Working paper 50
This paper contributes to the empirical understanding of the concept of commitment and the role it plays in shaping India’s social policy implementation. Taking the case of the landmark policy, the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA), the paper analyses in-depth qualitative information from four states – Chhatisgarh, Andhra Pradesh, Bihar and Assam. The paper examines the puzzle of differing outcomes in these four states, despite the same design and implementation mechanisms, through a political economy lens. It presents a nuanced and rich analysis of the characteristics of commitment that can be seen in different states, linking these to how they play out in shaping the implementation dynamics of MGNREGA from a comparative lens. The paper contributes to the existing body of literature on policy implementation and the role that commitment plays at the level of the sub-national state in delivering welfare policy in India.
Working Paper 46
In this paper, I direct attention to the role of class politics in shaping the outcomes of social protection interventions. I highlight the ways in which class politics is constituted by the interaction of class relations and the balance of substantive class power in a polity. I demonstrate the ways in which variations in class politics influence outcomes of a large social protection programme in India, the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA). In localities where either of the elite classes has successfully co-opted or eliminated the other, their stark contradictions against the interests of agricultural labourers result in them sabotaging the labour-friendly MGNREGA or implementing it half-heartedly. On the other hand, in localities characterised by an overarching framework of contest between the precarious classes and the entrenched classes, dominant class hostility to agricultural labourers is dissipated and labour-friendly programmes such as the MGNREGA have a chance of being implemented. However, the transformative aspect of the programme’s intent, in terms of dissolving the relations of power that bolster poverty, appears to be more in evidence in localities where emergent classes with precarious surpluses, together with agricultural labourers, challenge the influence of the entrenched classes. In these localities, the implementation of the programme, even where fraught with difficulties, contributes to dissolving hierarchical relations and establishing egalitarian ones.
Working Paper 49
Giles Mohan and Kojo Pumpuni Asante
Ghana’s recent status as an oil producer focuses attention on the relationship between domestic politics and transnational actors. While the political settlements literature is useful for focusing on how elite coalitions shape the governance of natural resources, it is not explicit about the role of transnational factors in shaping and enabling these coalitions. As such there is a tendency to downplay the significance of transnational-national interactions and national-local dynamics. This paper analyses the changing nature of the political settlement in Ghana pre- and post-oil and the role that transnational actors play in reshaping the coalitions which underpin and reproduce the overall settlement. We find that the discovery of oil has not radically altered the nature of Ghana’s political settlement, which remains of a competitive clientelist form within which institutional functioning and policy actors are heavily influenced by the need of political elites to secure success in increasingly tightly-fought elections. These tendencies and the ongoing structural inequalities between transnational capital and the sovereign state have resulted in oil licences being negotiated on terms favouring external actors. Through primary data collected from key informant interviews and case studies we show that power lies with the external actors albeit through the elite brokerage of contracts. Within these bargaining processes we see parts of the Ghanaian state acting strongly and effectively to serve both the interests of domestic elites and transnational capital. The combined effect of competitive clientelism and new sources of foreign capital is that structural issues and longer term planning decisions are largely deprioritised in favour of shorter-term gains.
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