Does Development Aid Improve State Capacity? The Impact of EU Funding on Local Government Capacity in Poland

Wed, Mar 4, 2020, 12:15 pm
Robertson 023
Organized by the EU Program, co-sponsored by the Program in Contemporary European Politics and Society, the Liechtenstein Institute of Self-Determination, the Julis-Rabinowitz Center for Public Policy and Finance, and the Seeger Center for Hellenic Studies (with the support of The Paul Sarbanes '54 Fund for Hellenism and Public Service)

Jan Vogler recently completed his Ph.D. in political science–with a specialization in political economy and political methodology. As of fall 2019, he will be a post-doctoral research associate in the political economy of good government at the University of Virginia's Woodrow Wilson Department of Politics. His research covers a wide range of topics, including the organization of public bureaucracies, various forms of political and economic competition (in domestic and international settings), the legacies of imperial rule, and structures and perceptions of the European Union. In his dissertation, he analyzes the determinants of cross-national and cross-regional variation in the institutions and performance of public administration by considering the impact of historical events and processes.


Does development aid affect recipient countries' state capacity? In this study, we focus on two specific types of state capacity, namely (1) the ability to provide information to third parties and (2) to discriminate between different kinds of third-party inquiries. Our theory predicts that, when aid funds are distributed in a competitive fashion and incentivize expansions in administrative personnel, aid may bring about a higher bureaucratic capacity equilibrium. We assess our theoretical argument by analyzing the effect of EU structural funds—arguably the world's most extensive development assistance program—on building local government capacity in the largest aid recipient country, post-communist Poland. Through a randomized survey with more than 2,400 municipal administrations in Poland, we find that local administrations which have benefited more from EU funding, have developed higher levels of discrimination capacity. At the same time, we do not find sufficient evidence for increases in information provision capacity.

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