Syndicate content

Add new comment

David Booth made an important argument about the “what to do” when politics is a problem: going beyond investing in grand theories towards more ways of using more practical political economy research and knowledge on “what works” in local contexts within countries. To my mind, at least a variant of this idea resonates in what Abhijit Banerjee and Esther Duflo call the “quiet revolution” strategy in their new book “Poor Economics: A Radical Rethinking of the Way to Fight Global Poverty”. This view may pose a challenge to the PSM agenda, even the updated one, if its core business is overwhelmingly in operations and reforms that are simply too “macro” to benefit from new research and knowledge on local, incremental changes. The type of political economy analysis that currently seems to be pursued by the practice is suited to this established, “macro” agenda—use political analysis to identify “feasible”, “second-best”, “good fit” reforms; the “right time and place”. This seems to be the ultimate “planners” paradise—the policy-designers know (largely) what the right technical reforms are for good governance, growth and development, and now they can use political analysis to find out when or which reforms can be pushed through in difficult country contexts. Indeed, a skeptical view on whether formal political analysis can indeed fulfill this tall order (as has been expressed in various comments on this blog) is hardly surprising. What political economy conclusions may be suggesting for the PSM agenda, however, is not just that since politics matters, more analysis of it is needed, but a more significant paradigm shift to incorporate more of the “searchers” model—- finding out how political incentives are changing within countries, at local levels (with lots of internal variation across local jurisdictions, despite the same, larger, institutional rules of the game)? How (do?) they correlate with variations in local governance and public sector performance? How can incremental changes be implemented at these local levels, not only for local improvements, but also towards a gradual and quiet revolution for improvements at the top? It’s not really an either-or (things rarely are), but whether there’s sufficient diversification and innovation in our strategies.