In 2008, women accounted for 18 percent of parliament members worldwide, and only 13 countries had a female head of government. This underrepresentation has prompted governments to adopt reservation policies; assuring women will have a role in political leadership by reserving a certain proportion of seats for female candidates. Reservation policies clearly have a strong impact on women’s representation, and some evidence suggests that women and men have different policy preferences. However, very little is known about the actual impact of women’s representation on policy decisions.
Context of the Evaluation:
In 1993, a constitutional amendment in India called for a random one third of village council leader, or pradhan, positions to be reserved for women. The village council, which encompasses between five and fifteen villages, is responsible for the provision of local infrastructure – such as public buildings, water, and roads – and for identifying government program beneficiaries. Although all decisions in the village council are made by majority, the pradhan is the only full-time member and exercises significant control over the final council decisions. The village council is required to organize two village meetings per year, during which they present their proposed budget and report on their activities in the previous six months. The pradhan must also set up regular office hours where villagers can lodge complaints or requests.
Details of the Intervention:
Researchers studied the policy consequences of mandated representation by determining whether there was any difference in the provision of social services between male and female led village councils. As village councils were randomly selected to be reserved for women, differences in investment decisions can be attributed to the reserved status of the council.
Data was collected in two locations: Birbhum in West Bengal and Udaipur in Rajasthan. In Birbhum, data was collected in two stages. First, in each village council, researchers conducted an interview with the pradhan, asking about his or her family background, education, previous political experience, political ambitions, and the village council’s recent activities. In the second stage, from the 5-15 villages represented by each village council, three villages were randomly selected to be surveyed for available public goods and existing infrastructure. Researchers also collected minutes of the village meetings, and gathered data on what complaints or requests had been submitted to the village council in the last six months. Two years later, the same village level data was collected from 100 village councils in Udaipur. However, there were no pradhan interviews.
Results and Policy Lessons:
The results suggest that reservation affected policy choices. In particular, it affected policy decisions in ways that seem to better reflect women’s preferences. In West Bengal, women complained more often than men about drinking water and roads – 31 percent of women’s complaints were about drinking water and 31 percent were about road improvement, compared to 17 percent and 25 percent of men’s, respectively. These preferences were revealed in the investment decisions of reserved village councils. Village councils reserved for women, on average, invested in 9 more drinking water facilities and improved road conditions by 18 percent.
In Rajasthan, 54 percent of women’s complaints were about drinking water and 19 percent were about welfare programs, compared to 43 percent and 3 percent of men’s, respectively. Unlike in West Bengal, compared to men, women complained less frequently about roads. Only 13 percent of women’s complaints were about roads, compared to 23 percent of men’s. This breakdown of preferences was again revealed in the investment decisions of the village councils. Village councils reserved for women invested in 2.62 more drinking water facilities, on average, and made fewer improvements in road conditions, leading to an 8 percent deterioration.
Researchers investigated whether these results could be explained by the fact that female pradhans were inexperienced, that they perceived themselves as being less likely to be re-elected, or that they tended to come from more disadvantaged backgrounds than men. However, there was no evidence that the policy impact of the reservations was driven by features other than the gender of the pradhan.
Overall, these results indicate that a politician’s gender, and identity more generally, does influence policy decisions. This finding is likely to have implications beyond reservation policy.
This study looks at the impact of developing and disseminating material on political candidates. In a context with low literacy levels and limited media penetration innovative approaches and different forms of media are shared with voters and evaluated to better understand the impact on voter knowledge and candidate selection.
Transparent and accountable government institutions are thought to be more effective at delivering important social services such as education and healthcare. However, there is little consensus over how best to enhance these aspects of governance, particularly in places where conflict has recently caused breakdown in democratic institutions. Evidence from Brazil and India suggests that increased information about politician performance can result in lower vote shares for low-performing or corrupt representatives. There is also evidence that town hall meetings, where representatives meet directly with constituents, can increase voter knowledge, turnout and support for participating candidates. While many interventions have tested the efficacy of these strategies at increasing basic voter knowledge and access to candidates, little work has been done where democratic institutions are nascent and where public information is limited. In such settings reliable information on candidates may be limited or non-existent, and thus requires significant effort to collect, compile and then convey such information to voters in a comprehensible manner. Debates may provide a feasible alternative which could work in many settings.
