Capacity and commitment: The politics of social provisioning
ESID’s approach is based on the premise that states can be engines of inclusive development by providing public services to people living in poverty and those who are side-lined by markets and politicians.
Looking at how Northern welfare states evolved may serve as a guide towards inclusive development. Was it just about enacting the right laws and building the bureaucratic capacity needed for implementing them? Or was it the evolution of a new kind of political commitment that enabled social provisioning for people who were not economically or politically powerful?
Social provisioning is both politically driven and has political impacts. For example, effective forms of service delivery can increase state capacity and legitimacy and help define the constitution of citizenship for certain groups. On the other hand, a number of factors can undermine governments’ ability to deliver high quality social provisioning. These include weak state capacity and lack of commitment among national and local elites, a lack of vision about alternative and more effective ways of service delivery, inappropriate incentive structures among frontline service delivery staff, and the withdrawal of non-poor groups from public provision.
Our research found that problems in delivering basic services and social protection have less to do with policy agenda-setting than with the politics of design and implementation. ESID researchers are exploring what determines the quality of social provisioning. We are mapping out the relations between the overall political settlement and service delivery in countries like Bangladesh, Cambodia, Ghana, Rwanda and Uganda.
At a cross-national level, we are studying the role of mass mobilisation and state-business relations in bringing about inclusive development.
At a country level we are analysing specific pro-poor programmes like India’s NREGA and the Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission (JNNURM).
Some of the questions we are asking:
- What role do policy coalitions play in building elite commitment and state capacity for the successful design, implementation and scaling-up of service delivery and social protection?
- How do power relations, both formal and informal, mediate through state capacity in explaining variations in implementation success?
- What are the effects of service delivery and social protection on building the capacity of the state, legitimising public authority and forming stable political settlements, at both national and local levels?
- Which policy approaches are likely to undermine, support or transform political settlements and policy coalitions?