Waylaid Dialectic

July 14, 2014

Does aid undermine democracy?

Filed under: Aid — terence @ 10:41 am

A common trope amongst aid’s let-them-eat-cake opponents is that aid-provided services undermine governance in democracy by reducing citizen’s incentives to hold their government to account.

I’m a sceptic, not because I think aid can do no harm, but simply because in strongly clientelist polities (i.e. most developing countries) the impediments to citizens holding their governments to account are more fundamental, stemming from complicated collective action dilemmas.

This Afrobarometer study offers some interesting associated evidence:

Can Donors And Non-State Actors Undermine Citizens’ Legitimating Beliefs?

Author(s): Sacks, Audrey
Year Published: 2012
Published in Working Papers

Abstract: This paper addresses the conditions under which donor and non-state actor service provision is likely to undermine or strengthen citizens’ legitimating beliefs. On the one hand, citizens may be less likely to support their government with quasi-voluntary compliance when they credit non-state actors or donors for service provision. On the other hand, the provision of goods and services by donors and non-state actors might strengthen citizens’ confidence in their government and their willingness to defer to governmental laws and regulations if citizens believe that the government is essential to leveraging and managing these resources. The author assesses these competing hypotheses using multi-level analyses of Afrobarometer survey data. The sample, drawn from a continuum of developing societies in Africa, allows for analysis of associations between donor and non-state actor service provision and the sense of obligation to comply with tax authorities, the police and courts. The findings yield support for the hypothesis that the provision of services by donors and non-state actors is strengthening, rather than undermining, the relationship between citizens and the state.


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