Pablo Yanguas

Political Analysis & Aid Effectiveness

Author: Pablo (page 2 of 21)

LISTEN: Public Sector Reform in Ghana

Here’s a recording of our event on Public Sector Reform: Prospects and Challenges in Ghana and Beyond, hosted by the Ghana Institute of Management and Public Administration (GIMPA) on 4 April 2016.

A civilizational justification for basic income

Freakonomics has an excellent piece – and podcast – on basic income, the idea of giving every citizen a minimum amount of money every month/year to ensure that they can meet all their needs. Defenders usually claim automation and low wages are forcing people into poverty, whereas opponents claim that industries would suffer for lack of labor supply. But here is a really cool social dividend as expressed by economist Evelyn Forget:

If you look at the 18th and at the 19th century, some of the great scientific breakthroughs and some of the great cultural breakthroughs were made by people who did not work. These were gentlemen of leisure, right? These were people who had enough family money to support themselves. They certainly didn’t have to dirty their hands doing the kinds of work we take for granted. I don’t think these individuals felt useless; I don’t think their contribution was negligible. I think it was very important to the development of the world.

I find this to be a strangely powerful idea that should resonate with science and history geeks everywhere. Most key contributions to the history of human civilization have come out of leisure and financial safety: from democracy in Athens to the Darwin’s theory of evolution. Could this be the ultimate, civilizational justification for universal basic income?

The Internet’s Own Boy

A great film about an outstanding young activist who fought for internet freedom and academic open access.

Documentary film: The Internet’s Own Boy: The Story of Aaron Swartz (2014) by Brian Knappenberger. Via Internet Archive. Creative Commons: Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International.

Can political settlements theory tell donors how to make ethical choices?

New paper! “The role and responsibility of foreign aid in recipient political settlements“.

Political settlements analysis has highlighted the role of powerful political and economic actors in shaping institutional outcomes across countries. Its focus on national elites, however, risks biasing this type of theorising towards local factors, when in fact many policy domains in developing countries have become transnationalised: much like private finance or transnational activism, foreign aid can play a significant role in shaping political settlements, for instance those underlying public finance management or basic service delivery. This paper has four aims. First, it revises the basic concept of political settlement with a combination of field theory and contentious politics that emphasises contestation between incumbents and challengers and the mechanisms through which they are affected by transnational forces. Second, based on this conceptual framework, it outlines six ideal types of aid influence over a developing-country political settlement, illustrating donor tendencies to support continuity or change. Third, it investigates the ethical implications of donor influence over political settlements, identifying the types of intervention favoured by consequentialist and non-consequentialist calculations. Finally, the paper presents the kernel for a practical ethic of assistance, which asks whether current debates in the aid community have fully come to terms with the responsibility that derives from agency in the contentious politics of inclusive development.

Download it here.

DSA panel: The politics of public sector transformations

I am heading Oxford on 12-14 September, as my panel for the Development Studies Association annual conference has been accepted. Paper proposals can be submitted here. Here’s the pitch:

Panel title: The politics of public sector transformations

Panel abstract: The public sector remains an inescapable component of development policy, whether as an instrument of regulation, service delivery, redistribution or recognition. In an increasingly transnationalized world, public servants face a complex landscape of interactions with political regimes, civil society, the private sector, international organisations, academia, and their professional peers across the world; actors who advance competing agendas about how the public sector should think and behave, about what policy domains it should oversee or release. Moving beyond the relatively technocratic contours of the public sector reform agenda, this panel addresses the broader politics of public sector transformation: the everyday contestation of institutions, the resilience of organisational cultures, the role of policy entrepreneurs, or the growth of epistemic networks that blur the boundaries between state, society and regime. In so doing, the panel seeks to bring together theoretical contributions from political economy, contentious politics, organisation sociology, development administration, history, critical theory and international relations, harkening back to a time before academic disciplinary boundaries sequestered the study of public administration from politics and sociology. These theoretical contributions will be explored through empirical narratives of change and contestation from across the global South, from fragile countries with weak public institutions all the way to emerging economic powerhouses struggling with persistent informal legacies. The panel will place a particular emphasis on contributions addressing one or more of the following analytical sub-themes: Public entrepreneurs, Organisational change, Formal and informal institutions, Discourses about the state, Public sector advocacy, and Transnational influences.

A computer game about African democracy!

I can’t wait to try this out.

Did the SDGs just forget about the state?

My research is based on a very simple premise: effective and inclusive states are a necessary component of development. It is not a radical idea, and far from a new one: the co-evolution of states, markets and democracies is the backbone of modern economics, sociology and politics. That is why the process of coming up with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) has received some attention from myself and other colleagues: after the politically neutered MDGs, the SDGs held a promise of taking politics seriously for a change. We welcomed the inclusion of Goal 16 in the final list, even if it came with a far too ambitious and convoluted title: “Promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels”. The proof was in the pudding, however, and the Expert Group of the UN Statistical Commission has now released its proposed list of indicators for measuring SDG progress. Sadly, of the 12 targets comprised under Goal 16, only 3 have anything to do with state effectiveness and inclusion, and none of the proposed indicators actually captures the key analytical ingredients of my premise. Continue reading

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