Researching the politics of development



The politics of core public sector reform in Uganda: Behind the façade

Working paper 85

Download pdf

Badru Bukenya and William Muhumuza
The Ugandan state presents an interesting puzzle for the advocates of public sector reforms (PSRs). Whereas it has been subjected to several waves of reforms over the last three decades, these changed form but have generally not translated into significant changes in the functionality of central government. This research argues that answers to this conundrum are rooted in the country’s political settlement. Drawing on ESID’s expanded political settlement framework, the study finds that the last 15 years have seen Uganda’s ruling elite exposed to unprecedented internal and external competition leading to a shift in the balance of power from dominant to vulnerable dominant political settlement. Although the president still wields significant power, this has been used to influence government agencies to meet the short-term needs for regime maintenance, as opposed to supporting the goals of PSR implementation. Almost all PSRs are donor driven and the government accepts them not so much as a development necessity, but mainly because they are accompanied by unearned resources that are easily diverted into oiling patronage networks that maintain the elite in government.