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Essays on the political economy of development: elections, public investment and regional economic growth in post-2002 Turkey

Luca, Davide (2015) Essays on the political economy of development: elections, public investment and regional economic growth in post-2002 Turkey. PhD thesis, London School of Economics and Political Science.

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Much academic debate in the tradition of economic geography has focused on how to design successful strategies to trigger local and regional development. How a more effective economic policy to tackle regional imbalances and inequalities should be developed remains hotly discussed. Too frequently, however, the effective delivery and implementation of policies across all cities and regions fail not simply because of wrong policy tools. Often, one of the challenges is, also, to sort out the institutional process so that incentives to achieve effectiveness arise among politicians and bureaucrats. This thesis specifically focuses on pork-barrelling and distributive politics, that is, how politicians selectively target cities and regions with more or less governmental goods to reinforce their electoral advantage. While a significant number of contributions have been made to this field of enquiry, numerous gaps remain in understanding the implications of distributive politics on regional economic development policymaking and performance. The dissertation critically examines four different aspects and effects of distributive politics, drawing from the case of post-2002 Turkey. In spite of a significant burgeoning of this line of research across the world, questions about the extent to which ‘tactical allocative games’ prevail over technical policymaking criteria are frequently left unanswered. The first theme concerns the extent to which electoral factors prevail over technical considerations in the allocation of public investment by the central state to Turkey’s provinces. The evidence suggests that, while the government has allocated spending to reward its core constituencies, socioeconomic factors nonetheless remain the most relevant predictors of investment. Relatedly, almost no research has so far explored whether pork-barrelling has any economic consequences on regional economies. The second theme explores whether votes for the incumbent party can ‘buy’ preferential policy treatment and regional economic growth. The results show how, after addressing potential endogeneity, economic performance is almost entirely explained by ‘standard’ drivers, primarily human capital endowment. Third, the literature on distributive politics has frequently been legislature centric, in the sense that it has not paid adequate attention to the role played by bureaucratic agencies. The third paper explores whether the institutional characteristics of the agency in charge of the project cycle condition the attainment of publicly-oriented goals. Results point towards the argument that, to enhance policy effectiveness, bureaucracies must be not only capable an autonomous, but also accountable. Finally, the literature still provides unclear evidence on whether shifts from highly competitive electoral environments towards electoral one-party hegemony may lead to higher – or to lower – levels of pork-barrelling. The fourth theme therefore explores whether the constant surge of power enjoyed by Turkey’s AK Party has determined any change in the way public investment is allocated for tactical redistribution. Findings unexpectedly uncover decreasing levels of ‘punishment’ against opponents’ strongholds. Such reduction, however, is accompanied by increasing populist spending throughout the country. Overall, by providing novel evidence on the links between elections, public investment, and regional economic growth in post-2002 Turkey, the thesis contributes to advancing the understaning of the political economy of local and regional development.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Additional Information: © 2015 Davide Luca
Library of Congress subject classification: J Political Science > JC Political theory
Sets: Departments > Geography and Environment
Supervisor: Rodríguez-Pose, Andrés

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