New ESID research into the politics of promoting social cash transfers in Uganda has found that, despite increased government support for social protection programmes, elite commitment is ultimately weak, limiting their effectiveness and reach.
In Working Paper 69, ‘The politics of promoting social cash transfers in Uganda‘, Sam Hickey and Badru Bukenya find that the 2015 roll-out of a social pension programme across Uganda by its government – which also promised to increase its own financial contribution – was considered a win on the part of those that had been involved in the decade-long, highly politicised transnational campaign led by mainly by international donors and national bureaucrats to achieve such an outcome.
It was government commitment to universal primary education, secured following the 1996 elections, that first triggered the populist strategy of distributing public goods in return for political loyalty – to rural voters in particular. Over the 2000s, this strategy became increasingly personalised at the expense of efforts to build more effective and accountable systems of governance.
We identified three key phases through which social protection has become ‘established’ in Uganda:
We hosted a great workshop in London on 8 May 2017 with some members of the ESID network. Its purpose was to explore emerging messages and lingering questions related to our research so far. This first segment was an explainer regarding ESID’s core messages on Rwanda. Thank you to presenters Sam Hickey and Tom Lavers, discussant Phil Clark and our chair, David Hulme.
Congratulations to ESID researcher Tim Williams, whose paper ‘The political economy of primary education: Lessons from Rwanda’ has been published in the August issue of World Development.
The paper draws on Tim’s research for ESID, as captured in Working Paper 64 ‘Oriented towards action: The political economy of primary education in Rwanda‘.
Read the WD summary below, and find it in full here.
16 May 2017
Bureaucracies, we have learned, are embedded in politics. How, then, to strengthen public services in messy democracies? In settings where public hierarchies are weak, can participatory governance provide an alternative entry point? Recent results from an ESID research project I have been leading on the politics and governance of basic education in South Africa suggest an intriguing answer.
South Africa’s Eastern Cape province provides an ideal setting for exploring these questions. As the ESID approach underscores, two sets of variables that have a powerful influence on bureaucracies are: (i) the inherited institutional legacy, and (ii) how elites interact with one another. On both counts, as the ESID working paper, ‘The governance of basic education in the Eastern Cape‘, by Zukiswa Kota, Monica Hendricks, Eric Matambo and Vinothan Naidoo, details, the Eastern Cape scores badly. The province’s bureaucracy is a patchwork, built largely around two patronage-riven structures inherited from the apartheid era. Electorally, the ANC was dominant – but in practice it comprised an overall umbrella under which inter-elite conflict was endemic.
A day is a long time in politics and the first full day of election campaigning was dominated by suggestions that the Conservatives would row back on the commitment to spend 0.7% of GNI on aid. But, barely 24 hours later, Theresa May scotched these rumours, perhaps encouraged by a passionate plea from Bill Gates that lives will be lost if the UK reduces its aid.
But this does not mean that battles about the aid budget are over. They now shift to defining exactly what official development assistance (ODA or ‘aid’) can be used to achieve. The OECD controls this definition, enabling it to collect authoritative statistics on what each member country spends. Over the years it has had to produce a very precise definition, preventing countries from attempting to count any overseas spending as ODA. This has included commercial loans, subsidies to arms manufacturers, and export-credit guarantees for civil engineering companies to win contracts in Africa and Asia: all activities to achieve domestic benefits rather than promoting international development.