Can foreign aid motivate institutional reform? An evaluation of the HIPC Initiative

Minh Tam Schlosky, Andrew Young

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


Purpose: A number of political economy concerns are associated with the provision of foreign aid to developing economies. These concerns suggest that foreign aid is likely to have harmful effects on a recipient’s institutional quality, and that attempts to give aid conditional on policy and institutional reforms are unlikely to succeed. Established in 1996, the Heavily Indebted Poor Country (HIPC) Initiative is a comprehensive, structured attempt to provide multilateral foreign aid conditional on reforms in recipient countries. The purpose of this paper is to evaluate its effectiveness at affecting institutional reform in participating countries. Design/methodology/approach: The authors document how participating countries fared in terms of the quality of their policies and institutions. The authors employ the Fraser Institute’s Economic Freedom of the World index as a measure of economic institutions, and the Freedom House political rights (PR) and civil liberties indices as measures of PR and protections. Based on these measures, the authors report unconditional statistics (e.g. average changes) and also regressions of changes in the measures on HIPC Initiative aid allocations and other controls. Findings: The authors find that most participating countries experienced either meager increases or outright decreases in institutional quality. The regression results provide no evidence that the Initiative affects meaningful reforms. Originality/value: The potential for foreign aid to have deleterious effects on the institutional quality of recipient countries has been of increasing concern to students of economic development. Such effects can have important implications for entrepreneurial activity in these countries. The HIPC Initiative is specifically designed to acknowledge and, indeed, overcome these concerns, leading to actual increases in institutional quality of recipient countries. To the authors’ knowledge, this work is the first to assess whether the promise of the HIPC Initiative is being fulfilled.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)242-258
Number of pages17
JournalJournal of Entrepreneurship and Public Policy
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2017


  • Conditionality
  • Debt relief
  • Economic freedom
  • Foreign aid
  • HIPC Initiative
  • Institutional quality


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