Implicit in the predominant dogma that upholds transparency as the panacea for the ill-effects of resource endowment is a belief that public disclosure undermines the predatory landscape for elite patronage and clientelistic politics. Nonetheless, there is surprisingly little empirical information about how reforms geared towards promoting transparency impinge on elite behaviour in resource-rich countries. Focusing on the experience of EITI implementation in Ghana’s oil industry, this article addresses this gap by foregrounding institutions of transparency on the distinctive patterns of elite choices and behavior in the wake of commodity booms in low-income countries. It pieces together primary field data that were compiled between 2013 and 2016, along with heuristic tools drawn from elite and network theories to make sense of how the EITI and associated institutional innovations influence elite behavior and its ramifications for oil-led development. Our findings associate the EITI with the evolving governance complex that has concurrently offered opportunities to incorporate other actors into policy reforms and legitimize elite instrumentalization. This is used to highlight the negative effects of Ghana’s inherent ‘winner-takes-all’ politics on the governance of oil and the limits of technocratic reforms in altering elite incentives in resource-rich countries.
- governance complex
- oil politics