Pablo Yanguas

Political Analysis & Aid Effectiveness

Tag: Public sector reform

“Varieties of state-building in Africa”: New comparative paper on public sector reform

ESID has just released my new working paper on comparative PSR in Ghana, Uganda, and Rwanda: “Varieties of state-building in Africa: Elites, ideas and the politics of public sector reform“.

Here’s the abstract, followed by the download link:

Why do some states in Africa seem to be stuck in a spiral of corruption and institutional weakness? Why do others somehow build effective bureaucracies that are able and willing to tackle the challenges of development? The public sector remains the inescapable anchor of development, whether for good or ill, but our understanding of the politics of public sector reform remains shackled by concepts that do not allow for variation or change over time. This paper presents a theoretical framework for understanding variations in public sector reform (PSR): centring the analysis on the intersection of power relations and ideas, the paper shows how the stability of a country’s elite settlement and the coherence of its developmental ideology interact with reform ideas in the PSR policy domain. This framework is explored through a structured-focused comparison of reform experiences in three Sub-Saharan African countries with different elite settlements: competitive Ghana; weakly dominant Uganda; and dominant Rwanda. In Ghana, where successive regimes have focused on political control for partisan purposes, it has been quick reforms compatible with top-down control that have achieved political traction. In Uganda, high-visibility reforms were introduced to secure donor funding, as long as they did not threaten the ruling coalition’s power. In Rwanda, lastly, the regime has fostered and protected various public sector reforms because it envisioned them as instruments for domestic legitimation as constituent elements of an impartial developmental state. In combination, policy domain, elite time horizons, and ideational fit allow us to move beyond blanket statements about isomorphic mimicry or neopatrimonialism, and towards a more nuanced understanding of the varieties of state-building in Africa.

PDF download.

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.

Article on public sector reform now available

Taylor & Francis has finally released online my Third World Quarterly piece with Badru Bukenya: ‘New’ approaches confront ‘old’ challenges in African public sector reform. It has been a lengthy process between TWQ and T&F, but we are finally there. Here’s the abstract:

The disappointing performance of conventional public sector reforms in developing countries has led to the rise of ‘new’ approaches seeking to overcome traditional bureaucratic barriers to change: leadership-focused interventions like the Africa Governance Initiative (AGI); accountability-focused initiatives like the Open Government Partnership (OGP); and adaptation-focused models like those of Africa Power and Politics (APP). While these approaches are appealing to aid donors in their promise to move beyond the limitations of purely formal institution building, they fail to provide new answers to the ‘old’ analytical and practical challenges of public sector reform, in particular administrative patrimonialism, public corruption and political capture. The evidence is yet inchoate, but all points to the need for these approaches to work together with conventional ones. Beyond novel implementation tactics, however, there is a need for new strategies of sustained political support for embattled reformers who face powerful incentives against institutional change.

Development of Government conference, November 3rd

A few months ago I wrote about Samuel Finer’s contribution to our understanding of government. Well, there was a point to it: on November 3rd the University of Manchester is honouring him with a conference on the “Development of Government”, through which we aim to discuss Finer’s lasting relevance for current debates on government retrenchment here in the North, public sector reform in the South, and the role of governance indicators in the new SDG global agenda. I will be a presenter on the PSR panel, flanked by far more eminent people than myself, and the programme promises to deliver an engaging day of actual conversation (how un-academic!). Sign up here if you are interested in attending, and keep an eye on the Effective States blog for further information about Samuel Finer and the conference.

New publication!

Upcoming article with Badru Bukenya in Third World Quarterly. Stay tuned…

Public sector reform, Asterix style

New working paper on Public Sector Reform

Here’s the abstract for my ESID Working Paper (25, October 2013) with Badru Bukenya, which was just released on the ESID website under the title “Building State Capacity for Inclusive Development: The Politics of Public Sector Reform”:

A capable state is essential for inclusive development, and throughout the developing world governments and international development agencies are seeking to build it through a multifaceted agenda of Public Sector Reform (PSR). This paper presents an analytical review of the PSR agenda, emphasizing the political contestation inherent to the development of state capacity, and argues for a more nuanced and politically-informed research agenda. We begin by examining the various definitions of state capacity that are commonly employed by researchers, and settle on bureaucratic capacity as the transversal precondition for policy implementation. State capacity so understood has two components, effectiveness and accountability, and two domains, internal and external. Their intersection generates four broad dimensions of reform: organizational rationality, administrative restraint, social embeddedness and political autonomy; and each dimension in turn is likely to exhibit a different pattern of political contestation due to the parallel incentives for patrimonialism, corruption, oligarchy, and capture.

We use this analytical framework to categorise and examine the major components of the PSR agenda, assessing their rates of success or failure according to the available evidence: we find that the relative failure of the PSR agenda so far is due to its reliance on flawed assumptions about the administrative politics of state capacity. We then evaluate whether new models that try to bypass central bureaucracies are likely to encounter greater success; specifically, we review the Africa Governance Initiative, the Open Government Partnership, and the ‘hybrid models’ approach of the Africa Power and Politics Programme, and argue that all of them will be forced to confront the same politics of state capacity in the end. We close the paper by outlining a set of tentative guidelines for future research at ESID and elsewhere, suggesting a greater focus on the role of elites, informal institutions, the legislature as a non-state component of state capacity, the distinction between transversal and sectoral approaches, and finally the modalities and objectives of external assistance.


© 2017 Pablo Yanguas

Theme by Anders NorenUp ↑