This briefing encourages aid organisations interested in political analysis to start small and be pragmatic, devoting political-economy expertise to finding the most relevant and rigorous questions, then making them accessible to development practitioners for use in their everyday work. Questions should feed into workshops and then research, not the other way around. The briefing posits three types of analysis, with three different purposes, and outlines a fractal approach, which follows a common set of questions and statements across various forms of engagement.
Working paper 48
Sam Hickey with Badru Bukenya, Angelo Izama and William Kizito
The capacity and commitment of Uganda to govern its oil in developmental ways has generally been discussed through a ‘new institutionalist’ prism that focuses on the dangers of the ‘resource curse’. This paper argues that the developmental potential of oil in Uganda can be more insightfully understood through a political settlements framework which goes beyond a focus on institutional form to examine deeper forms of politics, power and ideas. Drawing on in-depth primary research, we focus in particular on the extent to which the interplay of interests and ideas within the ruling coalition in Uganda has enabled it to protect its national interest during negotiations with international oil companies. However, our reading of the underlying dynamics within Uganda’s political settlement suggests that the impressive levels of elite commitment and bureaucratic capacity displayed to date are unlikely to withstand the intensified pressures that will accompany the commencement of oil flows.
Working paper 47
Tom Lavers and Sam Hickey
The growing literature on social protection in Africa has tended to focus on conceptual debates, policy design issues and impact evaluations. To date, there has been relatively little systematic analysis of the ways in which politics and political economy shape policy. This paper outlines a conceptual and methodological framework for investigating the politics of social protection, with a particular focus on explaining the variation in progress made by African countries in adopting and implementing social protection programmes. We propose that an adapted ‘political settlements’ framework that incorporates insights from the literatures on the politics of welfare state development and discursive institutionalism can help frame elite commitment to social protection as an outcome of the interaction of domestic political economy and transnational ideas. This approach has the advantage of situating social protection within a broader policy context, as well as highlighting the influence of underlying power relations in society. Finally, the paper suggests a research methodology that can be employed to operationalise this approach, with a particular focus on process tracing and comparative case study research.
Employment outcomes for MGNREGA vary significantly across states, despite similar implementation mechanisms. Research indicates that MGNREGA implementation relies on the supply of work provided, rather than the demand for it.
‘Political commitment’ to policy implementation is often conspicuous by its absence. Technical, apolitical factors are prioritised, leading in turn to technocratic solutions. There has also been a tendency to attribute policy success or failure to institutional design. This briefing ‘brings politics back’ into the study of policy impact, by examining the impact of power dynamics among classes at the level of implementation.
Researchers studied political commitment in four states, and class relations in two states. The aim was to better understand the factors behind MGNREGA implementation outcomes. The components of political commitment were analysed in the states of Bihar, Assam, Andhra Pradesh and Chhattisgarh, both in relation to each other and to state capacity. Power dynamics among the labour classes and two sub-groupings of elite classes were studied in relation to MGNREGA implementation outcomes.
Working Paper 45
Sophie King and Sam Hickey
New theories of how democratic development is likely to emerge within developing countries obscure the effects of popular agency, and of ideas, offering an incomplete view of such historical processes and exaggerating the extent to which a particular sequencing of change is required. Insights from the experiences of non-governmental and cooperative organisations in rural Uganda, an unpromising context for the flourishing of democratic development, suggest that certain strategies can achieve meaningful (if limited) forms of progress, particularly where they focus on challenging power relations, developing synergies between civil and political society, and generating ideas that reshape perceptions of subordinate groups.
Working paper 35
Himanshu, Abhiroop Mukhopadhyay and M. R. Sharan
The performance of the National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (NREGS) in
Rajasthan has been a matter of debate, both for its stupendous performance in the
initial years of the scheme, but also for the relative sharp decline after 2010. Using a
large primary survey collected from a representative sample across districts, this
paper shows that the decline in performance of NREGS in Rajasthan is not entirely
due to the lack of demand. Instead, the supply-driven, top-down nature of the
programme has led to a ‘discouraged worker’ syndrome, with workers showing
disinterest in demanding work and passively waiting for availability of NREGS work.
In this context, we show the role of elected representatives in allocating work to
households. We find evidence of the significant influence of Sarpanches in deciding
work allocation across villages. Using a sample of 328 villages in 75 multi-village
Panchayats, we find evidence of rationing in favour of the village where the Sarpanch
resides. Strengthening the demand-based nature of NREGS may reduce the need
for rationing. Our results also suggest that a simple temporal tracking of NREGS
outcomes at the village level, along with proper recording of demand through the MIS
(management information system), may help detect discrimination within
Kunal Sen, Sabyasachi Kar and Jagadish Prasad Sahu
We examine the political economy causes of India’s growth acceleration in the early 1990s, the periods of high growth in the 1990s and early 2000s, and the subsequent slowdown since 2011, drawing from the ESID conceptual framework (Pritchett and Werker 2013) and periodisation of growth episodes (Kar et al. 2013a). We argue that India’s post-reform growth experience can be separated into three distinct growth episodes. The first growth episode, from 1993 to 2002, was characterised by a set of predictable informal (and relatively open) relationships (which we call ‘ordered deals’) between political and economic elites. The second episode was from 2002 to 2010; deals in this period became increasingly closed, leading to negative feedback effects from accountability institutions, the middle class and non-elites, along with structural retrogression of the economy. The third episode, beginning in 2011, was one of an incipient growth deceleration, and was characterised by increasingly disordered deals. Our analysis of the Indian growth experience provides support for the conceptual framework we have used here and our other ESID growth studies. The wider implication of our analysis is that economic growth in most developing country contexts remains episodic and prone to collapse, as institutions do not evolve over the growth process, and in many instances, deteriorate.
Working paper 43
Tim Kelsall and Seiha Heng
Over the past 15 years, Cambodia has made significant strides in expanding effective access to free healthcare for poor people, thanks largely to ‘Health Equity Funds’ (HEFs), a multi-stakeholder health-financing mechanism. HEF operators have helped expand access, incentivise health staff, and lobby on behalf of poor patients. However, despite their successes, they have been unable convincingly to address some of the deeper-seated problems of the Cambodian health system, such as under-resourced facilities, underpaid, poorly qualified staff, and a burgeoning private sector. This paper explains this state of affairs as a product of Cambodia’s ‘political settlement’, in which relatively successful multi-stakeholder initiatives exist as ‘islands of effectiveness’ in a sea of rent-seeking and patronage. While such islands may currently be the best solution available for poor people, the deeper problems are unlikely to be solved without a shift in the political settlement itself.
Research Framing Paper No. 4
Understanding significant differences in growth trajectories and living standards across countries is a critical endeavour for development research. Massive changes in economic growth are common in developing countries, with most having experienced distinct episodes of growth acceleration, deceleration and/or collapse, leading to staggering income gains and losses over relatively short periods.
The new conceptual framework presented here moves beyond a focus on ‘what’ policies and institutions are conducive to inclusive growth, towards analysis of ‘how’ political processes shape the emergence and maintenance of these policies and institutions. It separates out analysis of the political drivers of growth acceleration from those of growth maintenance. It finds that growth acceleration is explained by the emergence of repeated personalised relationships between political and economic elites.
This framework facilitates investigations into why some countries persistently remain in miracle/stable growth regimes, while others suffer growth collapses.