Context of the Evaluation:
Sierra Leone’s 2012 elections were hailed by international observers as generally peaceful, free, and fair. In previous elections voting patterns in Sierra Leone have been overwhelmingly based on pre-existing party affiliations. However, during the 2008 elections, people in Sierra Leone were more likely to vote against traditional party and ethnic affiliations in places where they had more information about candidates (for example, in local elections). Many election-related social programs focus on logistics and informing people about the importance of voting, but as Sierra Leoneans become more familiar with the democratic process there is also room to help people learn more about the different candidates among whom they will be choosing. The 2012 election presented an opportunity to test new electoral programs that could increase transparency, voter knowledge of candidates, and voter engagement.
Description of the Intervention:
In the run-up to the November 2012 elections in Sierra Leone, implementing partner Search for Common Ground filmed debates between rival candidates for membership in parliament (MP). From a total of 264 polling centers, 112 were randomly assigned to receive community screenings of these debates, 40 received interventions that provided information to individual voters, and another 112 served as a comparison group.
Firstly, debates were shown at almost 200 community screenings in polling centers across Sierra Leone, where they were seen by an estimated 19,000 people. Surveys of voters before and after they watched these debates measured how their perception of candidates, their knowledge of candidate positions, and their voting intentions were altered.
In the 40 polling centers assigned to receive individually delivered information, individuals were allocated one of the following groups
Debate: Individuals were shown the exact same debate screened in polling centers on a personal handheld device.
Getting to Know You: Individuals were shown a “getting to know you” video of the same two candidates speaking informally about their hobbies and interests.
Radio Report: Individuals listened to a recording of an independent moderator or journalist summarizing the main policy positions articulated by the two candidates during the debates.
Thin Slice Evaluations: Individuals participated in a “lab” experiment where they were exposed to pairs of isolated images, voice recordings, and names of candidates from other constituencies across the country and asked to rate them along a variety of metrics, such as who they thought would be a better leader.
Comparison Group: Individuals were surveyed, but not shown any media.
Evaluating and comparing these groups will allow researchers to disentangle the effects of different kinds of information, such as policy positions, personal characteristics, or persuasive speeches, on voter behavior.
On election day and the days following researchers administered a short exit survey to both comparison and treatment voters, assessing their knowledge about candidates, previous voting behavior, choices in the local and national election, and how they made their electoral choices. During 2013, researchers are conducting several follow-up activities, including further research on the use of video clips to disseminate electoral information, and interventions targeted at MPs to remind them of their electoral commitments.
It is widely held that access to information is a vital component of democracy building and government accountability. A recent World Bank report champions information as “a tool to empower citizens in developing countries to hold their public agents accountable.” Information flows, the report argues, not only enhance democratic participation, but also make democracy work for ordinary people. However, while evidence suggests that access to information may lead voters to punish corrupt incumbents, it is unclear whether this translates into increased support for challengers and higher political participation. In other words, information about corruption may not improve political accountability, if voters respond to it by withdrawing from the political process.
Despite optimistic views about fiscal decentralization in Mexico, local governments’ performance has remained poor. In 2008, for example, more than 80 percent of municipal governments’ resources were spent either on the bureaucracy or were unaccounted for. While elections should enable voters to discipline their mayors, a single-term limit is imposed on all elected officials in Mexico. Thus, the immediate fate of mayors is determined not by voters but by their political party. To reconcile the single-term limit with accountability, scholars have typically assumed that voters punish or reward the incumbent party for mayoral performance. However, there is little evidence that government performance impacts the subsequent election – previous work shows a strong entrenchment of incumbents from all political parties.
Further impeding voters’ ability to hold mayors accountable are widespread misconceptions about which public works and services municipal authorities are responsible for providing, as well as a lack of available information about the amount of money municipalities receive and how this money is spent. In an attempt to ensure greater municipal accountability, a 1999 constitutional reform established the Federal Auditor's Office (ASF). On a yearly basis, the ASF selects a sample of municipalities in each state to audit. The results of the audits are published in lengthy reports, which are made available online. Though public, these reports are rarely used by media or political parties in local campaigns because the release date of the reports is not aligned with the timing of elections.
