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Working Paper 36
Pratap Bhanu Mehta and Michael Walton
This paper offers an interpretation of India’s recent political economy in relation to the longer-term history since independence. It argues that an understanding of both ideas and interests is required for this interpretation. While politics and policy are often portrayed in terms of a tussle between market-based reform and populist social provisioning, the interpretation here sees more continuity, and the coexistence of such seemingly competing narratives, that reflect the “cognitive maps” of the major actors. The performance of the state, and ideas around the state, remain central to India’s politics. While the theme of a “corrupt state” is a longstanding one, India’s future development will depend crucially on improving state functioning, through both the deepening of democracy and administrative reform. The cognitive maps of political, bureaucratic and business elites will continue to play an important role in policy and institutional designs, and in particular over whether there will be the kinds of transformational changes that are being demanded by an increasingly aspirational electorate.
The recent performance of MGNREGA has been a matter of debate. Rajasthan, especially, performed impressively in the initial years of its National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (NREGS), but experienced a sharp decline (even relative to other states) in outcomesfrom 2010 onwards.
Researchers sought to establish whether the fall in MGNREGA expenditures reflects falling demand for work, or a failure of the state to supply work. Researchers conducted a large primary data survey in 75 multi-village Gram Panchayats, 328 villages and 3,916 households across eight districts in Rajasthan.
Their findings showed that supply-side factors play an important role in limiting the amount of work available. Supply of work to villages is influenced by local political factors, such as the affiliation of the elected Sarpanches responsible for allocating work at Gram Panchayat level, who ration work in favour of their own villages. The rationing power of Sarpanches is influenced by the funds allocated at the block level. This in turn is determined by political competition, which points to potential problems of decentralised programme implementation.
In providing a political explanation for fund allocation, the research seeks to understand better why the scheme varies across different parts of India, and to unearth the impact of MGNREGA on employment and poverty rates.
Working paper 31
This paper presents a political economy explanation for the dramatic decline of MGNREGA in Rajasthan. Originally one of the highest performing states, Rajasthan has seen a sharp decline from around 2010 onwards in the uptake of MGNREGA. The paper makes a case for this decline being counter-intuitive, given that actors working at the grassroots level were central in the formulation processes of the Act, contributing critically to the design of the Act. This paper uses information from recent field visits and secondary literature to unpack the reasons for this decline, discussing both demand-side factors and supply-side factors as explanations. It demonstrates that in Rajasthan, it is primarily the supply-side factors that have led to a decline in MGNREGA’s performance. The paper demonstrates that in Rajasthan, the greatest strengths of MGNREGA, i.e. demand-based nature and provisions around transparency, have been made its greatest shortcomings. Given the political nature of implementation of the MGNREGA, it is concluded that Rajasthan needs to put in place political engagement strategies, rather than merely technocratic solutions, if this downturn is to be arrested.
Working paper 34
This paper explores what we have learnt about how to instigate, negotiate or otherwise secure pro-poor government in towns and cities of the global South. With competition for scarce resources, the processes of urban development, and specifically the acquisition of land and basic services, are intensely political. While the nature of urban poverty differs, there is a consistent set of needs related to residency in informal settlements; tenure is insecure and there is a lack of access to basic services, infrastructure, and sometimes other entitlements. Households and communities have to negotiate these collective consumption goods in a context in which political relations are primarily informal, with negotiations that take place away from the transparent and accountable systems of ‘modern’ government. Clientelist bargaining prevails. Much of the existing literature is polarised, either critiquing clientelism for its consequences, or arguing that it has been dismissed without any grounded assessment of what might take its place and any considered analysis of what it has managed to deliver.
In this paper I explore how networks and federations of the urban poor seeking to access secure tenure and basic services have sought to advance their cause and the interests of their members. These organised collectives recognise that they have to challenge clientelist practice; however leaders also recognise that, given existing power relations, they have to work from within to change the realities of clientelism. Their own relative powerlessness means that confrontation is not an effective strategy. To strengthen their influence, they have to make common cause with those in need across the city building a unified and aware movement, and they have to establish their own legitimacy as agencies operating in the public interest and towards the common good. As and when they gain an increased influence, they seek greater flexibility from the city bureaucracy and to reduce the hierarchical highly vertical relations between the urban poor and the political elite. To maintain and extend their advances towards a pro-poor politics, they act to strengthen public accountabilities.
