DP13053 | Do Elected Councils Improve Governance? Experimental Evidence on Local Institutions in Afghanistan

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07/16/2018

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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. 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. In the absence of such a mandate the presence of elected councils increases embezzlement without improving aid targeting. Thus, while elected councils can improve governance, unclear and overlapping mandates may increase rent-seeking and worsen governance outcomes.