Blessing a Curse? Institutional Reform and Resource Booms in Colombia
Is it possible to revert the resource curse through institutional reform? Evidence suggests that there is a negative relationship between abundance of natural resources and economic growth, political stability, democracy, and peace. However, evidence illustrating how institutional reform can revert this situation is scarce. In this paper, we exploit an institutional reform that took place in Colombia in 2011. We evaluate the effects of the reform to the royalties system, that modified the allocation rule of these rents but also introduced important changes in terms of control and accountability, on the living standards of Colombian households. We instrument municipality-level allocations of royalties using international variations in the price of oil, and we find that the reform had important effects on several household welfare indicators. We find positive impacts on important dimensions, such as poverty, income, employment, housing conditions, health, and education, among others. Results are mixed or null in other areas, such as formality or employment in the service sector. We test for different channels explaining these effects, which include theories of state capacity, competition for resources, and increased control and accountability. Our evidence supports the state capacity mechanism.