Working Papers

The Working Paper series is made up of contributions from academic staff in International Development (formerly DESTIN), PhD students, and visiting fellows.


To be included within the series, please send manuscripts to Dipa Patel in the International Development Office (, along with an abstract of 150-200 words and up to six keywords. The ID Working Paper editorial team will endeavour to process your submission within three weeks.

MSc prizewinning dissertations, which were previously published as part of the Working Paper series, now have a dedicated page.


The latest papers from the series:

Working Paper 212 (2023)

Food riots arising from food crises in Latin America:Reflections on the 21st century agrarian context
Artur Zimerman

This paper focuses on food riots that arise in the agrarian context characterized by food crises, primarily for the rural poor in developing and undeveloped countries located in Latin America for the current century. It is a preliminary study that investigates the connection between food riots and some indicators and variables related to agrarian pressures and political strains, such as land grabbing, climate change, demographic pressures, and political polarization. The data analysis is descriptive in this initial phase of research. The Latin American region rarely features in investigations of the proposed theme, whereas Africa is widely studied, as is Asia, to a lesser extent. Latin America represents a paradox, because on the one hand it is one of the largest food producers in the world, but on the other hand, it has many citizens who do not have enough food for own consumption. The paper focuses on the violence emanating from food riots in order to understand the contexts in which it arises. Future studies may explain this phenomenon.

Food Riots | Agrarian Violence | Land Grabbing | Climate Change | Demographic Pressures | Political Polarization

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Working Paper 211 (2023)

Buying off the Revolution: Democratization, Social Movements and Redistribution
María del Pilar López-Uribe

This paper shows that franchise extension is not enough for commitment to redistribution and that in the absence of de facto empowerment, the threat of revolution is intact. In particular, the paper studies the relationship between a democratic reform that extends the political rights of a threatening group and redistribution during periods of revolutionary threat. Far from causing an increase in broad redistribution (e.g. social spending), I show that democratic reform -the state organization of a social movement that extends political rights- can be used to identify rebel leaders and provide private goods to them, in return for preventing social unrest and demobilizing their supporters. I study the context of the organization by the state of the most important social movement in Colombian history -the National Peasant Movement (ANUC)- over almost three decades (1957-1985), in which the threat of a Communist Revolution was perennial and throughout which the government gave ANUC direct political participation at the local level in the executive branch and economic support. Using three newly digitized data sets of Colombian municipalities, I find that rather than leading to broad redistribution to the benefit of the peasantry, the reform instead led to an increase in targeted redistribution in terms of public jobs and lands. In particular, by matching the names of the peasant leaders to the beneficiaries of the land reform, evidence suggests that peasant leaders disproportionately benefited from land reform, especially in municipalities where the communist threat was higher. Finally, I find suggestive evidence that buying off the rebel leaders was an effective counter-revolutionary strategy as it led to fewer revolutionary activities after the support of ANUC was terminated (1972-1985).

Threat of Revolution | Democratic Reform | Redistribution | Social Movements | Political Empowerment | Conflict

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Working Paper 210 (2022)

The economics of abortion: Costs, impacts, values, benefits, and stigma
Ernestina Coast, London School of Economics
Samantha R. Lattof, London School of Economics
Yana van der Meulen Rodgers, Rutgers University
Brittany Moore, Ipas
Cheri Poss, Ipas
Joe Strong, London School of Economics

We systematically searched for and synthesized the social science literature on the consequences of abortion-related care, abortion policies, and abortion stigma on economic costs, benefits, impacts, and values. We conducted a scoping review  and studies reporting on qualitative and/or quantitative data from any world region were considered. 365 items were included in our synthesis. Economic costs and consequences play an important role in women’s trajectories to abortion-related care. Adapting to changes in laws and policies is costly for health facilities, and that financial savings can be realized while maintaining or improving quality of abortion care services. Post-abortion care services are expensive and can constitute a substantial portion of health budgets. Public sector coverage of abortion costs is sparse, and women bear most of the financial costs. The review identifies knowledge gaps, such as the ways in which women perceive the intersections between costs and quality of care, safety, and risk.

