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Does information matter? Transparency and demand for accountability in Ghana's natural resource revenue management

Brunnschweiler, Christa and Edjekumhene, Ishmael and Lujala, Päivi (2019): Does information matter? Transparency and demand for accountability in Ghana's natural resource revenue management.

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Transparency in resource revenue management is frequently cited as an important strategy to avoid misuse and misappropriation. The underlying theory proposes that transparency will allow citizens to gain (more) information on their country’s revenues and their management; better informed citizens in turn will be able to contribute to the debate on national resource governance issues, voice their concerns, and demand improved accountability if necessary. However, there is little micro-level evidence so far to show how transparency policies actually relate to better citizen knowledge, or to any difference in attitudes towards revenue management and in demand for accountability. To address these points, we analyze data from a unique survey of over 3500 Ghanaian citizens to understand how Ghana’s extractive sector transparency measures are linked to citizens’ knowledge, rights perception, satisfaction levels, and behavior regarding resource revenue management. Our results suggest that information levels among citizens are generally quite poor; however, there is a strong sense of citizens’ right to benefit from resource revenues. Satisfaction with the current use of natural resource revenues is very low; yet, few respondents have sought more information, or even discussed resource revenue management with friends or family. The results also hold for elected representatives, who should be best placed to influence resource governance. The findings imply that the transparency discourse may hinge on false assumptions of the effects of information in resource revenue management. If the policy is to work as a way of increasing accountability of government towards citizens, the focus may need to shift to informing civil society organizations in particular, rather than simply making information available as widely as possible.

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