Fashions come and go in the development community. When a policy idea
becomes popular, some governments implement a cosmetic variant of the
policy. What looks like development, are institutional façades; pretty from the
outside, ugly from the inside. A good governance façade can be introduced
deliberately to mislead observers and stakeholders to cover political theft.
An example from the past is development planning, introduced with good
intentions but sometimes exploited as a cover for corruption. In the 1960s
donors rewarded developing countries that introduced five years plans by
offering more aid. Recipient governments were therefore tempted to come
up with cosmetic plans to satisfy foreign donors rather than the needs of
their citizens. This paper argues that rents can be extracted under the cover
of executing good policies; that nominally beneficial policies permit corrupt
decision-makers to hide in plain sight.