Do subnational performance assessments lead to improved governance? Evidence from a field experiment in Vietnam
Single-party regimes increasingly use Subnational Performance Assessments (SPAs) – rankings of provinces and districts – to improve governance outcomes. SPAs assemble and publicize information on local government performance to facilitate monitoring and generate competition among officials. However, the evidence are sparse on their effects in this context. The authors argue that built-in incentive structures in centralized single-party regimes distort the positive impact of SPAs.Design/methodology/approachThe staggered rollout of the Vietnam Provincial Governance and Public Administration Performance Index (PAPI) created a natural experiment. Due to 2010 budget constraints, the first iteration of the PAPI survey covered only 30 of Vietnam’s 63 provinces before covering all in 2011. The PAPI team used matching procedures to identify a statistical twin for each province before randomly selecting one from each pair. The authors use randomization inference to compare the outcomes of these control and treatment groups in 2011.FindingsExposure to PAPI helped improve almost all aspects of governance; however, significant evidence of prioritization bias exist. The positive effects only persisted for the dimension of administrative procedures, which was the one area of governance that was prioritized by the central government at the time. Other dimensions only registered short-term effects.Originality/valueOur study provides an examination of the impact of SPAs in a single-party regime context. In addition, the authors leverage the natural experiment to identify information effects causally. The authors also look past short-term effects to compare outcomes for five years after the treatment occurred.