Last updated: September 2006
Volume 53, Special Issue
IMF Staff Papers

Political Constraints and Public Support for Market Reform

Raj M. Desai and Anders Olofsgård

Full Text of this Article (PDF 180K)

Abstract: As concerns of "reform fatigue" in lower- and middle-income countries have become more widespread, so has the search for ways of boosting support for market-oriented reforms. Although the effects of political institutions on reform results have been extensively analyzed, there has been relatively little investigation of their effects on public opinion. We argue that constitutional and extra-constitutional reforms that place limits on the discretionary authority of public officials and enable voters to monitor, reward, and sanction politicians can enhance the legitimacy of market reforms. We present a voting model with asymmetric information to illustrate that these formal-legal reforms provide a credible signal of reformers' commitments. Using panel data based on public opinion barometers from Eastern Europe and Latin America, we examine the effects of political authority on public support for markets. We find that constraints on the power of the executive branch boost support for markets but that this effect declines as the reform process matures.
[JEL D72, P16, P26]