Fresh pipes with dirty water: How quality of government shapes the provision of public goods in democracies

Ketevan Bolkvadze, Marina Povitkina

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


A large strand of research holds that democracy with its broad representation and electoral accountability is beneficial for the provision of public goods. Yet, there is a large variation in how democracies perform, indicating that democratic institutions alone do not suffice for securing citizens’ wellbeing. Recent studies have stressed the equal importance of state capacity for public goods delivery. These studies, however, rarely investigate how the lack of state capacity mutes the effects of democratic institutions on public goods provision. This article addresses this gap by using a mixed methods design. First, the conditional effects of democracy and quality of government (QoG) are tested on the previously under‐researched domain of the provision of clean water. The results show that democracy is associated with higher water quality only in countries where QoG is high. If QoG is low, more democracy is even related to lower water quality. The second stage of the analysis proceeds by examining how poor QoG disrupts the effects of democracy on public access to safe drinking water using interview data from a typical case of Moldova. The analysis illustrates that democracy has a number of positive effects and incentivises politicians to focus on the visible aspects of water provision, including the expansion of the water pipe network. However, low QoG hampers adoption and implementation of long‐term policies necessary for securing an aspect of water provision that is harder to achieve – namely water quality. This leaves the fresh pipes with dirty water.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1191-1212
Number of pages22
JournalEuropean Journal of Political Research
Issue number4
Early online date2019 Mar 15
Publication statusPublished - 2019 Nov

Subject classification (UKÄ)

  • Political Science

Free keywords

  • democracy
  • quality of government (QoG)
  • public goods
  • water quality
  • Moldova


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