Does Information Break the Political Resource Curse? Experimental Evidence from Mozambique

Alex Armand

University of Navarra e Institute for Fiscal Studies

Alexander Coutts

Nova School of Business and Economics (Universidade Nova de Lisboa) e NOVAFRICA

Pedro C. Vicente

Nova School of Business and Economics (Universidade Nova de Lisboa), BREAD e NOVAFRICA

Inês Vilela

Nova School of Business and Economics (Universidade Nova de Lisboa) e NOVAFRICA

ISSN 2183-0843
Working Paper No 1902
Janeiro 2019


The political resource curse is the idea that natural resources can lead to the deterioration of public policies through corruption and rent-seeking by those closest to political power. One prominent consequence is the emergence of conflict. This paper takes this theory to the data for the case of Mozambique, where a substantial discovery of natural gas recently took place.
Focusing on the anticipation of a resource boom and the behavior of local political structures and communities, a large-scale field experiment was designed and implemented to follow the dissemination of information about the newly-discovered resources. Two types of treatments provided variation in the degree of dissemination: one with information targeting only local political leaders, the other with information and deliberation activities targeting communities at large. A wide variety of theory-driven outcomes is measured through surveys, behavioral activities, lab-in-the-field experiments, and georeferenced administrative data about local conflict.
Information given only to leaders increases elite capture and rent-seeking, while information and deliberation targeted at citizens increases mobilization and accountability-related outcomes, and decreases violence. While the political resource curse is likely to be in play, the dissemination of information to communities at large has a countervailing effect.

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