ESID’s comparative research on political economy analysis (PEA) within DFID and the World Bank demonstrates that the internal dynamics of aid bureaucracies constitutes the greatest obstacle to its dissemination. For PEA to have greater impact, its proponents will need to promote organisational change.
In confronting this task, they are likely to face trade-offs involving their control over PEA, the sophistication of analytical work, and its ultimate impact on aid operations. We outline these trade-offs in terms of three potential strategies for PEA mainstreaming: professionalisation, programming and management.
We conclude that it is not possible for PEA proponents to extend and deepen the use of PEA while retaining control over it: it is unlikely to remain a sophisticated and controlled agenda if disseminated across entire aid bureaucracies. Trade-offs of PEA mainstreaming are thus inescapable. As the donor environment shifts towards lower aid dependence and higher efficiency demands, the future of PEA for donors may well rest on better political economy analysis of donors.
Working paper 33
Pablo Yanguas and David Hulme
Although politics has become central to international development assistance, the use of political economy analysis (PEA) as a means for greater aid effectiveness remains an aspiring epistemic agenda. Even though virtually all aid donors have some personnel working on the development and implementation of PEA methodologies and frameworks, whether this new cognitive model for aid is compatible with pre-existing administrative factors is still an open question. We argue that for PEA to become fully institutionalised in donor agencies it needs to overcome the hurdles of administrative viability: its proponents need to reconcile it with corporate and professional incentives, as well as with the political environment in which an agency operates. We track this process empirically within two PEA leaders: the UK Department for International Development (DFID) and the World Bank. Using documents and interviews from headquarters as well as three country offices – Bangladesh, Ghana, Uganda – we find that political economy analysis has not yet become institutionalised in programming, management or the professions, and remains an intellectual agenda very much rooted in the governance silo. We conclude by arguing that the future of PEA lies in organisational change, not any particular framework, and that this change is more likely to occur by disseminating PEA outside of the governance profession into agency management and the various sectors of development assistance.
Working paper 32
David Hulme, Antonio Savoia and Kunal Sen
The increasing realisation that governance quality is a fundamental element of long-run development has led to its consideration as a desirable development goal in its own right. To contribute to such a process, this paper provides a framework to set, measure and monitor governance goals in the Post-2015 Development Agenda. First, we assess whether existing cross-national measures on governance quality can be exploited to routinely capture aspects of legal, bureaucratic and administrative quality. Such a “quick fix” approach to measuring governance quality is fraught with challenges. The current practice of measurement is still subject to the short country coverage of most available measures, issues of comparability and legitimacy, as well as methodological shortcomings. Then, we argue that, in the long run, measuring and monitoring governance quality may require reconceptualising “good governance” and designing internationally shared measures that are routinely provided by national statistical offices. Finally, we consider the different approaches to setting governance goals, arguing in favour of a combination of national target setting and minimum standard with continuous improvement.
In the developing world today an ever growing number of countries have sustained economic growth and democracy for some time, and yet find that economic and political inclusion remains elusive for many poor and disenfranchised citizens. This is where ESID research comes in.
ESID is interested in the dynamics that bring about transition from limited access to open access political orders, the political and social outcomes of economic development, and the policies that promote and ensure social justice, even in seemingly unpromising contexts. Our ultimate aspiration is to change how development practitioners and scholars think about inclusion, capacity and commitment.
ESID seeks to answer such questions as:
It is the ‘how’ – and not so much the ‘what’– of development that interests us.
To read more about our approach, download Effective States and Inclusive Development: An Introduction (pdf).
ESID is pleased to announce the publication of ‘The Dynamics of Economic Growth: A Visual Handbook of Growth Rates, Regimes, Transitions and Volatility’ (PDF, 18.80MB) by Sabyasachi Kar, Lant Pritchett, Selim Raihan and Kunal Sen.
The Handbook presents graphs to illustrate the dynamics of the growth experiences of 125 countries. These graphs highlight the dynamic and episodic nature of economic growth and show that many countries have experienced very different growth phases. The timing and magnitude of ‘breaks’ or ‘episodes’ or ‘regime transitions’ for all 125 countries are identified using a standard statistical procedure.
This view of economic growth as transitions across growth phases suggests the need to move beyond current approaches to studying growth. To understand what determines economic growth, a ‘third generation’ of theoretical models and empirical methods needs to be developed.