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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2019 Sep 3;116(36):17717-17722. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1903134116. Epub 2019 Aug 21.

Oil and aid revenue produce equal demands for accountability as taxes in Ghana and Uganda.

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Department of Politics, Princeton University, Princeton, NJ 08544;
Department of Politics, Princeton University, Princeton, NJ 08544.
Department of Political Science, Brigham Young University, UT 84602.
The World Bank, Washington, DC 20433.


Received wisdom argues that citizens more readily demand accountability from government for taxes than for nontax revenue from oil or foreign aid, giving rise to an important mechanism underlying the "resource curse," which posits that nontax revenue causes citizen quiescence and hampers government accountability. However, in developing countries, obfuscation through value-added taxes and strong popular feelings of ownership over all revenues may minimize differences across revenue sources. Identical experiments on representative samples of Ghanaians and Ugandans, and similar experiments on members of parliament, probe the effects of different sources and delivery channels of government revenues on citizens' actions to monitor governments and members of parliament (MPs') beliefs about accountability pressures. Roughly half of all citizens take action to monitor all 3 sources. However, neither Ghanaians nor Ugandans demand more accountability for taxes than oil or aid when the revenues go to the government. MPs likewise saw no difference. Citizens do differentiate between aid money given to nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) compared with revenues delivered to the government. Findings are robust to numerous alternatives and subgroups. Against strong expectations from prior research, little evidence exists showing that taxes strengthen citizens' demands for accountability or that MPs perceive differences across revenue sources in these 2 representative African countries. However, aid channeled through NGOs motivates more accountability pressures.


accountability; foreign aid; oil revenues; resource curse; taxes

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