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Abstract

I study the economic motivations behind a reduction in the discretionary power of environmental regulators, and the impact that such reduction has on perceived corruption in South Africa. I examine the transition from the Air Pollution Protection Act of 1965 to the Air Quality Act of 2005, a change from full to partial delegation of regulation. By constructing a principal-agent model, I argue that this transition might have occurred because of an increase in the dispersion of rent-seeking motivations of public agents. This happens because, from the principal's perspective, the possible harm- loose pollution control and misappropriation of environmental fines- generated by corrupt agents is greater than the potential benefits brought by diligent agents. In my empirical analysis, I use diff-indiffs models for a two-period panel with 191 South African firms to show that the regulatory change decreased treated firms' perceived corruption, but did not improve other institutional quality measures.

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