Description of Intervention:
Researchers sought to assess the effects of information dissemination on participation in the 2009 municipal and congressional elections in Mexico. Approximately one week before Election Day, flyers with different kinds of information on municipal spending were delivered to all households within the boundaries of treated voting precincts. The first group of precincts received information about municipalities' overall spending; the second group received information about distribution of resources to the poor; and the third group received information about irregular, unauthorized, or unaccounted for spending. All flyers included a subtle advocacy message suggesting that voters raise questions with their mayors about the use of public funds and prompted people to think about the level of governments that was in charge of the provision of public infrastructure services. In total, 150 electoral precincts were randomly assigned to each of the three interventions, for a total of 450 treated precincts and 1910 precincts in the comparison group.
Researchers gathered demographic characteristics from census data, and then collected electoral results for each precinct from the electoral institutes for each state. This information was complemented by a follow-up survey collected ten days after the election.
Information about overall spending: Disseminating information about overall spending levels had no statistical impact on voter turnout when the mayor spent less than 75 percent of available funds. However, it decreased the incumbent vote share by 0.6 percentage points. When mayors spent more than 75 percent of the funds, releasing this information let to an increase in turnout of 1.9 percentage points, but had no significant impact on vote share.
Information about spending on poor: Turnout among voters who received information about levels of spending allocated to poor areas increased by 2.4 percentage points, but only when mayors spent less than 75 percent of available funds on poor areas. Surprisingly, releasing this information had a similar impact on both incumbent and challengers' vote shares - an increase of 1.5 and 1 percentage points, respectively. When mayors allocated more than 75 percent of resources to poor areas, releasing the information had no impact on turnout or vote share.
Information about corruption: Information about high levels of corruption appears to have had a significant negative impact on voter turnover. Turnout among individuals that received information about corruption decreased by 1.10 percentage points, which represents a 2 percent decrease in turnout. While the effect of information about corruption on the incumbent vote share was insignificant, the effect on the challengers' vote share was negative. These results suggest that while flows of information are necessary, they may be insufficient to improve political accountability, since voters may respond to information by withdrawing from the political process.
 Khemani, Stuti. 2007. Can Information Campaigns Overcome Political Obstacles to Serving the Poor? The Politics of Service Delivery in Democracies. http://siteresources.worldbank.org/DEC/Resources/Khemani_CanInformationCampaignsOvercome.pdf.
While the accountability and inclusiveness of institutions are often considered key determinants of economic performance, there is little agreement about exactly how institutions should be designed, how to move from a system of bad institutions to one with good institutions, and whether and how foreign donors can help in this process. One of the most popular strategies employed by donors to promote democratic and accountable institutions at the local level is “community driven development” (CDD). Typical CDD interventions combine flexible grants that communities can spend on local projects with requirements that decisions must be made in an inclusive and transparent manner and training on how to do this. The participation requirements aim to ensure that the projects funded reflect the needs of the community and facilitate learning by doing—i.e. the experiences gained in deciding how to spend project funds leave minority groups better placed to participate in other community decisions after the project ends. While billions of dollars are spent on CDD programs, few studies provide rigorous evidence on their real-world impacts. Critics of CDD, and of decentralization in general, have raised the concern that decentralized funds will be captured or exploited by local elites.
Context of the Evaluation:
Scholars argue that frustrations with government incompetence and corruption, as well as the exclusion of women and young men from decision-making in the traditional chieftaincy system that coordinates the provision of many local public goods, fueled violence during Sierra Leone’s recent civil war. To both prevent a return to violence and to stimulate economic development, the Government of Sierra Leone implemented a number of reforms that give communities, and vulnerable groups within them, a greater voice in local decision-making. Alongside a national decentralization program that re-established district-level councils, the government piloted a community-driven development project that went one step further by providing small grants to be administered by village development committees. This extension down to the village level aimed to establish more inclusive and accountable local decision-making infrastructure, rebuild trust, promote collective action, and provide minority groups (particularly women and youth) with experience in managing projects and making decisions within their community. Researchers and the Decentralization Secretariat collaborated to evaluate whether this pilot, called the “GoBifo” Project (or “Move Forward” in Krio), acheived these goals.
