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Working paper 119
Ghana’s Ministry of Finance (MoF) has been identified as a ‘pocket of effectiveness’, both in relation to other state agencies and in terms of delivering on its mandate. However, this effectiveness has not been constant over the post-independence period, which requires us to explain how and why effectiveness is generated, but also why it can falter. We argue that the effectiveness of the MoF’s performance derives from the coupling of changing features in Ghana’s wider political settlement with the internal organisational features of this key ministry. Using historical analysis and data collected from recent interviews and reports, we focus on the MoF’s performance over the past five years, even as we situate this in the longer-term context of the Ministry’s ups and downs.
Working Paper 117
The role of bureaucratic ‘pockets of effectiveness’ (PoEs) in driving development is generating renewed interest within development studies and, to an extent, development policy. Existing research on PoEs emphasises that politics plays a leading role in shaping the emergence and sustainability of high-performing public sector organisations. However, the field as yet lacks a clear sense of the conditions under which this happens, partly because of a tendency to see PoEs as ‘islands’ that are divorced from their political context, and partly because there has been no attempt as yet to undertake systematic comparative analysis of PoEs across different types of political context. This paper sets out the conceptual and methodological underpinnings of a new project that seeks to address these problems within the context of sub-Saharan Africa. Drawing on an alignment of political settlements analysis with critical theories of state power and African politics, the paper argues that PoEs are both shaped by, and help to reproduce, particular forms of politics and institutions in sub-Saharan Africa. This means that PoEs are not simply interesting objects of enquiry in and of themselves, but also because they can reveal a good deal about how the competing logics of regime survival, state-building and democratisation are playing out in Africa and what implications this has for development. The paper proposes a methodological approach for identifying and exploring PoEs and briefly summarises the results of the expert surveys that we undertook in our four initial countries, namely Ghana, Rwanda, Uganda and Zambia, which were chosen to represent different types of political settlement. These surveys resulted in our project focusing mainly on the economic technocracy as the key domain within which PoEs have flourished, particularly in terms of ministries of finance, central banks and revenue authorities, along with some other interesting outliers and underlying processes of state-building. Further papers from this project will include in-depth case studies of these specific PoEs and processes in each country, synthesised country analyses and comparative overviews.
 We later added Kenya, with funding from ESID.
Working paper 118
The pockets of effectiveness (PoEs) debates and political settlements literature are rooted in particular forms of political economy analysis. At one level, this is a positive contribution to the mainstream development policy literature, and allows us to characterise political systems and their power relations, as well as forcing us to pay close attention to the dynamics of state institutions. Yet, these literatures are disconnected from a tradition of more critical political economy analysis and state theory. This brief review is a first attempt to connect these bodies of theory, largely in an African context. We find some promising new (and old) avenues of inquiry to connect critical political economy to PoE work, largely in terms of various meso-level theories of how states function, which move us away from all-encompassing meta-theories of the state. Such meso-level theories enable us to theorise the more fine-grained and developmentally positive institutions that constitute PoEs, since much of the meta-theory tends to be both broad brush as well as causally pessimistic, insofar as African states are rarely seen to engender positive developmental outcomes. These meso-level theories can also be more easily elaborated methodologically, which is vital, since most of the claims about state capacity and function require contextual empirical analysis.
Working paper 121
Uganda’s impressive levels of economic growth over most of the past three decades have often been linked to the performance of its economic technocracy, particularly the government’s high-powered Ministry of Finance, Economic Planning and Development (MFPED). This paper argues that MFPED (or parts thereof) can indeed be seen as ‘pockets of effectiveness’, with the Ministry often managing to deliver effectively on its mandate, in a context in which this is not the norm. This can be explained in part by the functional and legally mandated nature of some of the tasks that MFPED delivers and in part by the strong levels of international support and oversight. However, we also find that MFPED’s performance has varied considerably over time, despite these favourable factors, particularly in terms of its capacity to control the budgetary process and public expenditure. This variation can be traced to shifts within Uganda’s political settlement, which moved from being broadly ‘dominant-developmental’ to ‘vulnerable-populist’ in character from the early 2000s onwards. This shift profoundly altered the ‘embedded autonomy’ that MFPED had previously enjoyed with regards its relationship with State House, in ways that have undermined MFPED’s capacity to deliver on its mandate. Despite efforts to regain both power and autonomy in recent years, MFPED remains subject to the politics of regime survival in Uganda, in ways that undermine its effectiveness. Whilst this may loosen the hold of neoliberal economic governance in Uganda and enable alternative perspectives to emerge, the more immediate effects have been to damage prospects for policy coherence and economic growth in the country.
Working paper 122
Marja Hinfelaar and Justine Sichone
Zambia experienced a decade of strong economic growth from 2004 to 2014, averaging 7.4 percent a year. This growth has been linked, first and foremost, to the rise of copper prices and international debt relief, but also to the relatively high bureaucratic performance under President Mwanawasa’s presidency. This era was preceded by sweeping and controversial reforms that led to the privatisation of state-owned companies and the mining industry and the reduction and reform of the civil service. Both periods saw strong-minded leaders in the Ministry of Finance, who enjoyed support from State House, a prerequisite for the functioning of the Ministry. The productive cooperation between President Mwanawasa and Minister of Finance Ng’andu Magande (2003-2008) was not sustained for very long. The bureaucratic decline and political direction from State House from 2011 onwards expressed itself in a weakening of professionalism and loss of sense of direction within the Ministry of Finance. It has also resulted in a decrease in economic growth, despite sustained copper prices, and a growing debt crisis. National and international political settlements and ministerial leadership are determining factors in the functioning of Zambia’s Ministry of Finance.
