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Working paper 126
This paper contributes to the debate on the Sustainable Development Goals progress by evaluating the MDGs’ achievements in South Asia and the policy and institutional challenges deriving from such experience. Using cross-country regressions and aggregate indicators of poverty, health, education and gender parity outcomes, we offer three sets of findings. First, comparative evidence shows that, while South Asia has converged with richer regions, there is still significant variation in gender equality, universal primary education, and income poverty achievements across countries. Second, projections based on past trends on where SDGs are expected to be by 2030 reveal that there is a long way to go, and that emblematic targets such as income poverty eradication may not be met in the populous South Asian countries. Finally, considering the expanded set of development targets in the SDGs and the growth slowdown in South Asia, we argue that further progress would simultaneously require increased public spending on health and education and reforms improving state capacity. A simulation exercise confirms that such a combination of interventions would deliver significant benefits in the region, particularly in areas that are critical to progress on the goals of ‘No Poverty’, ‘Quality Education’, ‘Gender Equality’, and ‘Inclusive Growth’.
Working paper 125
For decades, large-scale political mobilisation in Bangladesh has been monopolised by deep-rooted and often violent political parties. Over the past decade, however, the opposition has been suppressed, leaving them unable to wage the strikes and protests typical of the country’s politics. Alongside their decline has been a resurgence of street movement beyond conventional political boundaries. These movements are unpredictable, coalesce around issues of injustice, and emerge in particular from urban students. This article examines the movements for reform to civil service quotas, and for improved road safety, seen primarily in Dhaka in 2018. Such movements pose two principal threats to the ruling party: first, they have the potential to undermine their legitimacy and create a moment of crisis on which the opposition could capitalise; second, they can exacerbate tensions between interest groups on whom the ruling party rely to maintain power. The state response of concessions and repression reflects these threats and the delicate balance of maintaining legitimacy while using coercion. With a rich history of political movements and a lack of alternative channels for political expression, responding to grievances that can motivate such movements will be an important challenge for the ruling party to maintain their grip on power.
Working paper 124
Rasmus Hundsbæk Pedersen and Thabit Jacob
In recent decades, reforms have been introduced in developing countries to promote economic transformation, democracy and the rule of law. However, structural factors have often undermined their implementation. This is a key insight of the political settlement analysis that has proliferated in scholarly research. Its unpacking of the sorts of intra-elite relations that are instrumental in choosing policies and their modes of implementation is a major achievement. However, with its focus on hard force and economic rents, it is less clear regarding the role of elections and popular legitimacy, which have become more important recently. Inspired by an adapted political settlement analysis, and by drawing on the strategic-relational approach, this paper aims to explain contemporary forms of power and legitimacy in greater detail. Using Tanzania – which has had the same party in power since independence – as a critical case study, we demonstrate that, in the context of democratisation, the country’s political elites are increasingly attempting to earn popular legitimacy. In Tanzania, earlier attempts to earn popular legitimacy through the expansion of social services to the rural majority were radicalised when a new president came to power in 2015. During the historically competitive elections, he campaigned on a platform of reversing years of domination by business and political elites. He later crafted a series of nationalist narratives and attacks on private investors, not least foreign ones, to bolster his legitimacy in the eyes of the wider population. This implies a more prominent role for populations in developing countries than is often acknowledged. We also suggest that, in the context of democratisation, analyses of legitimacy should include two more dimensions: first, a political elite’s relationship with its political opponents, who in Tanzania have been systematically delegitimised; and secondly, international recognition, which since the 1980s has required the holding of regular elections and is important for resource mobilisation. We therefore argue that legitimacy should be analysed as a source of power in its own right, in line with force and rents; it is the combination of these different sources of power that matters.
Working paper 120
The Rwandan Ministry of Finance and Economic Planning (MINECOFIN) is recognised as the most effective organisation in the Rwandan state. The objective of the paper is to understand the organisational and political factors influencing MINECOFIN’s performance since the genocide and link them to the wider conversation on the role of pockets of effectiveness (PoEs) in state-building in Africa. It argues that, because of the Rwandan political settlement and elite vulnerability, MINECOFIN is not a PoE but only a good performer in a generally well functioning state. The Ministry overperforms first because, unsurprisingly, the nature of its tasks is specific, requires little embeddedness and allows a great exposure to donors, making its mandate easier to deliver in comparison to other organisations. MINECOFIN also performs better than other state organisations because it is, more than others, at the frontline of the elite legitimation project, since it is the organisation through which resources are channelled, priorities decided, and developmental efforts coordinated. Given the rulers’ need for an effective state as a whole, MINECOFIN appears only as the lead climber in a wider dynamics of systematic state building.
Working paper 123
The World Bank’s Doing Business reports have evoked an intense policy debate about whether countries should simplify regulatory rules, in order to stimulate investment and growth, or make them more stringent, in order to achieve public policy objectives. Both sides of this debate however, assume that the business environment in developing countries is defined and determined by the exact implementation of these rules by the state and by firms, an assumption demonstrated to be false by a number of studies. These studies seem to indicate that, rather than these rules, doing business in developing countries is based on deals struck between firms and the political or bureaucratic arms of the state. In this paper, we undertake a cross-country analysis of the relationship between the rules related to doing business and these deals, particularly in the context of the state’s capability in implementing them. Using data from the Doing Business reports, the World Bank’s Enterprise Survey and other sources, we show that (i) while there is a relationship between rules and deals, it is a weak one; and (ii) this relationship is itself dependent on the level of a country’s state capability, with the impact of rules on deals getting further weakened if the state capability is low; and (iii) with stringent rules and very low levels of state capability, the relationship becomes perverse, with more stringent rules leading to less compliance, rather than more. Based on these results, we provide a diagnostic approach to rules reform, where the appropriate reform depends on the level of stringency of the rules in a country, and the level of its state capability.
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.