Do Resource-Wealthy Rulers Adopt Transparency-Promoting Laws? An Empirical Analysis
International Studies Quarterly, (2017, Forthcoming)
43 Pages Posted: 9 Jan 2017
Date Written: January 5, 2017
Some argue that the ‘natural resource curse’ does not occur if countries have better institutions. Rulers with access to resource wealth, however, are unlikely to make institutional changes that might undermine their discretionary power. We examine this proposition by testing whether countries with access to natural resource wealth are less likely to adopt transparency-promoting Freedom of Information (FOI) laws after accounting for the current level of democracy and the quality of institutions. Using Panel data on 139 countries between 1980-2012 (33 years), we find that countries deriving rents from natural resource are less likely to adopt FOI laws. We also find that oil, rather than other resources, is robustly related to a lower probability of adopting FOI laws. However, higher income from resources is positively associated with the chance of adopting FOI laws conditional on very strong levels of existing democracy and institutions, signifying that rulers of resource wealth need to face fairly high political constraints before they adopt institutional changes. Global policy aimed at increasing transparency within resource-wealthy states will have to focus efforts on strengthening democracy in ways that increase political competition. Our findings are robust to alternative samples, measurement, and several different estimation strategies.
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