Working paper 116
An innovative development programme requires ideas at multiple stages, from conception to implementation. Where do these ideas come from, and how do they shape institutional and organisational structures? A recent debate on ideas has focused more on their role in framing public policy, than on their role in designing institutions or the organisational structures needed for the successful functioning of those institutions. Moreover, this debate mostly concerns political institutions in developed countries, and ideas mooted by experts. In contrast, a much older body of work on participatory development emphasises the need for planners to design policy in interaction with local communities, taking account of ideas emerging from ordinary people whom the policies will affect. But what kinds of organisational forms can enable villager participation in policy formulation and ensure the creation of viable institutions?
This paper analyses the interplay between ideas, institutions, and organisational structures, using, as an example, an unusual institutional innovation, namely group farming by women in two states of India – Telangana and Kerala. Based especially on the author’s interviews with those who shaped and implemented these programmes in each state, it traces how the idea of group farming for poverty alleviation and women’s empowerment emerged; how it differed from the historical examples of collective farming globally; and the thinking behind different elements of programme implementation. Although both states focused on group farming, they diverged notably in their ideas about group formation and composition, and the organisational form needed for implementation. The paper traces these differences, and their effect on the economic and social performance of the groups, as well as on institutional sustainability.
Working paper 115
The revival of industrial policy discussions has operated in parallel to reports of increasing domestic wealth accumulation across the African continent. Regional and continent-wide industrialisation has begun to be rhetorically linked to discussions of regional common markets and through the African Continental Free Trade Area. Yet, there is barely any mention of integrating African capital into the African industrial policy agenda. Where such discussions have appeared, they have emerged through the ‘Africapitalism’ narrative, which ignores the role of the state and politics in supporting and sustaining domestic business groups. Instead, the re-imagination of industrial policy on the continent relies on foreign investors, particularly the relocation of Chinese industry to various parts of the continent.
This paper has two core objectives. The first is to explain why the study of African capitalists – popular in the 1980s and 1990s – has remained relatively dormant since then. Dominant narratives – through neopatrimonalism and dependency-inspired arguments – have been pessimistic about the potential of African capitalists to deliver structural transformation. Gradually, these narratives, alongside intellectual trends within mainstream social science and African studies, have discouraged the study of politics of state–business relations in Africa. Yet African capitalists have become increasingly prominent in popular culture. Many of the wealthiest and most prominent capitalists have emerged through owning diversified business groups across the continent. This paper argues that more attention should be dedicated to the study of the politics of the emergence and sustenance of African diversified business groups (DBGs). To achieve this goal, a fluid categorisation of DBGs is introduced, building on Ben Ross Schneider’s previous work. By examining three country case studies – Rwanda, Kenya and Tanzania – this paper highlights how a range of DBGs are emerging across three very different political contexts.
Working paper 114
Bala Yunusa Yusuf and David Hulme
This paper analyses Nigeria’s Conditional Grant Scheme to Local Government Areas (CGS to LGAs). It tracks the design and implementation of CGS to LGAs at multiple levels, with a conceptual focus on the dynamics of state capacity and elite commitment. The paper finds that, while considerable progress was made initially with reforms, the increase in patronage politics following the change in national political leadership in 2011 meant that reforms were not sustained. At the local level, the scheme partly achieved its objectives, as in Guri LGA, where an informal development coalition seized the opportunity to increase spending and improve LGA capacity to deliver basic education and health services. The reforms were less effective in other LGAs, such as Mashi, where pre-existing factors, especially elite capture and frequent turnover of civil servants, undermined reforms. Even in difficult governance contexts, service delivery programmes can be designed and implemented in a manner that is both technically adequate and politically smart to achieve better development outcomes. However, sustaining such gains requires the continued commitment of political and bureaucratic elites along the implementation chain.
Working paper 113
Badru Bukenya and Frederick Golooba-Mutebi
Technical questions, such as systems development and management; governance, the role of service users in financing and decision-making and resource availability, have long dominated research on healthcare provision in developing countries. The importance of the broader political context, specifically the way power is organised and exercised and the extent to which it meets the acceptance of a country’s ruling elites, or, more specifically, the prevailing political settlement, is usually disregarded (DFID, 2010:22). This ESID-commissioned research explored whether, and the extent to which, ‘the balance or distribution of power between contending social groups and classes, on which [the Ugandan] state is based’ (di John and Putzel, 2009:4) matters with regard to government capacity for delivering maternal health services. Findings indicate that within Uganda’s weak-dominant political settlement, sub-national level settlements exert a profound effect on the capacity and commitment of local government to deliver services. Since the mid-2000s, the health sector in Uganda has been governed for political ends, rather than geared towards higher levels of performance. This has undermined any system-wide efforts to improve service delivery. Case study material from two otherwise very similar districts, Ssembabule and Lyantonde, which record very different levels of progress in reducing maternal mortality, illuminates this argument. At the district level, good performance is driven by developmental coalitions of local politicians, bureaucrats, health sector professionals and civil society organisations with the capacity and commitment to devise and enforce innovative approaches to governing the sector.