Working paper 52
The rise of the new Left has had an important impact on the politics of poverty reduction in Central America, upsetting the status quo for elites in the case of Honduras. After Hurricane Mitch in 1998, international pressure on elites to focus on poverty reduction had only a limited effect. But from 2006, the availability of aid and other resources from Venezuela facilitated a break with donor-sponsored agendas and heralded a new phase in the politics of poverty reduction. Then, in 2009, a coup against Liberal President Manuel Zelaya was precipitated by his ‘shift left’ whilst in office. This crisis unfastened the apparent stability and long-standing norms of Honduran political life. Drawing on recent fieldwork, this paper uses a political settlements approach to analyse the commitment and capacity to address social policy issues in Honduras through this period. The paper considers the significance and impact of external ideas on the changing distribution of power in society, and the implications for inclusive development.
Working paper 51
Brian Levy, Alan Hirsch and Ingrid Woolard
Has South Africa’s political settlement provided a constructive platform for successfully addressing the country’s deep-seated economic challenges in an inclusive way? Or is it increasingly consolidating as a settlement which is narrowly of and for elites (albeit in importantly different ways from its apartheid predecessor)? This paper addresses these questions, and reexamines the foundations of the democracy in an attempt to understand the obstacles to South Africa moving into a truly sustainable democracy. It provides a broad overview of South Africa’s evolving political settlement and the capability and commitment of the South African state (and the elites which underpin it) to deliver inclusive development. The political settlement analysis is anchored in a comparative assessment of evolving patterns of income distribution across countries and over time. The paper offers reflections on how the challenges going forward for South Africa might be addressed.
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.