Essays on the Political Economy of Resource Distribution: A Case Study of Punjab, Pakistan
Author: Rabia Nazir

Public resources play a crucial role in achieving the development goals of any economy provided they are utilized effectively. Effective use of public resources becomes even more critical in the countries facing extensive financial constraints and budget deficits. Despite having a fairly ruled based resource distribution mechanism under National and Provincial Finance Commissions in Pakistan, the development budget both at the national and provincial levels is allocated on a discretionary basis. This creates space for the inculcation of personal and partisan motives in the distribution of limited resources available for development purposes. Partisan theory of distributive politics highlights the role of political incentives in the distribution of public resources for particular benefits. Three important questions arise from this scenario. First, why do governments involve in malpractices in the redistribution of resources? The question largely revolves around the motivations behind such fiscal manipulations. Second, how their motivations to manipulate differ during the term of their office. This question arises from the fact that governments are observed to change fiscal instruments when elections are near. Third, what are the underlying political and institutional structures which make these manipulations occur? This area explores the characteristics of politicians and constitutional setups to find determinants of these fiscal manipulations. This study is designed to investigate these three questions in the sphere of development planning of Pakistan at a sub-national level. Annual development plans of the government of Punjab since 1988 to 2017 have been used to analyze district level development fund allocations. We have particularly used outlays (measured in million rupees) on social and infrastructure sectors including education, health, roads, and water supply. The reason for choosing development plans is that these budgetary appropriations, which are commonly earmarked for large-scale development projects, have important welfare considerations. Moreover, the development budget in Pakistan follows no strict formula of distribution and is mostly discretionary which creates space for political manipulation. The study is divided into three essays for addressing each question separately. The first essay is an attempt to investigate the potential manipulation in the public development expenditures at a sub-national level to test the relevance of partisan theory empirically. The partisan theory postulates that the incumbents divert greater resources towards the districts represented by their co-partisans. Favoring co-partisans at the cost of rivals is done either to reward their voters in previous elections or to enhance their re-win fortune in the future. Using the system GMM estimation technique, we have found significant resource diversion by the provincial government towards co-partisans at the district level. The incumbents in Punjab are found to spend in districts with 50% and above majority to increase their overall representation in the assembly. The incumbents also use development funds to cater to higher competition at the ballot by larger spending in the infrastructure sectors. However, they spend higher in the education sector in the districts with higher voter turnout (showing higher mobilization of the voters). The overall conclusion of this essay is that the incumbents tend to focus on the infrastructure sector more heavily than the social sector to meet their electoral incentives. We suggest the introduction of some economic formula in the spirit of the one followed for the current expenditures in the country for the distribution of development sector budget to avoid such distortions in the future. In our second essay, we have addressed the question that whether the incumbents use public resources near elections to enhance their winning probability or not? The use of public funds for re-election purposes around election times is a long-debated subject in distributive politics. The empirical literature on the existence of the political budget cycles is mixed. This paper is an attempt to find the political budget cycle in a developing and inexperienced democracy country context. We have used development spending data of 29 districts of the Punjab province of Pakistan over the period 2000-2017. The system GMM technique has been employed for estimation to address the lagged dependent variable bias and to control for the potential endogeneity of the explanatory variables. The study has found significant evidence for the political budget cycle in our data. The cycles are not only systematic but also go beyond the election year. Spending is systematically reduced in post-election years and increased gradually in subsequent years. The cycle of positive spending is confined to the election year in the water supply and sanitation sector appears one and two years before elections in the education sector and appears three years before the elections in the roads and bridges sector. The health sector, however, seems to be less attractive for enhancing re-election prospects in our case. Moreover, Pakistan Muslim League (N), the major political party which has reigned the maximum time in the province is found to spend significantly less in the health, education and roads sector near elections in our study. The third paper in this study explores the impact of personal characteristics of the politicians on resource distribution patterns and economic outcomes. Specifically, we are interested in the fact that how the political and economic consequences may differ in an elite-dominated political setup. Democracies all over the world are dominated by dynasties. The dynastic politicians based on their familial lines inherit substantial electoral and bargaining power. We have tested the impact of dynasties on the distributive benefits and policy outcomes empirically. The empirical findings of the study show that the dynastic legislators as compared to the non-dynastic legislators fetch larger distributive benefits to their districts. Further, the presence of dynastic legislators harms the economic performance of their districts despite bringing greater public resources. We have used district-level data from the Punjab province of Pakistan for the period 2002 to 2017 for this study. We propose three country-level factors to support our finding of the negative impact of dynasties on economic performance. The discrepancy in the allocated and actual realized development expenditures, widespread corruption by the dynastic politicians and patron-client political ties in Pakistan cause the low performance of development spending. The findings of the study are also consistent with the theoretical model proposed by (Asako et al., 2015). Supervisor: Dr. Muhammad Nasir Co-Supervisor: Dr. Idrees Khawja

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Supervisor: Muhammad Nasir
Cosupervisor: Muhammad Idrees Khawaja

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