Gulzar
  • Syed Ali Hasanain
  • Yasir Khan

Abstract

Public sector absenteeism undermines service delivery in many developing countries. We report results from an at-scale randomized control evaluation in Punjab, Pakistan of a reform designed to address this problem. The reform affects healthcare for 100 million citizens across 297 political constituencies. It equips government inspectors with a smartphone monitoring system and leads to a 76% increase in inspections. However, the surge in inspections does not always translate into increased doctor attendance. The scale of the experiment permits an investigation into the mechanisms underlying this result. We find that experimentally increasing the salience of doctor absence when communicating inspection reports to senior policymakers improves subsequent doctor attendance. Next, we find that both the reform and the communication of information to senior officials are more impactful in politically competitive constituencies. Our results suggest that interactions between politicians and bureaucrats might play a critical role in shaping the success or failure of reforms.

Suggested Citation

  • Michael Callen & Saad Gulzar & Syed Ali Hasanain & Yasir Khan, 2016. "The Political Economy of Public Sector Absence: Experimental Evidence from Pakistan," NBER Working Papers 22340, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:22340
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Nazmul Chaudhury & Jeffrey Hammer & Michael Kremer & Karthik Muralidharan & F. Halsey Rogers, 2006. "Missing in Action: Teacher and Health Worker Absence in Developing Countries," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 20(1), pages 91-116, Winter.
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    4. Imran Rasul & Daniel Rogger, 2013. "Management of Bureaucrats and Public Service Delivery: Evidence from the Nigerian Civil Service," STICERD - Public Economics Programme Discussion Papers 20, Suntory and Toyota International Centres for Economics and Related Disciplines, LSE.
    5. Michael Callen & Saad Gulzar & Ali Hasanain & Yasir Khan & Arman Rezaee, 2015. "Personalities and Public Sector Performance: Evidence from a Health Experiment in Pakistan," NBER Working Papers 21180, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    6. Karthik Muralidharan & Paul Niehaus & Sandip Sukhtankar, 2016. "Building State Capacity: Evidence from Biometric Smartcards in India," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 106(10), pages 2895-2929, October.
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    9. repec:cup:apsrev:v:50:y:1956:i:04:p:1046-1056_06 is not listed on IDEAS
    10. Ashraf, Nava & Bandiera, Oriana & Jack, B. Kelsey, 2014. "No margin, no mission? A field experiment on incentives for public service delivery," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 120(C), pages 1-17.
    11. Wade, Robert, 1985. "The market for public office: Why the Indian state is not better at development," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 13(4), pages 467-497, April.
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    Cited by:

    1. Dhaliwal, Iqbal & Hanna, Rema, 2017. "The devil is in the details: The successes and limitations of bureaucratic reform in India," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 124(C), pages 1-21.
    2. Chicoine, Luke & Guzman, Juan Carlos, 2017. "Increasing Rural Health Clinic Utilization with SMS Updates: Evidence from a Randomized Evaluation in Uganda," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 99(C), pages 419-430.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • D02 - Microeconomics - - General - - - Institutions: Design, Formation, Operations, and Impact
    • D72 - Microeconomics - - Analysis of Collective Decision-Making - - - Political Processes: Rent-seeking, Lobbying, Elections, Legislatures, and Voting Behavior
    • D73 - Microeconomics - - Analysis of Collective Decision-Making - - - Bureaucracy; Administrative Processes in Public Organizations; Corruption

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