LAC Main Seminar Series: Can political fiscal cycles be stopped? Evidence from a public spending ban near elections (with Luis R. Martínez)



Convener: Professor David Doyle

Speaker: Nelson Ruiz (DPIR, Oxford)



Political fiscal cycles are pervasive across democracies; there is use of the public purse for political gain close to election dates. What policies are there to stop the political fiscal cycles? And, are they effective? Using microdata on public spending at the contract level, we study the effects of a regulation in Colombia that forbids contracting at all levels of government in the months before the 2018 national elections. We find that there is substantial bunching in spending in the days immediately before the regulation comes into effect. Moreover, these last-minute contracts disproportionately benefit previous and future political candidates irrespective of the level at which the candidate ran/will run. These contracts disproportionately go to contractors without previous experience, and national contracts tend to higher-priced compared to contracts in a non-electoral year. Overall, we find that forbidding contracting actual creates a displacement of the political fiscal cycle rather than stopping it.

Nelson Ruiz is a Political Scientist at the University of Oxford, Department of Politics and International Relations (DPIR), Nuffield College (non-stipendiary Research Fellow) and a Leverhulme Trust Early Career Fellow. His research interests are in the political economy of development. Within this field, the main topic he is interested in is the role of money in politics.  For more information, please visit his website: