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Do Bureaucrats Contribute to the Resource Curse? Evidence from a Survey Experiment in New Oil States

Sigman, Rachel; Harris, Adam S.; Meyer-Sahling, Jan-Hinrik; Mikkelsen, Kim Sass; Schuster, Christian

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Rachel Sigman

Adam S. Harris

Kim Sass Mikkelsen

Christian Schuster


The resource curse literature argues that oil production reshapes the fiscal contract between citizens and the state: politicians become less responsive to citizen taxpayers and more likely to use public revenues for their own benefit. This paper examines whether and how bureaucrats influence this breakdown of the fiscal contract. Analysing results of a survey experiment conducted with government employees in Ghana and Uganda, we find that, when primed to think about oil revenue, bureaucrats do not generally express attitudes indicating that they contribute to the resource curse. Although oil revenue does lead some Ghanaian bureaucrats to become less interested in responding to taxpayers, this finding does not operate as predicted, i.e. by bureaucrats expressing greater partiality towards the ruling elite. Instead, we attribute this outcome to ‘disgruntled employees’–political outsiders with low salaries–who, unlikely to benefit from oil revenue, become disaffected from citizen service. The results shed new light on processes through which resource extraction changes state institutions.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Nov 17, 2021
Online Publication Date Feb 19, 2022
Publication Date 2022
Deposit Date Dec 13, 2021
Publicly Available Date Aug 20, 2023
Journal The Journal of Development Studies
Print ISSN 0022-0388
Electronic ISSN 1743-9140
Publisher Informa UK Limited
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 58
Issue 4
Pages 639-655
Keywords Development
Public URL
Publisher URL


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