Abortion Services | Abortion Policy | Health Economics | Scoping Review | Reproductive Health | Contraception | Termination of Pregnancy

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Working Paper 209 (2022)

How the IMF and World bank caused a resource curse and civil war in Mozambique
Joseph Hanlon

Mozambique's 3rd civil war is now in its 5th year in Cabo Delgado province, in the northeast of the country. More than 4300 people have died and nearly one million people have been displaced, more than one third the population of the province. One of the largest investment projects in Africa has been halted by the war. President Filipe Nyusi blames unnamed foreign "evil forces". The United States blames Islamic State. But many researchers say the war is a local response to a resource curse - poverty and inequality have grown and local people are not benefitting from a promised natural resource "El Dorado". Only foreign companies and some members of the Mozambican elite appear to have gained. This, in turn, derived from "shock therapy" which was imposed on Mozambique at the end of the Cold War, with the goal of rapidly turning the "communist" elite into a capitalist elite. This created the local oligarchs who control access to the mineral and gas resources of Cabo Delgado, and do not share the wealth. Local people have now rebelled.

Mozambique | Cabo Delgado | Gas | Ruby | Shock Therapy | Oligarch | Inequality | Corruption | World Bank | IMF | Post-Cold War

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Working Paper 208 (2022)

World Bank questions its Mozambique 'success':'remarkable growth' and oligarchs have broughthigh inequality, poverty and corruption
Joseph Hanlon

At the end of the Cold War the west imposed economic "shock therapy" on the countries of the former Soviet Union to rapidly turn the communists into capitalists, creating oligarchs. One of the few Africa countries where shock therapy was imposed was Mozambique. Shock therapy was intended to push the communist elite who had power over land, resources and contracts to take control of those assets and then make deals with the west to exploit them. They became, in effect, rentier and comprador capitalists. Mozambique was poor and only small oligarchs were created, but they made their links with western capital and donors. The outcome, the World Bank admits, is that Mozambique showed remarkable growth, which largely benefitted the oligarchs and foreign companies and agencies, while poverty and inequality grew to record levels. This paper shows the intense and brutal way the IMF and World Bank imposed shock therapy on Mozambique.

Mozambique | Shock therapy | Oligarch | Inequality | Corruption | World Bank | IMF | Post-Cold War

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Working Paper 207 (2022)

Political Cleavages in Motion: Bolivia in 2021
Gustavo Bonifaz and Jean-Paul Faguet

The authors analyze recent developments in Bolivia’s politics through the lens of political cleavage theory, in particular cleavage displacement. Bolivia’s current party system is characterized by a stable and dominant MAS at one end of the spectrum, and at the other a fractious, unstable collection of parties, movements, and other vehicles that have failed to articulate a coherent set of political ideas. It emerged when the previous party system collapsed in 2003-05, shifting politics from a conventional left-right axis of competition unsuited to Bolivian society, to an ethnic/rural vs. cosmopolitan/urban axis closely aligned with its major social cleavage. But society did not freeze in 2005. We analyze the deep roots of Bolivia’s current politics, and explore emerging or changing generational, ethnic, urban-rural, regional, class, and religious divides. Understanding how cleavages interact to determine political outcomes allows us to make sense of the deep tensions and sources of instability that both Bolivia, and the MAS internally, currently face, and to shine a light on major coming challenges.

Cleavage theory | Political Parties | Ethnicity | Bolivia | Latin America

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Working Paper 206 (2022)

COVID-19, Corporatisation and Closing Space: The Triple Threat to Civil Society in India
Ingrid Srinath

In the 75th year of its independence from colonial rule, India confronts grave challenges to its economic and social development and to its democracy. Civil society in India has led the achievement of development goals and civil and political rights since the Gandhian movement of the early 20th century. Presently, however, it finds itself confronting a confluence of crises. The marginalisation of civil society actors by a private sector empowered by economic liberalisation, on the one hand, and majoritarian, populist political forces has only been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic of the past 2 years. This working paper builds on a lecture delivered on November 26, 2021, at the London School of Economics Department of International Development as part of the #CuttingEdge series. It traces the origins and growing strengths of the forces ranged against civil society and points toward the actions necessary to confront them.

