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Elections as Incentives: Project Completion and Visibility in African Politics

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Benjamin Marx

Abstract

This paper explores the disciplining effect of elections on politicians in Sub-Saharan Africa. Using subnational electoral data from 61 African national elections, I first show that the completion of development projects funded by the World Bank and implemented by governments between 1995 and 2014 yields large electoral benefits for incumbent politicians. The causal effect of completion is identified from an instrumental variables strategy that exploits exogenous variation in the workload of project team leaders at the World Bank. Incumbents are rewarded for completing projects in visible sectors, namely projects providing basic infrastructure and social services, but not for completing projects in other sectors. Using a second instrument that predicts the timing of elections based on predetermined constitutional rules, I then show that governments expedite completion in response to electoral incentives, target their effort towards visible projects, and prioritize completing ongoing projects over initiating new projects before elections. These effects are not driven by intertemporal substitution of government effort across the electoral cycle. Finally, I provide evidence that democratic institutions reduce delays for visible projects on aggregate. Even in Africa's hybrid regimes, elections incentivize politicians to deliver tangible policy outputs.
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Dates and versions

hal-03873801 , version 1 (27-11-2022)

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Attribution - NonCommercial - NoDerivatives - CC BY 4.0

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  • HAL Id : hal-03873801 , version 1

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Benjamin Marx. Elections as Incentives: Project Completion and Visibility in African Politics. 2018. ⟨hal-03873801⟩
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