Details of the Intervention:
Two hundred thirty-six villages from two ethnically and politically distinct districts were randomly allocated into a treatment group or a comparison group. Villages in the treatment group were regularly visited by a GoBifo facilitator, who helped community members create or revamp Village Development Committees (VDCs), set up bank accounts for the VDCs, establish transparent budgeting practices, and create village development plans that included specifics on how GoBifo grants would be used. The participation and inclusion of marginalized groups was central to this process – for example, each social group (women, youth, and adult men) came up with their own development plan, and these plans were then combined into a single unified vision. Women were often established as treasurer of the VDC and served as co-signatories on all project finances. A series of block grants totaling US$4,667 per community were given to implement local public goods and skills training projects that were identified in the village development plans.
Household surveys, which covered participation in local decision-making, attitudes to minorities, and engagement in collective action, as well as demographic and socioeconomic information, were collected in late 2005 and again in mid-2009, along with village-level focus group discussions. In addition, three structured community activities (SCAs) were conducted in late 2009, shortly after GoBifo activities had ended, to capture any persistent impacts on collective action, participation of minorities, and elite capture. The SCAs were designed to measure how communities responded to concrete, real-world situations in three areas where GoBifo had sought to change behavior: (i) raising funds in response to a matching grant opportunity; (ii) making a community decision between two comparable alternatives; and (iii) allocating and managing an asset that was provided for free.
Results and Policy Lessons:
The authors and project team agreed a set of hypotheses they would test at the start of the evaluation (in 2005) and wrote out a plan on exactly how the data would be analysed before looking at the data. This prevented selective “cherry picking” of results from the 318 variables collected.
Project Implementation and Local Infrastructure Investment: The GoBifo project successfully established the village-level organizations and tools to manage development projects in nearly all cases. The distribution of project benefits within communities was equitable, leakage of project resources minimal, and minority participation high.
GoBifo villages had a larger stock of higher quality local public goods, such as a functioning primary school or community grain-drying floor, than comparison areas. There was also more market activity in treatment communities, including the presence of more traders and items for sale, suggesting short-run economic gains.
Institutional Change and Collective Action: There is no evidence that the program led to fundamental changes in local institutions or descision-making. Despite the fact that many women in treatment villages participated in GoBifo decisions, they were no more likely to voice an opinion in community meetings after the project ended or to play a leadership role in other areas. Similarly, the establishment of a democratically elected village development committee that carried out multiple projects did not lead treatment villages to be any more successful at raising funds in response to a later matching grant opportunity. Lastly, there were no program impacts on elite capture, although levels of capture were low in the research communities (at least as measured by the third SCA).
Basic public goods such as dependable roads and clean water infrastructure are routinely underprovided in much of the developing world. While the provision of these services is often centrally administered, many now advocate for decentralization and community involvement as a more effective approach. Local communities can have better information on what goods and services are needed, and may thus be better positioned to recognize and quickly respond to inefficiency or corruption in implementation. Recent years have witnessed a trend toward decentralization in developing countries; this increase in local participation in government decision-making has been facilitated by a wide variety of political reforms, but the implications of these political mechanisms are yet to be well understood.
Context of the Evaluation:
Over 13 percent of the population of Indonesia lives below the poverty line, and improving the infrastructure in marginalized areas is a priority for the Indonesian government.1 An Indonesian government program supported by a loan from the World Bank, the Kecamatan Development Program (KDP), funds projects in approximately 15,000 villages each year. Each village receives an average of Rp. 80 million (US$8,800) for infrastructure projects. Participating subdistricts, typically containing 10-20 villages, receive an annual block grant for three years. Each village makes two proposals – one on behalf of the whole village and one proposed by woman’s groups – for small-scale infrastructure projects.
Typically, when it comes time for a village to decide upon its two KDP proposals, representatives from various hamlets come together to discuss the merits of, and to decide on, the village’s two project proposals. A typical meeting would have between 9 and 15 people representing the various hamlets, as well as formal and informal village leaders, with on average about 48 people attending in total out of an average village population of 2,200. While the program has effectively improved local infrastructure in many of these villages, it is unclear whether current procedure makes projects easily dominated by elites and under-provides for those community members who need improved services the most.