India | Civil Society | Non-Profit Regulation | Philanthropy | Covid-19

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Working Paper 205 (2021)

Increasing Access to Formal Agricultural Credit:The Role of Collective Action Organizations
Allison Benson and Jean-Paul Faguet

Collective action (CA) allows individuals to overcome market and state failures, something particularly relevant in rural areas and highly imperfect markets such as agricultural credit. To analyse the relation between CA in the form of Rural Producer Organizations (RPOs) and access to agricultural credit, we estimate a logit model exploiting data on 2.3 million farmers in Colombia, as well as a fixed effects model using original data on 15,000 municipality-year observations of RPOs and credit allocation. We find a positive relationship between CA and access to credit at both the farmer and municipality levels. The relationship is heterogeneous, varying by farmer size and credit source. For credit allocated to small farmers, we find a positive relation, but only via public credit; for credit allocated to large farmers, the relation is also positive, but only via private credit. We find no effect of CA on medium-size farmers’ access to credit. Our results imply that CA’s potential to foster rural financial development depends on pre-existing contextual conditions, notably the segmentation of the credit market. The distributional effects of CA, and its dependence on contextual conditions, should be considered carefully in policy design.

Agricultural credit | Credit constraints | Collective action | Rural producer organisations | Colombia

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Working Paper 204 (2021)

When social safety nets protect economic growth: the case of Cambodia
Stephanie Levy

Trade-offs between policies that promote economic growth and redistribute wealth are discussed extensively in the literature, both from a public finance perspective and from a macroeconomic angle. In fact, social safety nets are sometimes perceived by government in developing countries as a non-productive use of scarce public finance. Cambodia is an example of low middle income country that has so far been reluctant to implement a social protection floor for its vulnerable population and those unable to meet their subsistence needs. The Covid-19 pandemic has however changed not only the set of policies that the government has put in place to protect its population living in poverty, dedicating an unprecedented share of its budget to their funding, but it has also modified the role that policy makers aim for these interventions to play. These programmes are now increasingly perceived as a requirement to protect the growth of a country that was for decades the fastest growing economy in the world. This paper analyses the policy changes induced by the pandemic and presents empirical evidence that their economic effects are likely to be large. It then discusses the shift in political paradigm that this could lead to. 

Social Protection | Economic Growth | Cambodia | Covid-19 | Economic Inclusion

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Working Paper 203 (2021)

Understanding Decentralization
Theory, Evidence and Method, with a Focus on Least-Developed Countries
Jean-Paul Faguet

What is decentralization, what is its underpinning rationale, and why might it matter for least-developed countries? This chapter has two goals: (i) to distill the enormous academic and policy literature on international experiences of decentralization into clear empirical conclusions; and (ii) to derive policy lessons relevant to least-developed countries. It first reviews the different definitions of decentralization employed in the literature before proposing one best suited to countries with the lowest levels of development. It reviews the most important theoretical arguments in favour of decentralization in low-income nations with low levels of human development that are often ethnically and religiously diverse. It then reviews empirical evidence on decentralization's ability to overcome some of the key obstacles holding back such countries’ development, before concluding with key questions still to be answered, for which additional research is required.

