The following are some of the different but interrelated research projects that I am currently working on:

Globalization and the Domestic Policy Dilemma

Does trade liberalization dictate the domestic policy environment of developing countries?

By examining tax reform data and domestic policy debates for multiple developing countries, this research helps explain why some developing countries outperform others in domestic resource mobilization. It also helps us explain why some developing countries are gradually transitioning from inefficient international trade taxes to reliable domestic taxes while others are not; or why some countries transition from consumption-distorting indirect taxes to policy-aiding direct taxes while others deepen reliance on them. This research also enables us understand the influence that distinguishable dominant trade partners such as Brazil-Russia-India-China-South Africa (BRICS) and the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) have on the domestic policy process of developing countries.

While politicians of developing countries desire policy reforms to maximize globalization gains or mitigate its diseconomies, this research reveals that they are also constrained by the demands of international trade partners, competing domestic interest groups, and even, electoral cycles. These variables interfere with the decision-making calculus of politicians in ways that are rarely acknowledged.

Development Assistance and the Performance of the Domestic Taxation System

Does overseas development assistance undermine the emergence of quality institutions in recipient countries?

Empirical evidence on the direction of the relationship between development assistance and the growth of domestic institutions in recipient countries is murky and often subject to a varied number of factors. This research contributes to the debate by encouraging a re-examination of the variation in the financial terms of the development assistance and the variation in the identity of the donors.

It is shown that development assistance packages offered in the form of loans encourage growth in the quality of domestic institutions while packages provided in the form of grants do not. Loans encourage responsible behavior in resource allocation since they require recipients to repay them. Grants, on the other hand, beheld as free money, encourage reckless behavior and undermine domestic institutional growth.

Different bilateral providers of development assistance represent, not only distinguishable incentives but also, distinguishable constraints. These distinguishable constraints dictate the variation in the speed of growth of institutions in recipient countries.

Natural Resources, Industrialization, and Spillover Effects

Do resource-curses have a positive effect?

Fast-growing natural resource sectors inspire a shift of capital and labor away from tradable sectors of the economy into the resource sector. The resource-curse literature, citing this relationship, hypothesizes that resource-rich countries would experience slower overall economic growth as manufacturing, the sector associated with higher productivity growth, high-value exports, and the development of learning-by-doing, gets crowded out.  

This research wades into the political economy of natural resource exploration and distribution by introducing a cross-border dimension to the resource-curse theory.  By using spatial analytic techniques, it shows that resource-rich countries, rather than attract labor, actually experience a higher exodus of it as politically and economically stable neighboring environments become favored destinations for high skill laborers and low skill exporters. In essence, resource-curse has a positive cross-border spillover effect that can be traced through migratory and trade channels, given politically and economically variant neighboring environments.

Religion and Institutional Growth

Dissent develops democracy, religion discourages dissent; does religion impede democracy?

This study questions why the most highly-religious states also have the weakest democratic institutions.

Given the same environment, highly-religious people are more likely to express higher subjective wellbeing and contentment than are less-religious people. They are also more likely to attribute political and economic failings to supernatural than institutional causes, leading to less demand for institutional accountability.

Additionally, in highly-religious states, politicians are provided an incentive for the exploitation of religion, as the electoral pay-offs are higher. By exploiting religion and making it a more prominent instrument for the mobilization of political power, religious ideals such as conformity, postponement of judgment, and forgiveness are ingrained into public political space, suppressing political dissent and lowering demand for accountability.

By using survey data, this study, thus, shows that religiosity undermines the growth of democratic institutions by eliminating the pressure that exacts political commitment to accountable governance. It also shows that politicians of the most religious states are also the most paid. Less citizen-demand for political accountability translates into higher economic expropriation of national resources by incumbent politicians.