Political Business Cycle in Local Governments in Transition and Developing Economies. Literature Review and Empirical Study for Poland

Keywords: local governments, political cycle, fiscal manipulation, government spending, local government investment, civic health


Theory of political business cycles in democratic systems indicates that politicians have an incentive to operate with different economic instruments to acquire voters or secure re-election. Such phenomena also take place on the local government level, with incumbents manipulating the scale of expenditures, investments, or the amount of debt raised before elections. In this article, we focus on the analysis of local government investment as it is one of the most flexible parts of the budget so there is a strong incentive to use it as an election support instrument. Based on the panel data for the three full electoral cycles in Poland, we check the existence of the relationship between investment budget sizes and the phase of the electoral cycle. The results of the analysis show that even as a single explanatory variable, the election cycle is a significant factor explaining the behaviour of local public investments. It causes fluctuations of local investments by over 20% around their average level. This confirms the existence of a strong political budget cycle in Polish local governments. As this also provides evidence of political rent seeking, our findings provide a general rationale for limiting the number of office terms for incumbents in local authorities.


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