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political economy

What Can Political Economists Tell Us about Africa, Aid and Development?

Duncan Green's picture

There’s a clutch of different research initiatives trying to understand Africa’s political economy and its impact on development and aid. Often, the tone of the political economists can be quite discouraging – Alex Duncan gives a tongue-in-cheek definition of a political economist as ‘someone coming to explain why your aid programme doesn’t work’. There are few practical ‘take aways’ either for large bilateral aid agencies, or NGOs other than ‘give up and become a researcher’.

And that’s pretty much the tone of a logotastic ‘joint statement’ from 5 research programmes based (loosely) in the UK, Denmark, and the Netherlands (The Africa Power and Politics Programme, Developmental Leadership Programme, Elites, Production and Poverty: A Comparative Analysis, Political Economy of Agricultural Policy in Africa, Tracking Development). Here’s some highlights:

How Can Aid Agencies Promote Local Governance and Accountability? Lessons from Oxfam’s Work in Five Countries

Duncan Green's picture

Community discussion class participants in Bardiya village talk about their plans for building a community clinic.Oxfam is publishing a fascinating new series of case studies today, describing its programme work on local governance and community action. There are case studies from Nepal (women's rights, see photo), Malawi (access to medicines), Kenya (tracking public spending), Viet Nam (community participation) and Tanzania (the ubiquitous Chukua Hatua project), and a very wise (and mercifully brief) overview paper from power and governance guru Jo Rowlands. Here are some highlights:

“Governance is about the formal or informal rules, systems and structures under which human societies are organised, and how they are (or are not) implemented. It affects all aspects of human society – politics, economics and business, culture, social interaction, religion, and security - at all levels, from the most global to the very local."

Weekly Wire: the Global Forum

Johanna Martinsson's picture

These are some of the views and reports relevant to our readers that caught our attention this week.

New Platforms, New Public Opinion?

"With the continued growth of new communication media and technologies, the public opinion and research sector is abuzz with equal doses of optimism and skepticism for its future. In a world of falling response rates and increasing costs for phone and face-to-face surveys, does this new frontier ask us to merely measure the chatter on Twitter and Facebook or does it reframe the definition of public opinion itself? This is among the many questions challenging the Digital Team here at InterMedia." READ MORE

DFID Research for Development
The engagement of women's movements with religion: legal reform in Anambra state, Nigeria

"Campaigning by the women's movement in Anambra State was instrumental to the introduction of a new law in 2005 designed to prevent the maltreatment of widows. Religion is often implicated in gender inequality and discrimination against women, but religious leaders and organizations played key roles in this campaign. The case study enabled the researchers to address the questions of when, why and how religious actors facilitate rather than obstruct legal reform intended to realize women's rights." READ MORE

The Economists are Coming…

Sina Odugbemi's picture

The Annual Bank Conference on Development Economists (ABCDE) took place last week here at the World Bank (May 7-8, 2012). I registered and attended key sessions because of the unusual focus of the conference: Accountability and Transparency for Development.  I say unusual because it is still unusual for economists focusing on international development to take those topics seriously. The impression one had was that topics of that kind were not ‘hard’ enough, and were on the ‘soft’, touchy-feely, tree-hugging side of development. The impression was confirmed in the course of the conference itself as speaker after speaker referred to research being done on these topics as part of the ‘cutting edge’ of development economics. 

Is our columnists learning?

Markus Goldstein's picture

In a New York Times column last Friday David Brooks discussed a book by Jim Manzi, and extolled the idea of randomized field trials as a way for the US to make better policies. 

While it’s nice to welcome Citizen Brooks into the fold, there are a couple of points in his article worth exploring a bit.  

What a political economy perspective can contribute to development effectiveness

Verena Fritz's picture

The term ‘political economy’ has become an increasingly popular part of the vernacular at the World Bank and other development agencies. In parallel, interest in the political economy aspects of development has also seen a resurgence in academia, within both economics and political science departments, and even in leading business programs.

Weekly Wire: the Global Forum

Kalliope Kokolis's picture

These are some of the views and reports relevant to our readers that caught our attention this week.

ICT Works
Avoiding the Digital Divide Hype in Using Mobile Phones for Development

"To all of you digital divide warriors out there – nice work. With over 483 million mobile phone subscriptions in low-income countries - an estimated 44.9% penetration rate, few will deny the success of your efforts to expand mobile technology in the developing world.

Rapid mobile growth rates further exhibit success in dissemination, and stats such as, “There are more mobile phones than toilets in India,“ and “There are more mobile phones than light bulbs in Uganda,” make us smile and feel all warm and fuzzy inside."  READ MORE

Weekly Wire: the Global Forum

Kalliope Kokolis's picture

These are some of the views and reports relevant to our readers that caught our attention this week.

The Economist
The Open Government Partnership

“UGANDA is not best known as a testbed for new ideas in governance. But research there by Jakob Svensson at the University of Stockholm and colleagues suggested that giving people health-care performance data and helping them organise to submit complaints cut the death rate in under-fives by a third. Publishing data on school budgets reduced the misuse of funds and increased enrolment.

Whether dewy-eyed or hard-edged, examples abound of the benefits of open government—the idea that citizens should be able see what the state is up to. Estonians track which bureaucrats have looked at their file. Indians scrutinise officials’ salaries painted on village walls. Russians help redraft laws. Norwegians examine how much tax the oil industry pays. Many see openness as a cure for corruption and incompetence in public administration. The problem is how to turn the fan base into an effective lobby.”  READ MORE

Are We Ready to Go Political?

Nicholas Menzies's picture

Citizens are in the streets and squares clamoring for change with questions of leadership and politics squarely in their minds, but how well placed are development agencies to think about – and act on – such issues?

The Developmental Leadership Program, originally housed at the World Bank, is a coalition of bilateral agencies and NGOs catalyzed by the oft reported failure of donor governance work to effect meaningful change. The Program’s hypothesis is that in any given context there’s a lot more going on to propel (or stymie) reform than a focus on institution building will uncover. This is not to say that institutions don’t matter, but that the conduct of individuals, coalitions and especially elites within any context is a key factor in determining whether broad-based and sustainable development comes about. The Program has commissioned a number of country and sector-level studies to understand the factors that contribute to developmental leadership (as well as the less positive kind), exploring the “room to maneuver” actors have in institutional contexts, and what determines the ways they act.

The Arab Spring, History, and Political Economy

James Bond's picture

People in Maghreb and Mashreq countries, long used to being muzzled by their authoritarian regimes, are rising up to make their voices heard. This movement — if one can call it that — started first in Tunisia with the self-immolation of an unemployed street vendor. This desperate act by Mohamed Bouazizi, a poor 26 year-old university graduate without a steady job to support his family, brought out into the open the seething resentment of ordinary Tunisians at the 23 year rule of President Ben Ali.