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Social polarization, social institutions, and country creditworthiness

Philip Keefer () and Stephen Knack

No 2920, Policy Research Working Paper Series from The World Bank

Abstract: The literature argues that the presence of multiple veto players (government decisionmakers) with polarized interests increases the credibility of sovereign commitments, but reduces the ability of governments to adjust policies in the event of exogenous shocks that jeopardize their ability to honor their commitments. In the case of sovereign lending, if the first effect prevails, countries would be regarded as more creditworthy; if the second, less. The authors address two issues. First, using measures of country creditworthiness, they ask whether the net effect of multiple veto players is positive or negative. Second, though, the authors go beyond the existing literature to argue that the net effect of multiple veto players depends onthe nature of social polarization in a country. In particular, they argue that political competition is fundamentally different in countries exhibiting ethnic polarization than in countries polarized according to income or wealth. The evidence supports the prediction that multiple veto players matter more when countries are more ethnically polarized, but less when income inequality is greater.

Keywords: Economic Theory&Research; Payment Systems&Infrastructure; Labor Policies; Environmental Economics&Policies; Poverty Impact Evaluation; Inequality; Governance Indicators; Environmental Economics&Policies; Social Conflict and Violence; Economic Theory&Research (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Date: 2002-10-31
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