Follow us
Publications Commentary Research People Events News Resources and Videos About IFS
Home Publications Coordination and the poor maintenance trap: an experiment on public infrastructure in India

Coordination and the poor maintenance trap: an experiment on public infrastructure in India

IFS Working Paper W21/16

Poorly maintained public infrastructure is common in low- and middle-income countries, with consequences for service delivery and public health. By experimentally identifying the impact of incentives for local maintenance for both providers and potential users, this paper provides one of the first economic analyses of provider–user dynamics in the presence of local coordination failure. Focusing on shared sanitation facilities for slum residents in two major Indian cities, we randomly allocate facilities to either a control or two treatments. The first treatment incentivizes maintenance of the facility among providers, while the second treatment adds a sensitization campaign about the returns of a well-maintained facility among potential users. Using surveys, behavioral and objective measurements for both providers and potential users, we show that incentivizing maintenance does not favor collective action. The treatments raise the quality of facilities and reduce free riding, but at the cost of user selection. Providers improve routine maintenance, but also respond strategically to the newly-introduced incentives. While slum residents’ private willingness to pay and cooperation are unaffected, their demand for public intervention increases. The second treatment raises aware-ness, but does not affect behavior.

More on this topic

IFS Working Paper W22/25
We develop a model demonstrating that in-kind transfers are welfare improving to beneficiaries relative to cash if the covariance between the marginal utility of income and price is positive.
IFS Working Paper W22/18
We study how social proximity between the sender and the receiver of information shapes the effectiveness of preventive health behaviour campaigns and the persistence of misinformation.
IFS Working Paper W22/16
This paper provides novel evidence on the trade-off between public service delivery and free riding in low- and middle-income countries.