The Political Economy of Conditionality: an Empirical Analysis of World Bank Loan Disbursements

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Original Publication Date

May 1, 2009


Chris Kilby


Journal of Development Economics


Traditional aid conditionality has been attacked as ineffective in part because aid agencies – notably the World Bank – often fail to enforce conditions. This pattern undermines the credibility of conditionality, weakening incentives to implement policy reforms. The standard critique attributes this time inconsistency to bureaucratic factors within the aid agency such as pressure to lend, defensive lending, or short-sighted altruism. Pressure from powerful donors provides another potential explanation for lax enforcement. This paper presents an empirical analysis of the political economy of conditionality in international organizations using the case of the World Bank and the United States. The analysis examines panel data on World Bank disbursements to 97 countries receiving structural adjustment loans between 1984 and 2005. Using UN voting as an indicator of alignment with the U.S., the paper presents evidence that World Bank structural adjustment loan disbursements are less dependent on macroeconomic performance in countries aligned with the United States.

Replication data available upon request from the author. Please contact Dr. Christopher Kilby at