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Development Discussion Paper
Media, Demonstrations, and Public Good Delivery: Evidence from World Bank Projects during Natural Disasters
Nicola Limodio August 2016
Paper No' EOPP 062:
Full Paper (pdf)

JEL Classification: H84; I38; L82; Q54

Tags: disaster aid; government policy; media; natural disasters

Media can affect governments and public policy by promoting anti-government demonstrations. Under media pressure, a multitasking government might reallocate effort across tasks, rather than increase the total aggregate, resulting in ambiguous welfare effects. In this paper, I test such a hypothesis using a database of World Bank project indicators, which measures government performance in implementing capital projects. Disasters offer an ideal case study because citizens and the government can differ particularly in their preferences between public capital (reconstruction) and consumption (relief). Therefore, at times of disasters, media might be especially effective in shaping public policy by promoting anti-government demonstrations. Joining capital project indicators with data on disasters, media, and demonstrations,I present the following: (1) within-state variation in floods and media activity for Indian states; (2) within-country variation in disasters and media freedom for 135 countries; (3) a case study using anecdotal and archival evidence on flood response in Ghana, Togo, and Ivory Coast in 2007/2008. In all cases, media activity during disasters is associated with lower capital project performance, higher relief/anti-poverty efforts, and more anti-government demonstrations.