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Information, voting and the quality of governance
AbhijitV. Banerjee
THE ROLE OF INFORMATION
A lot of how we think about decentralized economic and political
systems is posited on assumptions...
UNFORTUNATELY
Neither being informed nor being engaged enough to use it are
automatic
At least in a developing country con...
THISTALK
I want to highlight 

what we know about the use of information to get better
social outcomes
And equally importa...
AN EXPERIMENT ON INFORMATION
PROVISION
Rema already talked about it this morning but couple points
worth making
Raskin is ...
PERHAPS FORTHIS REASON,WE
FIND..
Mistargeting: 84 percent of eligible bought some rice; 67 percent
of ineligible did so as...
COULD IT BE JUST AN INFORMATION
PROBLEM?
It may be in the interest of the village leadership to keep the
information vague...
RESULTS FROM A FIELD EXPERIMENT
Field experiment in 572 villages, in
conjunction with the Indonesian
government
Will an in...
THE IMPACT
Subsidy increases by about ~26% for eligible
No overall reduction in quantity for ineligible
No evidence that t...
EXPERIMENTAL EVIDENCE ONTHE
SOURCE OFTHE IMPACT
Information seems to matter:
Printing the price of rice on the card double...
CONSISTENT WITH
The fact that making information public had a very large impact
In this treatment the lists of the eligibl...
A POTENTIAL CONNECTION
WITH
A quasi-experiment (Reinikka-Svensson) in Uganda where initially
the median school was getting...
INFORMATION AND
COORDINATION
The previous examples were ones where acting alone was
possible
Does not make sense, for exam...
INFORMATION WITHOUT COORDINATION
CAN BE USELESS: RESULTS FROM AN RCT
Sarva Shiksha Aviyan (SSA) was the previous NDA gover...
INTERVENTION
To informVEC members of their rights and responsibilities
Both general
And specific (this is the person to com...
RESULT
Villagers andVEC members were more informed
Had a precise zero effect on all measures of collective action and
test...
WHY?
Cost of acting together in a setting where there is uncertainty
about exactly whose fault it is, whether everyone els...
VOTING EXPERIMENTS
Is one place where individual action can have a big impact
without physical coordination
Information se...
BUT DO PEOPLE USE ALLTHE
INFORMATIONTHEY HAVE?
A field experiment in Eastern Rajasthan
Villagers were shown a street play t...
THE CAMPAIGN
Consisted of a street-play
And distribution of calendars, some village meetings
No village specific informatio...
IMPACTS:ANTI-INCUMBENCY
IMPACTS: STRATEGIC RESPONSE
IMPACTS:ACCOUNTABILITY
IMPACTS:ACCOUNTABILITY
THEREFORE
Impact of the intervention was to reduce re-running among low
performing incumbents.
But villagers were not told...
SOME EVIDENCE ON COST OF PURE
INFORMATION PROCESSING
In Indonesia we had the village community rank everyone in
terms of p...
A LOT OF HOPE
Is pinned on the effects of information exchange--twitter, text
messages, etc.--on improving governance
We n...
A RESEARCH AGENDA
Understanding
The role of higher-order knowledge
The role of coordination
The role of knowing what you k...
Information, voting and the quality of governance
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Information, voting and the quality of governance

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Keynote address by Abhijit V. Banerjee on Information, voting and the quality of governance at the SITE Corruption Conference, 31 August 2015.

Find more at: https://www.hhs.se/site

Published in: Economy & Finance
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Information, voting and the quality of governance

