Do Elected Councils Improve Governance? Experimental Evidence on Local Institutions in Afghanistan

49 Pages Posted: 18 Jan 2013 Last revised: 20 Jun 2018

See all articles by Andrew Beath

Andrew Beath

World Bank

Fotini Christia

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) - Department of Political Science

Ruben Enikolopov

Institute of Political Economy and Governance; ICREA; Universitat Pompeu Fabra; New Economic School; Barcelona GSE

Multiple version iconThere are 2 versions of this paper

Date Written: June 19, 2018

Abstract

Using data from a field experiment across 500 villages in Afghanistan, we study how electoral accountability of local institutions affects the quality of governance. Food aid distribution was organized to obtain outcomes that are comparable across villages with different structures of governance. In villages with newly created elected councils, food aid distributed by local leaders is more likely to reach needy villagers. However, this effect is observed only if the council is mandated to be the entity responsible for managing the distribution. If management of the distribution is not explicitly assigned to either the elected council or to customary leaders, the presence of elected councils increases embezzlement and renders decision-making less inclusive, without affecting aid targeting. Mandating the inclusion of women in the management of aid distributions in villages without elected councils also increases embezzlement. Thus, while elected councils can improve governance, unclear and overlapping mandates between new and pre-existing institutions may increase rent-seeking and worsen governance outcomes.

Keywords: political institutions, field experiment, democratization, governance quality

JEL Classification: D7, O1

Suggested Citation

Beath, Andrew and Christia, Fotini and Enikolopov, Ruben, Do Elected Councils Improve Governance? Experimental Evidence on Local Institutions in Afghanistan (June 19, 2018). MIT Political Science Department Research Paper No. 2013-24. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2202563 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2202563

Andrew Beath

World Bank ( email )

Washington, DC 20433
United States

Fotini Christia

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) - Department of Political Science ( email )

77 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02139
United States

Ruben Enikolopov (Contact Author)

Institute of Political Economy and Governance ( email )

Ramon Trias Fargas, 25-27
Barcelona, 08005
Spain

ICREA ( email )

Passeig LluĂ­s Companys, 23
Barcelona, 08010
Spain

Universitat Pompeu Fabra ( email )

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

New Economic School ( email )

100A Novaya Street
Moscow, Skolkovo 143026
Russia

Barcelona GSE ( email )

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

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