Can Foreign Aid Make Elections More Competitive?
Friday, November 22, 2013 Author:
The original version of this post is available on The Washington Post Monkey Cage blog. Read the full version of the post here.
AidData recently launched a new online platform and GIS module, which makes it significantly easier for researchers to upload, download, join, and visualize high-resolution, spatial data. The launch of "AidData 3.0" inspired me to take the GIS module for a test drive to explore the following question: how does the sub-national distribution of foreign aid affect the competitiveness of elections in developing democracies? I suspect that aid projects are attractive to candidates because they can (1) take credit for the completion of a past project in their constituency that is highly palpable to voters (the credit-taking hypothesis), or (2) manipulate who benefits from future projects, either by awarding contracts to supporters or engaging in corruption in order to enrich themselves (the rent-seeking hypothesis). An alternative hypothesis is that aid reduces competitiveness because the incumbent takes all the credit for the project, thereby disadvantaging competitors (the incumbency-advantage hypothesis). The null hypothesis – that aid has no effect on electoral outcomes – is also plausible. Given the vast array of issues at stake in a typical election, such as national economic policies, security, etc., one might not expect aid projects to have any discernible impact.