Creative Construction: The Rise and Stall of Mass Infrastructure in Latin America

Event Sponsor
Center for Latin American Studies

Since the 1990s, spending on large infrastructure projects, such as dams, subways, and highways, has been on the rise in Latin America. Why do elected politicians pursue projects that won’t be done during their time in office? This talk shows how the political rewards from infrastructure projects come from the associated contracts. Presidents allocate infrastructure contracts to finance their campaigns. They use public-private partnerships to move the costs of infrastructure off budget. Yet politicians are limited in how they contract infrastructure projects by the institutional environment. Statistical evidence from infrastructure contracts and interviews with politicians, bureaucrats, bankers, and construction firms from Peru, Colombia, and Ecuador shows how changes in the model of building infrastructure explain the increase in expenditures over time, whereas administrative and electoral rules shape individual country trajectories.

Alisha Holland is an Associate Professor (untenured) in the Government Department at Harvard University. Before joining the Harvard faculty, Alisha was an Assistant Professor in the Politics Department at Princeton University and a Junior Fellow at the Harvard Society of Fellows. She studies the comparative political economy of development with a focus on law, urban politics, social policy, migration, and Latin America. Her book, Forbearance as Redistribution: The Politics of Informal Welfare in Latin America (Cambridge Studies in Comparative Politics), looks at the politics of enforcement against property law violations by the poor, such as squatting, street vending, and electricity theft. Her articles have appeared in the American Journal of Political Science, American Political Science Review, Comparative Political Studies, Latin American Research Review, Perspectives on Politics, and World Politics.

NOTE: Please feel free to send your questions in the Youtube livestream comments section and we will read them to Prof. Holland

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