  1. 1. Information, voting and the quality of governance AbhijitV. Banerjee
  2. 2. THE ROLE OF INFORMATION A lot of how we think about decentralized economic and political systems is posited on assumptions an informed and vigilant citizenry Voters need to make informed choices Parents/patients need to complain about the right problems in schools/hospitals Citizens need to search out corruption in the provision of public goods and report it Communities need to assign benefits to the right people.
  3. 3. UNFORTUNATELY Neither being informed nor being engaged enough to use it are automatic At least in a developing country context People do not and often cannot read newspapers/notice boards etc. People are busy, stressed Information is multi-dimensional: you have to know what is worth knowing Information has to be processed
  4. 4. THISTALK I want to highlight 
 what we know about the use of information to get better social outcomes And equally importantly, some puzzles about what seems to be coming out of that body of evidence
  5. 5. AN EXPERIMENT ON INFORMATION PROVISION Rema already talked about it this morning but couple points worth making Raskin is 17 year old program in Indonesia It is a rice subsidy program for the poor: Each eligible family is entitled to 15 Kgs of rice per month At 1600 rupiahs per kilo The price has been unchanged since 2007 Yet in baseline: Only 30% of eligible households know their status Beneficiaries believe that the co-pay is 25% higher than it is
  6. 6. PERHAPS FORTHIS REASON,WE FIND.. Mistargeting: 84 percent of eligible bought some rice; 67 percent of ineligible did so as well Leakages: comparing surveys to administrative data suggests about 23% of rice disappears Markups: mean co-payment in our data is Rp. 2,276 per kg, instead of Rp. 1,600 Eligible households buy 5.3 kg/month at Rp. 2,276: 32 percent of value of intended subsidy
  7. 7. COULD IT BE JUST AN INFORMATION PROBLEM? It may be in the interest of the village leadership to keep the information vague Compounded by the fact there are some real distribution costs not covered by the program (small though) Nevertheless one would imagine beneficiaries would have the incentive to find out and would have had ample chances to do so.. One guess would be that this is just a reflection of power:“the village head’s word is the law”
  8. 8. RESULTS FROM A FIELD EXPERIMENT Field experiment in 572 villages, in conjunction with the Indonesian government Will an increase in information to eligible households increase their subsidy received? In 378 randomly chosen villages, eligible households received a “Raskin id card” Conveys information on eligibility and entitled quantity
  9. 9. THE IMPACT Subsidy increases by about ~26% for eligible No overall reduction in quantity for ineligible No evidence that the poorer ineligibles were hurt Rice given out increases by 17%; 36% reduction in rice leakage Bottom ten treatment only helped the bottom ten.
  10. 10. EXPERIMENTAL EVIDENCE ONTHE SOURCE OFTHE IMPACT Information seems to matter: Printing the price of rice on the card doubles the subsidy But so does the possession of a card. When cards are only sent to the bottom 10% of the village, they are the only ones who benefit And the gain is no larger than where everyone gets a card Suggests an important role for being able to demonstrate eligibility/entitlement
  11. 11. CONSISTENT WITH The fact that making information public had a very large impact In this treatment the lists of the eligible and the terms of the program were publicly announced As against a list that the leader was supposed to post on his office but often failed to do so Doubled the increase in the subsidy Too big to be the impact of the increase in individual knowledge Why? Coordination or Higher order knowledge
  12. 12. A POTENTIAL CONNECTION WITH A quasi-experiment (Reinikka-Svensson) in Uganda where initially the median school was getting 0% of central government grants coming to it Publishing that amount sent raises the amount to over 80%. Schools probably did know that something like this was happening But it was vague/conjectural The intervention introduced higher order knowledge Why does that matter? People seem to have very high costs of publicly acting on vague information Why?
  13. 13. INFORMATION AND COORDINATION The previous examples were ones where acting alone was possible Does not make sense, for example, with schools, hospitals Its hard to be credible when you complain about your own child not doing well An example of information effects on education
  14. 14. INFORMATION WITHOUT COORDINATION CAN BE USELESS: RESULTS FROM AN RCT Sarva Shiksha Aviyan (SSA) was the previous NDA governments flagship education program in India Created village education committees (VECs) to monitor state of education in the village and intervene where necessary On paper substantial powers, including the power to complain against teachers and to request an additional teacher where needed Five years after SSA was launched our survey in UP foundVECs existed in every village 92% of the villagers do not know about them A vast majority ofVEC members did not know their rights under SSA 25% ofVEC members did not know they wereVEC members
  15. 15. INTERVENTION To informVEC members of their rights and responsibilities Both general And specific (this is the person to complain) Informing villagers of the (dismal) state of education in these villages to galvanize them Training in the tools to test their children
  16. 16. RESULT Villagers andVEC members were more informed Had a precise zero effect on all measures of collective action and test scores Not because villagers did not react to the information Volunteers started teaching classes and test scores went up dramatically for those kids who attended those classes Private rather than collective action
  17. 17. WHY? Cost of acting together in a setting where there is uncertainty about exactly whose fault it is, whether everyone else will step up to the plate (and some risk of retaliation)? Some experimental evidence from laboratory games of excess reaction to small increases in costs in coordination games One tentative piece of evidence Very similar intervention in Uganda in the healthcare sector (Bjorkman- Svensson) Had massive positive effects Main difference, the information campaign was carried out by a CBO that also undertook to coordinate the reaction to the information
  18. 18. VOTING EXPERIMENTS Is one place where individual action can have a big impact without physical coordination Information seems to have large effects Farraz-Finan study audits of mayors in Brazil Find that mayors whose audits were (randomly) chosen to be published before the election get more votes if they are found uncorrupt and massively less votes if they are found corrupt Banerjee-Kumar-Pande find that even much softer information has a substantial effect on voting In Delhi distributing newspapers with report cards on legislator performance reduces the vote share of low performing candidates substantially
  19. 19. BUT DO PEOPLE USE ALLTHE INFORMATIONTHEY HAVE? A field experiment in Eastern Rajasthan Villagers were shown a street play that reminded them that the village panchayat head had important economic responsibilities Especially with the new employment guarantee scheme Just before the 2010 panchayat election First-past the post elections, every five years Anyone can self-nominate and run
  20. 20. THE CAMPAIGN Consisted of a street-play And distribution of calendars, some village meetings No village specific information was given out 472 street-plays covering 119 Gram Panchayats chosen at random out of the 382 in 3 districts. 130,00 calendars distributed
  21. 21. IMPACTS:ANTI-INCUMBENCY
  22. 22. IMPACTS: STRATEGIC RESPONSE
  23. 23. IMPACTS:ACCOUNTABILITY
  24. 24. IMPACTS:ACCOUNTABILITY
  25. 25. THEREFORE Impact of the intervention was to reduce re-running among low performing incumbents. But villagers were not told who was low-performing In other words, the villagers knew who were the bad incumbents but till the play reminded that they should care, this information was not being used… Why? Coordination (Myerson)? Or cost of information processing. How to know what we know?
  26. 26. SOME EVIDENCE ON COST OF PURE INFORMATION PROCESSING In Indonesia we had the village community rank everyone in terms of poverty in order to find the poor We randomized the order in which the people were ranked We see a big difference in ranking accuracy between beginning and end Perhaps not surprising since ranking 75 households, for example, would need at least 363 comparisons Having information is not the same thing as being willing to use it.
  27. 27. A LOT OF HOPE Is pinned on the effects of information exchange--twitter, text messages, etc.--on improving governance We need to think about how to make those interventions really effective In particular there is no reason why good governance would emerge from the “free market in ideas” The most important things may not get said or heard or discussed or emphasized or acted upon
  28. 28. A RESEARCH AGENDA Understanding The role of higher-order knowledge The role of coordination The role of knowing what you know And how to design information campaigns to leverage these

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