Authoritarian Responses to Foreign Pressure: Spending, Repression, and Sanctions

IBEI Working Papers 2009/21

28 Pages Posted: 19 Sep 2009

Date Written: August 1, 2009


This paper explores how international sanctions affect authoritarian rulers’ decisions concerning repression and public spending composition, and how different authoritarian rulers respond to foreign pressure. If sanctions are assumed to increase the price of loyalty to the regime, then rulers whose budgets are not severely constrained by sanctions will tend to increase spending in those categories that most benefit their core support groups. In contrast, when constraints are severe due to reduced aid and trade, dictators are expected to greatly increase their levels of repression. Using data on regime types, public expenditures and spending composition (1970–2000) as well as on repression levels (1976–2001), we show that the empirical patterns conform well to our theoretical expectations. Single-party regimes, when targeted by sanctions, increase spending on subsidies and transfers which largely benefit more substantial sectors of the population and especially the urban classes. Likewise, military regimes increase their expenditures on goods and services, which include military equipment and soldiers’ and officers’ wages. Conversely, personalist regimes reduce spending in all categories, especially capital expenditures, while increasing repression much more than other regime types when targeted by sanctions.

Keywords: authoritarian regimes, sanctions, public spending, repression, survival, foreign pressure

Suggested Citation

Escribà-Folch, Abel, Authoritarian Responses to Foreign Pressure: Spending, Repression, and Sanctions (August 1, 2009). IBEI Working Papers 2009/21, Available at SSRN: or

Abel Escribà-Folch (Contact Author)

Universitat Pompeu Fabra ( email )

Ramon Trias Fargas, 25-27
Barcelona, E-08005

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