Chasing the Key Player: a Network Approach to the Myanmar Civil War

Andrea Di Miceli (UCLA)

Abstract : I study the determinants of civil conflict in Myanmar. As governments in weak states often face several armed groups, they have to allocate resources to fight a subset of them strategically. I use a simple model to embed heterogeneity among rebel groups stemming from their network of alliances and enmities. The key insight is that, by attacking a group, the Myanmar army weakens its allies. Therefore, the model predicts that the Myanmar army strategically targets armed groups who are central in the network of alliances. To test the model's predictions, I collect a new data set on rebel groups' locations, alliances, and enmities for the period 1989-2015. Using geo-referenced information on armed groups attacked by the Myanmar army, the empirical evidence strongly supports the predictions of the model. A one standard deviation increase in a group's centrality increases the likelihood of conflict with the Myanmar's army by 1.2% (over a baseline yearly conflict probability of 6.4%), thus identifying a new determinant of conflict. This result is robust to variables measuring the opportunity cost of conflict such as rainfall and commodity price shocks. Since past (and expected) conflicts might affect alliances and enmities between armed groups, I pursue an instrumental variable strategy to provide evidence that the mechanism proposed is indeed causal.

Pro-poor or Political Targeting: an Analysis of Social Assistance in Developing Countries

Marina Dodlova (University of Passau, CESifo)
Anna Giolbas (University of Goettingen, GIGA Hamburg)
Jann Lay (University of Goettingen, GIGA Hamburg)

Abstract : Politicians may use social policy and pro-poor spending for self-interest and strategic manipulation. In this paper, we focus on the politics of the design of social assistance programs in developing countries. In particular, we explore how rent seeking may affect the choice of targeting mechanisms used to determine the beneficiary base of transfers in different political regimes. Using the new NSTP dataset (2016) we are able to contrast more than 180 programs with categorical, community-based, means-tested, proxy means-tested and other types of targeting. The key attribute is whether an intermediary or any third part is involved in the process of transfer eligibility. We argue that in view of subjectivity of decisions and more chances for manipulation such targeting schemes are more often adopted in societies with higher rent seeking. Applying an IV approach based on the neighbours’ average rent seeking levels we find that indeed community-based and means-tested programs that involve the assessment of beneficiaries’ eligibility by an intermediary such as a social worker or community chief are more chosen in regimes with higher political corruption or non-democracies with lower checks and balances. On the contrary, proxy means-tested programs that are based on ex ante evaluation of the poverty level and objective information on potential beneficiaries are significantly less prevalent in high corruptible environments and in non-democracies with low checks and balances. This might be explained as they are less prone to be used for strategic manipulation. Our findings contribute to a better understanding of pro-poor versus political targeting across regime types.

Is Democracy Good for Growth? Institutional Quality Matters

Fali Huang (Singapore Management University)
Di Sima (Singapore Management University)

Abstract : Is democracy good or bad for growth? This paper shows that democracy can be quite good for growth if it is a strong democracy, otherwise the effect on growth is not much better than that of autocracy. In the baseline results, the annual growth rates of GDP per capita are increased by about 1.2% on average after democratization in countries where democracy functions well enough. The results are robust to various change of data sets, control variables, or criteria that categorize a democracy into strong or weak. Strong democracies have better economic development in the beginning, and their overall institutional quality is also better.

Empirical Evidence on the Role of Distribution in Determining Level of Policy Support

Sara A. Sutherland (Utah State University)

Abstract : Individual transferrable quotas (ITQs) have encountered considerable political opposition despite documented improvements in harvesting efficiency and fishery health. This paper analyzes opposition for two different groups- vessel owners and community members. I provide empirical evidence that opposition is higher for political participants that do not own a vessel than vessel owners. Amongst vessel owners, opposition is higher among fishers with the smallest expected gains under ITQ management. I construct novel dataset linking a commenter stated opinion on ITQs, given at a public forum, to occupation information, catch history and expected quota allocation. Results show that fishermen who receive less quota relative to their counterfactual non-ITQ catch are more likely to oppose. For instance, a fisherman who missed one of the grandfathering years is around 20% more likely to oppose ITQs.