An affordable and reliable supply of electricity service is essential to encourage sustainable social development in developing countries. Colombia uses cross-subsidies to prompt electricity usage for poor households. This raises the issue of whether charging lower prices to poor households, while boosting their consumption, induces utilities to lower the quality of service received by them. This paper uses unique databases and examines how underfunded cross-subsidies affect perceived electricity service quality across consumer groups. Results indicate that when facing financial deficits, utilities provide lower perceived service quality to subsidized consumers than to residents paying surcharges. The difference in perceived quality across consumer groups is reduced by an increase in the amount of (external) government transfers. To prompt electricity consumption by the poor, the Colombian government should fund subsidies, strengthen quality regulation, and increase the transparency and reliability of government transfers.
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