Decentralization | Local Government | Democracy | Accountability | Civil Conflict | Least-developed Countries

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Working Paper 202

The Participation Dividend Of Taxation: How citizens in Congo engage more with the state when it tries to tax them 
Jonathan Weigel

This paper provides evidence from a fragile state that citizens demand more of a voice in the government when it tries to tax them. I examine a field experiment randomizing property tax collection across 356 neighborhoods of a large Congolese city. The tax campaign was the first time most citizens had been registered by the state or asked to pay formal taxes. It raised property tax compliance from 0.1%in control to 11.5% in treatment. It also increased political participation by about 5 percentage points (31%): citizens in taxed neighborhoods were more likely to attend townhall meetings hosted by the government or to submit evaluations of its performance. To participate in these ways, the average citizen incurred costs equal to their daily household income, and treated citizens spent 43% more than control. Treated citizens also positively updated about the provincial government, perceiving more revenue, less leakage, and a greater responsibility to provide public goods. The results suggest that broadening the tax base has a ‘participation dividend,’ a key idea in historical accounts of the emergence of inclusive governance in early modern Europe and a common justification for donor support of tax programs in weak states. 

  • Taxation
  • State capacity
  • Political participation
  • Tax bargaining
  • D.R. Congo
  • Field experiment

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Working Paper 201

Decentralisation’s effect on education and health: Evidence from Ethiopia
Jean-Paul Faguet, Qaiser Khan and Devarakonda Priyanka Kanth

We explore the effects of decentralization on education and health in Ethiopia using an original database covering all of the country’s regions and woredas (local governments). Ethiopia is a remarkable case in which war, famine and chaos in the 1970s-80s were followed by federalization, decentralization, rapid growth and dramatic improvements in human development. Did decentralization contribute to these successes? We use time series and panel data analyses to show that decentralization improved net enrollments in primary schools and access to antenatal care for pregnant women. The main channel appears to be institutional, not fiscal. We offer the database as an additional contribution. 

  • Decentralisation
  • Education
  • Health
  • Public Investment
  • Ethiopia
  • Local government

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Working Paper 200

Push, Pull, and Push-back to Land Certification: Regional dynamics in pilot certification projects in Côte d'Ivoire
Professor Catherine Boone 
Pr. Brice Bado, Assistant Professor
Aristide Mah Dion, Master's en Droits Humaines 2020
Zibo Irigo, Master's en Droits Humaines 2020
CERAP, Centre des Etudes et d'Action pour la Paix (Institution Universitaire Jésuite)
Cocody, Blvd. Mermoz, Abidjan, Côte d'Ivoire

Since 2000, many African countries have moved toward land tenure reforms that aim at comprehensive land registration (or certification) and titling.  Much work in political science and in the advocacy literature identifies recipients of land certificates or titles as "program beneficiaries," and political scientists have modeled titling programs as a form of distributive politics. In practice, however, land registration programs are often divisive and difficult to implement. This paper tackles the apparent puzzle of friction around land certification. We study Côte d'Ivoire's rocky history of land certification from 2004 to 2017 to identify political economy variables that may give rise to heterogenous and even conflicting preferences around certification. We identify regional inequalities, social inequalities, and regional variation in pre-existing land tenure institutions as factors that help account for friction or even resistance around land titling, and thus the difficult politics that may arise around land tenure reform. Land certification is not a public good or a private good for everyone. 

  • Land
  • Côte d'Ivoire
  • Inequalities
  • Political economy
  • Land tenure 

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Working Paper 199

Randomized control trials and qualitative impacts: what do they tell us about the immediate and long-term assessments of productive safety nets for women in extreme poverty in West Bengal? 
Professor Naila Kabeer and Sanchari Datta

This paper is intended to show the strengths, weaknesses and potential complementarities of different methodological approaches to impact assessment.  It reports on the approach and findings reported by a randomized control trial of BRAC’s Targeting the Ultra-Poor programme, directed towards women in extreme poverty, that was piloted in a district of West Bengal. It then reports on the approach and findings reported by a qualitative impact assessment of different pilot of the same programme that was carried out by the authors in a neighbouring district of West Bengal around the same time. Both the RCT and the qualitative study revisited their respective pilots a few years later, allowing them to provide some longer-term insights into what the pilots had achieved. The study discusses what the two methodological approaches were, and were not, able to do. It concludes that integrated approaches that use quantitative methods in combination with a variety of qualitative approaches are far more useful for measuring and understanding impacts than reliance on a single method. It also reflects on what might be the key lessons to take away from these studies with regard with the short and longer term achievements of the Targeting the Ultra-Poor approach to the design of productive safety nets for women in extreme poverty. 

