Environmental Disasters and Electoral Cycle: An Empirical Analysis on Floods and Landslides in Italy
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The aim of this paper is to analyse potential drivers of land use policy, in the form of building permits issued in Italian provinces. We first derive testable implications on the basis of a standard political agency framework, augmented to account for the impact of past environmental disasters (floods, landslides and earthquakes) and for the relevance of “building permits intensive” sectors in determining voters’ support to an incumbent politician. We then perform an empirical analysis that tests theoretical predictions using a unique dataset covering Italy in the period 2001–2012. Our main conclusions show that the occurrence of floods and earthquakes decreases building permits, implying that a bad history in terms of these phenomena strengthens the importance of voters affected by past disasters. No corresponding evidence seems to emerge with reference to landslides. On the other hand, the relevance of the construction sector increases the number of building permits issued. Finally, when elections approach, the number of building permits issued grows, suggesting that incumbent politicians may distort land use policies in order to favour “brown” voters in periods close to elections.
KeywordsCatastrophic events Land use Uncertainty Environmental policy Risk Natural disaster
We are grateful to IRPI (Research Institute for Geo-Hydrological Protection) for data and support, and to Thomas Bassetti, Claudio Petucco, Massimiliano Mazzanti, and audience at the 2016 IAERE and EAERE Conferences for very useful comments and suggestions. We acknowledge financial support from the research project “La valutazione economica dei disastri economici in Italia” funded by the Fondazione Assicurazioni Generali. The usual disclaimer applies.
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