Nova School of Business and Economics and NOVAFRICA
University Jean Monnet
Working Paper No 2003
Despite the popularity of public works programs in developing countries, there is virtually no evidence on the value of the infrastructure they generate. This paper attempts to start filling this gap in the context of the PSNP – a largescale program implemented in Ethiopia since 2005. Under the program, millions of beneficiaries received social transfers conditional on their participation in activities such as land improvements and soil and water conservation measures. We examine the value of these activities using a satellite-based indicator of agricultural productivity and difference-in-differences estimates. The result is a disappointing precise zero, meaning there is no discernible effect of the program on agricultural productivity. This contrasts with existing narratives and calls for a more attentive examination of the benefits typically attributed to public works.