The connection between foreign aid and political liberalization is a complex one, and at play is a range of bargaining dynamics between donors and recipients. For instance, aid donors may claim publicly that they seek democracy promotion while accepting deals with authoritarian recipients for superficial political reforms. What accounts for the willingness of aid donors to exert diplomatic pressure only on some recipients and not others? What strategy can be used to nudge authoritarian aid recipients towards democracy? In his recently released book 'International Aid and Democracy Promotion,' Bann Seng Tan investigates the link between foreign aid and the promotion of democracy, using theory, statistical tests, and illustrative case studies.

We hosted Bann Seng Tan, Liam Swiss, and Bruce Bueno de Mesquita for a discussion on the significance of these ideas for policymakers with authority over foreign aid allocation. The discussion was moderated by Suyash Rai.