Oil and aid revenue produce equal demands for accountability as taxes in Ghana and Uganda

Brandon De La Cuesta, Helen V. Milner, Daniel L. Nielson, Stephen F. Knack

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Scopus citations


Received wisdom argues that citizens more readily demand accountability from government for taxes than for nontax revenue from oil or foreign aid, giving rise to an important mechanism underlying the "resource curse," which posits that nontax revenue causes citizen quiescence and hampers government accountability. However, in developing countries, obfuscation through value-added taxes and strong popular feelings of ownership over all revenues may minimize differences across revenue sources. Identical experiments on representative samples of Ghanaians and Ugandans, and similar experiments on members of parliament, probe the effects of different sources and delivery channels of government revenues on citizens' actions to monitor governments and members of parliament (MPs') beliefs about accountability pressures. Roughly half of all citizens take action to monitor all 3 sources. However, neither Ghanaians nor Ugandans demand more accountability for taxes than oil or aid when the revenues go to the government. MPs likewise saw no difference. Citizens do differentiate between aid money given to nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) compared with revenues delivered to the government. Findings are robust to numerous alternatives and subgroups. Against strong expectations from prior research, little evidence exists showing that taxes strengthen citizens' demands for accountability or that MPs perceive differences across revenue sources in these 2 representative African countries. However, aid channeled through NGOs motivates more accountability pressures.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)17717-17722
Number of pages6
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number36
StatePublished - Sep 3 2019

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General


  • Accountability
  • Foreign aid
  • Oil revenues
  • Resource Curse
  • Taxes


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