Is this progress? The $640 toilet seat arrives in Uganda

From Uganda’s Daily Monitor:

 

The Public Accounts Committee yesterday refused to accept explanations from Defence ministry officials over the purchases which are captured in an Auditor General report under consideration in the House. Army officers bought a saucepan for almost Shs2 million and spent close to Shs8 million on a gas cooker in transactions which have astonished a House committee probing suspected corruption in the military.

 

The exchange rate is around 2500 shillings / $ so that translates to a $800 saucepan and a $3200 gas cooker.

 

Sound familiar? I guess Ugandan institutions really are converging to American institutions.

 

Even the excuses sound familiar: “Ms Edith Buturo, the stand-in accounting officer at Defence, attributed the prices to a “war situation”. “

 

Interesting new papers on African institutions

The Journal of African Economies has a special issue this month on the topic of institutions and African economies.  In my Ph.D. development class I have a section on African economic development, so I am eager to check these out and see if there are any I should add to the syllabus.

All of the articles look promising, but here are the two I find most interesting ex ante:

“The New Institutionalism and Africa” by Robert H. Bates & Anke Hoeffler

After briefly reviewing the new institutionalism, this article uses the history of political reform in Africa to test its key tenet:  that power, if properly organised, is a productive resource. It does so by exploring the relationship between changes in political institutions and changes in economic performance, both at the macro- and the micro level. The evidence indicates that political reform (Granger) causes increases in GDP per capita in the African subset of global data. And, at the micro level, it demonstrates that changes in national political institutions in Africa strongly relate to changes in total factor productivity in agriculture.
“Growth of African Economies: Productivity, Policy Syndromes and the Importance of Institutions” by Augustin Kwasi Fosu

Recent evidence from an exhaustive political-economy study of growth of African economies—the Growth Project of the African Economic Research Consortium—suggests that ‘policy syndromes’ have substantially contributed to the generally poor growth in Sub-Saharan Africa during post-independence. The current article employs the unique data and insights generated by the Growth Project to further explore the importance of a ‘syndrome-free’ (SF) regime for growth in the region by examining: (i) the channels via which SF affects growth: total factor productivity versus factors of production and (ii) the role of institutions in mediating this impact, with special attention accorded to the efficacy of the restraint on the executive branch of government in mitigating the potentially adverse effect of ethnicity.

 

Disease & Development

Two of the best economists on the topic of agriculture and development, Margaret McMillan and William Masters, have teamed up with a good development economist from Oklahoma State University, Harounan Kazianga, and written an interesting new working paper called Disease Control, Demographic Change and Institutional Development in Africa.  The abstract below gives more details, but they essentially find that selective treatment of river blindness has had a significant long term effect on population growth and institutions in those villages.  I am teaching a Ph.D. class on development this fall and I have a section on institutions, geography, and development.  Looks like I have a new addition to the syllabus:

This paper addresses the role of tropical disease in rural demography and land use rights, using data from Onchocerciasis (river blindness) control in Burkina Faso. We combine a new survey of village elders with historical census data for 1975-2006 and geocoded maps of treatment under the regional Onchocerciasis Control Program (OCP). The OCP ran from 1975 to 2002, first spraying rivers to stop transmission and then distributing medicine to help those already infected. Controlling for time and village fixed effects, we find that villages in treated areas acquired larger populations and also had more cropland transactions, fewer permits required for cropland transactions, and more regulation of common property pasture and forest. These effects are robust to numerous controls and tests for heterogeneity across the sample, including time-varying region fixed effects. Descriptive statistics suggest that treated villages also acquired closer access to electricity and telephone service, markets, wells and primary schools, with no difference in several other variables. These results are consistent with both changes in productivity and effects of population size on public institutions.

h/t @JustinSandefur