  • Digital platforms
  • Decentralisation
  • Aadhaar
  • Social Assistance
  • India

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Working Paper 198
Can Digital Platforms Help Decentralise Social Assistance Programmes?
Learning from the Aadhaar-enabled Fertiliser Distribution System
Dr Shirin Madon, Dr Ranjini C.R., Krishnan R.K. and Babu A. 

National biometric identity systems are a recent e-governance reform initiative for implementing social assistance[1] programmes in developing countries.  However, beyond providing a unique identity to those previously excluded from these programmes and reducing leakages in the system, little is known about whether these systems can improve the effectiveness of social assistance programmes for low-income sections of the population.  Aadhaar is India’s major initiative aimed at improving subsidy dispersal to disadvantaged communities and in this paper, we investigate its role in reshaping the distribution of subsidised fertiliser to low-income farmers in Andhra Pradesh through the Aadhaar-enabled Fertiliser Distribution System (AeFDS).  Aside from the functional benefits to government of streamlining subsidy disbursement to farmers, we find that the relevance of the biometric platform for farmers and retails depends crucially on the enactment of processes at the sub-national level.  This result holds important policy implications for the role of digital identity platforms in decentralising the governance of social assistance programmes. 

[1] Social assistance consists of government transfers of income and services to address poverty

  • Digital platforms
  • Decentralisation
  • Aadhaar
  • Social Assistance
  • India

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Working Paper 197
Decentralization’s effects on education and health: Evidence from Ethiopia
Professor Jean-Paul Faguet, Qaiser Khan and Devarakonda Priyanka Kanth

We explore the effects of decentralization on education and health in Ethiopia using an original database covering all of the country’s regions and woredas (local governments). Ethiopia is a remarkable case in which war, famine and chaos in the 1970s-80s were followed by federalization, decentralization, rapid growth and dramatic improvements in human development. Did decentralization contribute to these successes? We use time series and panel data analyses to show that decentralization improved net enrollments in primary schools and access to antenatal care for pregnant women. The main channel appears to be institutional, not fiscal. We offer the database as an additional contribution.

  • Decentralization
  • Education
  • Health
  • Public investment
  • Ethiopia
  • Local government


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Working Paper 196
Ethnic favouritism in Kenyan education reconsidered: When a picture is worth more than a thousand regressions
Rebecca Simson and Dr Elliott Green

Does the leader’s ethnicity affect the regional distribution of basic services such as education in Africa? Several influential studies have argued in the affirmative, by using educational attainment levels to show that children who share the ethnicity of the president during their school-aged years gain more years of education. In this paper we revisit this empirical evidence and show that it rests on problematic assumptions. Using Kenya as a test case, we argue that there is no conclusive evidence of ethnic favouritism in primary and secondary education, but rather a marked process of educational convergence among the country’s larger ethnic groups. This evidence matters, as it shapes how we understand the ethnic calculus of leaders.

  • Ethnic Favouritism
  • Kenya
  • Education
  • Ethnicity
  • Distributive Politics
  • Patronage

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Working Paper 195
Roads and Regional Favoritism in Sub-Saharan Africa
Dr Sanghamitra Bandyopadhyay and Dr Elliott Green

We examine the relationship between road quality and regional favouritism in Sub-Saharan Africa.  Roads are an important public good in Africa, not only because of their positive impact on economic development but also because they are a major focus of central government spending.  Using data from up to twelve countries from rounds 3 through 6 of the Afrobarometer on the existence of paved roads and regional, round, and country/round fixed effects, we find a negative effect of having a co-regional president, such that co-regional presidents provide poorer quality roads to their home areas than to other parts of the country.  This result exists at both the highest (provincial) and second-highest (district) level of local government, and is robust to a variety of controls and sub-samples.  We examine qualitative evidence from three countries which suggests that Presidents channel regional favouritism towards their co-ethnic/co-regional elite at the expense of the non-elite.