Details of the Intervention:
To investigate these issues, researchers conducted a randomized evaluation in 49 villages, all of which were preparing to apply for infrastructure projects. Each village was randomized into one of two different political processes through which they determined which project to propose: 32 villages would follow the traditional representative meeting-based process described above, and the remaining 17 would choose their KDP project proposals via a direct election-based plebiscite. At these plebiscites, villagers could directly vote on a list of potential projects. For the general project, all adults were eligible to vote, and for the women-specific proposal, only women could vote. Data was collected on the project preferences of all villagers, including the elite, as well as the location and type of projects selected.
Results and Policy Lessons:
Impact on Project Type: The direct election process had little effect on the types of projects selected amongst the general project proposals, but had substantial positive effects on measures of citizen satisfaction with the political process. However, the elections did not change the probability that the general project would be located in a poor area. Direct elections on women’s projects, on the other hand, resulted in both increased satisfaction with the political process and increased probability that projects were located in poorer areas of the villages.
Impact on Satisfaction Measures: Direct elections resulted in substantial changes in the community’s satisfaction with the political process. Overall, the plebiscites resulted in an increase of 21 percentage points of people who said that the project chosen was either very much or somewhat in accordance with their wishes, an increase of 18 percentage points of people who said they would benefit either very much or somewhat from the project, an increase of 10 percentage points of people who said they would use the project personally, and an increase in overall satisfaction with KDP by 13 percentage points. The elections also raised the probability that individuals stated they would contribute something (such as labor or money) to the project by 17 percentage points. Additionally, villagers in treatment locations were 19 percentage points more likely to correctly identify the type and location of the general village project, and 25 percentage points more likely to know these things about the woman’s project.
 CIA World Factbook, “Indonesia,” https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/id.html (accessed August 31, 2009).
Corruption plagues many developing countries where the world’s poorest live, and combating it continues to be an arduous task. Corruption acts like a tax, adding to the cost of providing public services and conducting business; it also creates potentially severe efficiency consequences as well. Many suggest the right combination of monitoring and punishments can control corruption, but often the very individuals tasked with monitoring and enforcing punishments may themselves be corruptible. Another approach to reducing corruption is community-level monitoring. Local community members have the most to gain from a successful anti-corruption program, and are thus believed to have better incentives to monitor than bureaucrats. However, there is little empirical evidence on the success of such strategies.
Context of the Evaluation:
An Indonesian government program supported by a loan from the World Bank, the Kecamatan Development Project (KDP), funds projects in approximately 15,000 villages each year. Each village receives an average of Rp. 80 million, (US$8,800), which they often use to surface existing dirt roads. KDP-funded projects are large relative to ordinary local government activities; in 2001, the average annual village budget was only Rp. 71 million (US$7,800), so receiving a KDP project more than doubles average local government expenditures. This large amount of money creates incentives for price inflation, collusion with suppliers, kickback for village leaders, and manipulation of wage payments.
Two checks on corruption are built into KDP. First, funds are paid to village implementation teams in three installments. To receive the second and third payments, the teams must make accountability reports at an open meeting where they account for how they spent the money; only after that meeting has approved the accountability report is the next installment released. Second, each project has approximately a 4 percent chance of being audited by the government.
Details of the Intervention:
To examine the role of community monitoring and government audits on corruption, researchers conducted a randomized evaluation in 608 Indonesian villages in East Java and Central Java, Indonesia’s most populous provinces. Each village in the study was about to start building a village road with KDP funding. Some villages were randomly selected to be told, after funds had been awarded but before construction began, that their project would subsequently be audited by the central government, increasing the likelihood of an audit from 4 percent to 100 percent. These audits carry the possibility of criminal action if corruption is detected, and the results of the audits are read publicly to an open village meeting, potentially resulting in social sanctions.
To investigate the impact of increasing community participation in the monitoring process, two interventions were established to enhance participation at accountability meetings. Some villages were selected to have invitations to these meetings distributed throughout the community, encouraging direct participation in the monitoring process and reducing elite dominance of the process. In the second experiment, an anonymous comment form was distributed along with the invitations, providing villagers an opportunity to relay information about the project to be shared at the meetings, without fear of retaliation. (See chart below)
Experimental Treatments by Group:
Audit & Participation I
Audit & Participation
Corruption was measured by comparing the researcher’s estimate of what the project actually costs, determined by the quantity of materials used and estimate of material prices and wages paid on the project, to what the village reported it spent on the project on an item by item basis.
