Lise Rakner, who’s visiting Berkeley from the University of Bergen for the year, recently gave an interesting talk on how competitive elections haven’t done much to improve development outcomes in Malawi. As a rough measure of this, I compared Malawi’s economic growth since the mid-1980s to its neighbors – Mozambique, Tanzania and Zambia.
(Data from the World Bank, via the Google Public Data Explorer. The graph looks different depending on whether you use current dollars or a PPP adjustment, but doesn’t change the fact that Malawi hasn’t grown as fast as the other two since 2000.)
I asked Lise what she attributed these divergent outcomes to, and her hypothesis was natural resources. This clearly accounts for Zambia’s higher GDP, but doesn’t explain why every country except Malawi saw a steady increase in GDP since 2000.
All four of these countries are considered “partially free” by Freedom House, so it’s not clear that the political environment is substantially worse in Malawi than elsewhere. They also looked very similar on the World Governance Indicators’ measures of government effectiveness, regulatory quality and rule of law in 2012. (Look at the error bars on the estimates – they’re all overlapping.)
(Data from WGI. I didn’t include data from 2000 or earlier to keep the graph easy to read, but they looked fairly similar at that point as well.)
So what’s going on? I don’t know Malawi at all, so any explanation would be appreciated!