March 2010

IZA DP No. 4820: The Costs of Favoritism: Is Politically-Driven Aid Less Effective?

published in: Economic Development and Cultural Change, 2013, 62 (1), 157-191

As is now well documented, aid is given for both political as well as economic reasons. The conventional wisdom is that politically-motivated aid is less effective in promoting developmental objectives. We examine the ex-post performance ratings of World Bank projects and generally find that projects that are potentially politically motivated – such as those granted to governments holding a non-permanent seat on the United Nations Security Council or an Executive Directorship at the World Bank – are no more likely, on average, to get a negative quality rating than other projects. When aid is given to Security Council members with higher short-term debt, however, a negative quality rating is more likely. So we find evidence that World Bank project quality suffers as a consequence of political influence only when the recipient country is economically vulnerable in the first place.