When do politicians prompt bureaucrats to provide effective services? Leveraging the uneven overlap of jurisdictions in India, we compare bureaucrats supervised by a single political principal with those supervised by multiple politicians. With an original dataset of nearly half a million villages, we find that implementation of India’s National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme, the largest employment program in the world, is substantially better where bureaucrats answer to a single politician. Regression discontinuity estimates help increase confidence that this result is causal. Our findings suggest that politicians face strong incentives to motivate bureaucrats as long as they internalize the benefits from doing so. In contrast to a large literature on the deleterious effects of political interventions, our results show that political influence may be more favorable to development than is commonly assumed.
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