Martin J. Williams
Associate Professor in Public Management (pre-tenure; equivalent to Assistant Professor in US system)
Blavatnik School of Government
University of Oxford
My research is on policy implementation, political economy, and public service delivery, mostly in low- and middle-income countries. I also teach and research on policy evaluation and external validity.
Featured paper (pdf): American Political Science Review 2017
“The Political Economy of Unfinished Development Projects: Corruption, Clientelism, or Collective Choice?”
Abstract: Development projects like schools and latrines are popular with politicians and voters alike, yet many developing countries are littered with half-finished projects that were abandoned mid-construction. Using an original database of over 14,000 small development projects in Ghana, I estimate that one-third of projects that start are never completed, consuming nearly one-fifth of all local government investment. I develop a theory of project non-completion as the outcome of a dynamically inconsistent collective choice process among political actors facing commitment problems in contexts of limited resources. I find evidence consistent with key predictions of this theory, but inconsistent with alternative explanations based on corruption or clientelism. I show that fiscal institutions can increase completion rates by mitigating the operational consequences of these collective choice failures. These findings have theoretical and methodological implications for distributive politics, the design of intergovernmental transfers and aid, and the development of state capacity.