Our turn to eat: The political economy of roads in Kenya

Type Working Paper
Title Our turn to eat: The political economy of roads in Kenya
Publication (Day/Month/Year) 2010
URL http://r4d.dfid.gov.uk/PDF/Outputs/IIG/iig-warwick-morjaria.pdf
By reducing trade costs and promoting economic specialization across regions,
transportation infrastructure is a determining factor of growth. Yet, developing
countries are characterized by infrastructure underdevelopment, the general lack of
funding being often mentioned as the main reason for it. Then, even when such
investments are realized, the welfare gains associated to them might be captured
by political elites that are strong enough to influence their allocation across space.
We study this issue by investigating the political economy of road placement in
Kenya, an African country where politicians are said to favour individuals from
their region of origin or who share their ethnicity. Combining district-level panel
data on road building with historical data on the ethnicity and district of birth of
political leaders, we show that presidents disproportionately invest in their district
of birth and those regions where their ethnicity is dominant. It also seems that
the second most powerful ethnic group in the cabinet and the district of birth of
the public works minister receive more paved roads. In the end, a large share of
road investments over the period can be explained by political appointments, which
denotes massive and well-entrenched ethno-favoritism in Kenyan politics.

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