Do political dynasties hinder development?

  • Political dynasties are a prevalent form of transmission of political power in many democracies. This paper examines the incentives of dynastic politicians to engage in local development in the aftermath of natural disasters.
  • Using a flooding disaster that affected Pakistan in 2010, data from national assembly elections, and spending on development programmes by elected politicians in their home constituencies between 2008 and 2013, this paper examined the question of whether political dynasties hinder development.
  • The results show that development expenditures are 10.9% lower in flood affected areas with dynastic politicians than in areas without floods and dynastic politicians.
  • This is suggestive of lower effort by dynastic politicians in a weak democratic system with entrenched political power.

This study will examine the effect of political dynasties on local economic development. A political dynasty is defined as a network of family politicians who come to power in an election based regime. Dynasties are a prevalent form of transmission of political power in many new as well as established democracies. The results of this project are relevant to understanding politicians’ incentives to act in the interest of voters in democracies where de facto political power is concentrated in dynastic networks.

Spending was lower in all constituencies that experienced flooding. This is most likely due to the crowd out of politician effort by expenditure by other actors, such as donors or the federal government. However, the effect was greater in areas with dynastic politicians. I found that development expenditures in constituencies that were affected by floods and had a dynastic member of national assembly were lower by 10.9% than in constituencies unaffected by floods and without a dynastic member of national assembly. This differed depending on the dynastic politician’s power base. Landholding politicians were more likely to engage in development expenditure than those with biradari (clan) connections. This points to heterogeneity in the effects of dynastic politics on development.

Overall, the results of this study emphasise the importance of dynastic political power as a determinant of politicians’ incentives to act in the interest of citizens. In fragile democracies where political power can be concentrated in a small elite class and is handed down through family linkages, political participation needs to be broadened.

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