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Connectivity, Clientelism and Public Provision

  • Mahvish Shami

In many developing countries the rural poor often depend on patrons to act as brokers in order to get public provision from the government. The broker facilitates provision in return for securing peasants’ votes for politicians. Yet, low bargaining power of peasants allows patrons to appropriate public resources for themselves. I propose increasing peasants’ bargaining power by connecting them to markets outside their village. Making use of a natural experiment found in the construction of a motorway in Pakistan, I find public provision to be significantly higher in connected villages when compared to those which are isolated. Moreover, I find that the beneficial impact of connectivity is felt most strongly by the lower classes, who are most vulnerable to exploitation when isolated.

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Department of International Development, London School of Economics and Political Science, Houghton Street, London. WC2A 2AE, UK. I would like to thank Dr Jean-Paul Faguet, Lauge Poulsen and Hadia Majid for extensive comments on this article. I would also like to thank the Leverhulme Trust for funding part of this study. Replication data sets are available in Harvard Dataverse at: and online appendices are available at

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These interviews were also used in Shami 2012a; Shami 2012b.
Chaudry Muhammad Altaf, Chairman National Highway Authority, interview, Lahore, 15 April 2008.
Household ID 45, interview, isolated landlord-dominated Village 1, 16 May 2008.
Household ID 258 connected landlord-dominated village 1, 3 May 2008.
Household ID 266 connected landlord-dominated village 1, 3 May 2008.
Household ID286, interview, isolated landlord-dominated Village 2, 24 May 2008.
Household ID 386, interview, connected landlord-dominated village 2, 23 May 2008.
Landlord 1, interview, connected landlord-dominated Village 1, 15 April 2008.
Landlord 1, interview, connected landlord-dominated Village 1, 3 May 2008.
Landlord 2, interview, isolated landlord-dominated village 2, 24 May 2008.
Key respondent 2, interview, isolated landlord-dominated village, 16 May 2008.
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