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How do incumbents with influence over infrastructure programs balance their incentives to gain electoral support with their proclivities for rent-seeking? In this talk, Anjali Thomas Bohlken argues that government elites in parliamentary systems manage this trade-off by concentrating rent-seeking opportunities in their own hands while facilitating efficient public goods provision in the constituencies of their more junior partisan colleagues. Analyses using fine-grained data on road construction in India based on a variety of causal inference strategies support the argument. While ruling party incumbents showed higher levels of road provision in their constituencies regardless of ministerial status, road projects in ministers’ constituencies showed higher levels of rent-seeking than those in the constituencies of other ruling party legislators. Moreover, consistent with the mechanism, ruling party legislators’ diminished access to rent-seeking opportunities is shown to be largely driven by the influence of co-partisan ministers. The findings illuminate how politicised distribution can sometimes mitigate inefficiencies in infrastructure provision.
Anjali Thomas Bohlken is an Assistant Professor in the Sam Nunn School of International Affairs. Her research focuses on the political economy of development, and employs quantitative analyses of data derived from India and other developing country contexts. Her specific substantive interests include the politics of infrastructure provision, the causes and consequences of democratic local governance and the link between climate change and local level politics. Anjali’s first book, “Democratization from Above: The Logic of Local Democracy in the Developing World” draws on empirical material from India as well as across the developing world to examine why national or state government elites democratise local institutions in some cases and not others. Prior to joining the faculty at Georgia Tech, she was a faculty member in the Department of Political Science at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver. She obtained her PhD from New York University in 2010.