What Makes Poor Countries Poor?
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What Makes Poor Countries Poor?

Institutional Determinants of Development

Michael J. Trebilcock and Mariana Mota Prado

This important book focuses on the idea that institutions matter for development, asking what lessons we have learned from past reform efforts, and what role lawyers can play in this field.
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Chapter 4: Political Regimes, Ethnic Conflict and Development

Michael J. Trebilcock and Mariana Mota Prado


INTRODUCTION This chapter focuses on the role that political institutions can play in promoting development. Does democracy promote economic development (growth), or vice-versa? This has been a contested terrain over the last several decades, and the evidence in favour of democracy is inconclusive at best. Evidence suggests that democracies tend to do better than autocracies on other social indicators such as infant mortality rates and access to basic education, although the correlation is not tight. The chapter also analyses the role that political institutions can play in reducing ethnic conflict. This is a pervasive problem in developing countries that takes a serious toll on social and economic development. These conflicts have complex causes, but there are reasons to believe that political institutions can play a role in mitigating ethnic tension and violence. After reviewing the arguments and evidence that support the idea that political institutions can play a role in promoting development and reducing ethnic conflict, we analyse institutional reforms – and political reforms in particular – to show that they pose formidable challenges. Reform efforts need to acknowledge that there is no one-size-fits-all solution to the problem of governance in general and design of political institutions in particular. As with the rule of law and other institutional reforms, path dependence and institutional interconnections may significantly constrain a society’s feasible reform options with respect to its political reforms. Thus, institutional change is more likely to succeed if adapted to a country’s particular context and history. II. POLITICAL REGIMES AND DEVELOPMENT Most of...

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