Elite capture through information distortion: A theoretical essay

Jean-Philippe Platteau, Vincent Somville, Zaki Wahhaj

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


We investigate donor-beneficiary relationships in participatory development programmes, where (i) communities are heterogeneous and dominated by the local elite, (ii) the elite strategically proposes a project to the donor, knowing that the latter has imperfect knowledge of the needs of the target population. We analyse how changes in the donor's outside option or information about the needs of the target population affect elite capture. Our central, paradoxical result is that a more attractive outside option, or a higher quality of donor's information may end up encouraging the local elite to propose a project that better matches their own preference rather than the preference of the grassroots. Moreover, in the case where the noise in the donor's information follows a normal distribution, we find that a better outside option generally decreases elite capture but improved information about the needs of the target population is likely to increase elite capture.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)250-263
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Development Economics
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2014


  • Aid effectiveness
  • Community-driven development
  • Elite capture
  • Information distortion
  • Preference targeting

Cite this