Results and Policy Lessons:
The evidence suggests that increasing the probability of external audits substantially reduced missing funds in the project. Increasing the probability that a village was audited by the central government from 4 percent to 100 percent reduced missing expenditures by about eight percentage points, from 27.7 percentage points to 19.2 percentage points. One reason that the decrease was not larger is that a 100 percent audit probability does not imply that village officials face a 100 percent probability of detecting corruption and imposing a punishment. In fact, although auditors found violations of some type or another in 90 percent of the villages they visited, the vast majority of these violations were procedural in nature, and there were very few, if any, cases in which the auditors had enough concrete evidence to actually prosecute offenses.
The invitations increased the number of people participating in the accountability meetings by an average of 14.8 people, or about 40 percent; slightly more than by including a comment form, since many villagers used the form as a substitute for attendance. Villages that received the invitations intervention were more likely to openly discuss corruption problems at the accountability meetings, and villages receiving both invitations and comment forms were more likely to take serious action at the meeting to resolve corruption-related problems. However, the magnitude of these changes in behavior at the meetings was small, and these treatments did not measurably reduce overall missing expenditures, yet they did have an effect on certain types of expenditures in some cases. For instance, the invitations substantially reduced missing labor expenditures, and the comment forms did reduce missing expenditures in some cases, but only when they were distributed via schools, bypassing local officials. This study provides evidence that community participation, widely viewed as a panacea for development projects, impacts levels of corruption only under a limited set of circumstances, and pains must be taken to prevent elite capture for it to be an effective means of reducing corruption.
Revenue collection and public sector efficiency is a central question for developing countries. The low level of tax revenues raised in these countries can result in the under-provision of public goods, heightens vulnerability to economic crises, and may constrain growth. Poorer countries collect on average only two-thirds or less of the amount of tax revenue as a fraction of GDP that richer countries do1, with an estimated $285 billion per year loss due to tax evasion. Past work on this topic attributes the weak performance of tax collection to the poor incentives for proper tax collection and administration. It is thought that incentives, accountability and monitoring can raise public sector efficiency, but there is little rigorous evidence on anti-corruption measures that systematically address the incentives faced by government bureaucrats.
Context of the Evaluation:
Punjab is Pakistan’s most populous province with a population of over 80 million. International comparison reveals that the present level of property tax collection in Punjab is roughly a fifth of the level of comparable countries. Evidence suggests that the main way tax evasion takes place is through several distortions such as granting exemptions to widows, the disabled, owners of small plots, retired federal and provincial government employees, and religious charitable institutions. Because officials may employ significant discretion in applying valuation to individual properties and determining exemptions, the system leaves considerable opportunities for leakages, collusion, and low collection.
Tax collectors in Pakistan are part of the provincial career bureaucracy with wages determined by salary band and length of service. Tax officials have few avenues for vertical mobility through promotions, and wage levels are not tied to performance in any way. As a result of these factors, tax officials suffer from low motivation, and evidence suggests that tax evasion and rent seeking are prevalent.
Details of the Intervention:
Geographical areas serviced by a set of tax collectors (called tax circles) were randomly assigned one of the following four wage and incentive programs (or no treatment):
Pure Wage Increase: the base salary of tax inspectors, clerks, and constables will be increased by a fixed amount. The usual monitoring and control systems from the Excise and Taxation Department (which also apply to the control group) remained in place in this and all other treatments.
Pure Wage Increase Plus Audit: In addition to the increase in wages, tax officials were told that a random sub-sample of the properties under their jurisdiction would be visited by an independent government unit outside the tax department and audited. Officials were told that they would be rewarded or penalized based on the accuracy of their audit relative to audits in other circles, as well as on taxpayer satisfaction with the quality of interactions with tax officials. The reward / penalty will be in the form of job assignments: the best performing circles would be given the highest priority in postings in the subsequent year, and the worst circles will be given lowest priority in reassignment in the subsequent year and denied the wage increase.
Output-Based Incentives: In this scheme, tax officers were rewarded on the basis of revenue collected. Specifically, a percentage of revenue collected in the circle above a historical benchmark will be given to the tax officers as performance honorarium.
Output-Based Incentives Plus Audit: In this scheme, the output incentives were combines with the audits, with the penalty that if the audit performance is good/poor the circle officials are given highest/lowest priority in reassignment to tax circles and forfeit future incentive payments.