Researching the politics of development



Regional inequality and spending on education in Ghana: A political settlements approach

15 September 2014
By Pablo Yanguas.
ESID’s latest working paper investigates why some of Ghana’s regions have had greater access than others to public spending on education, and uses this case to illustrate how elite politics – and, in particular, regional coalitions – shape access to service provision in developing countries.
Rethinking the politics of development in Africa? How the ‘political settlement’ shapes resource allocation in Ghana” was authored by Abdul-Gafaru Abdulai and Sam Hickey. The paper draws on two of ESID’s main research strands, social provisioning and recognition, and builds on our already sizeable portfolio of work in Ghana. Here are some excerpts:

It is important to note at the outset that Ghana is characterised by significant regional inequalities with regards to education, with the three Northern regions lagging in terms of income poverty and human development. However, and despite the rhetoric of inclusive national development that characterises political discourse in Ghana, public expenditures have seldom been directly targeted at addressing the problem. …
The specific ways in which the distribution of power within Ghana’s ruling coalitions shapes budgetary allocations is brought into still sharper relief in the case of the Ghana School Feeding Programme (GSFP), a social protection programme aimed at bridging regional inequalities in primary education. … Yet the actual implementation of the GSFP showed a distinct deviation from this pro-equity approach, and again more closely reflects the regional distribution of power within the NPP’s ruling coalition. …
Our evidence thus helps reveal a two-stage process, through which the incentives created by Ghana’s particular political settlement led to the capture of GSFP by powerful factions within the ruling coalition. The first step involved moving the programme away from a targeted to a nationwide form of distribution that, although justified through the rhetoric of national development, was driven more clearly by the political logic of pork-barrel politics to help ensure that politicians from all regions would have something to take back to their constituents. However, when it came to actually disbursing expenditures, this more benign and potentially more inclusive form of patronage politics was trumped by a more exclusive form, with resources captured by dominant factions within the ruling coalition. The pattern of this capture directly reflected both the regional distribution of holding power within the ruling coalition at multiple levels, and the highly personalised functioning of the public service within Ghana’s competitive clientelist political settlement. …

Read the full paper: ESID Working Paper 38, Abdul-Gafaru Abdulai and Sam Hickey, “Rethinking the politics of development in Africa? How the ‘political settlement’ shapes resources allocation in Ghana”.