  • roads
  • infrastructure
  • Africa
  • regional favouritism
  • Afrobarometer
  • regime transitions

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Working Paper 194
Regional Inequalities in African Political Economy: Theory, Conceptualization and Measurement, and Political Effects 
Professor Catherine Boone and Dr Rebecca Simson

There is growing recognition in the economics literature that African countries are characterized by very large economic disparities across subnational regions. Yet the lack of systematic and reliable empirical data at subnational levels of aggregation has made it difficult to explore possible links between these spatial inequalities and political dynamics. This paper reviews some of the empirical literature that attempts to measure and compare spatial inequality within and acorss African countries, and asks whether and how it might be used to bring studies of Africa into dialogue with comparative political economy work on regional inequality in other parts of the world.




Political geography


Political economy

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Working Paper 193
Multi–stakeholder initiatives in Bangladesh after Rana Plaza: global norms and workers’ perspectives 
Naila Kabeer, Lopita Haq and Munshi Sulaiman

The collapse of the Rana Plaza building in Bangladesh in April, 2013 resulting in the death and injury of more than 2000 workers from the country’s export garment industry was one of the worst industrial disasters in recorded history. The tragedy galvanized a range of stakeholders to take action to prevent future disasters.  Prominent in these efforts were two multi-stakeholder agreements which brought together lead buyers, trade unions and NGOs in a concerted effort to improve health and safety conditions in the industry.  These initiatives represent a move away from the buyer-driven compliance-based model that continues to dominate CSR to what is being described as a ‘cooperation-based’ model which brings together multiple stakeholders who affect, and are affected, by the business operations of lead MNCs in global value chains. This paper is concerned with the experiences and perceptions of workers with regard to these new initiatives. It examines competing interpretations of stakeholder analysis within the CSR literature and uses these to frame its key research question: does the shift from compliance to co-operation as the basis of CSR offer a promising way forward or merely a shift in rhetoric?  We use a survey of garment workers to explore the extent to which these initiatives have brought about improvements in wages and working conditions in the garment industry, where progress has been slowest and why. 

Global value chains

Export garment production

Corporate social responsibility

Stakeholder theory

Labour standards

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Working Paper 192
Poverty and Mass Education: the Jews in the Roman Empire
David Aberbach

Since 1789, mass education has been a key factor in development, enablinglarge numbers of people to escape at least the worst effects of poverty.    This paper explores an ancient harbinger of mass education, among Jews in the Roman empire, the basis of Jewish religious education to modern times.   Education became vital to Jewish survival after three disastrous wars against Rome (66-73, 115-117, and 132-135 CE), when the Jewish state was destroyed together with Jerusalem and its Temple, the centre of Jewish religion, as well as the Temple priesthood and Jewish aristocracy, leaving the authority of the Torah to its teachers.   The sacred culture of education came to dominate the lives of most European Jews until 1789  and was instrumental in their ability to make use of educational systems created by newly emerging secular states, mostly in Western Europe after 1789 and in America after 1881, and in their consequent economic improvement.     

History of development

Poverty and education


Roman-Jewish history

Hebrew literature

Modern Jewish social studies 

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Working Paper 191
The Problem and Promise of Coproduction
Geoff Goodwin

Interest in ‘coproduction’ has continued to grow since Elinor Ostrom introduced the concept to the development scholarship two decades ago. The idea that multiple actors often interact to coproduce public goods and services helped shift development thinking away from one-size-fits-all policy prescriptions based on free market principles to a more nuanced position that recognises organizational and institutional diversity. However, while Ostrom’s approach to coproduction provides a useful starting point to think about how states and societies interact to produce public goods and services, it fails to capture important dimensions of the process. The diverse scholarship that has extended and critiqued her work has provided a fuller picture. Yet, important gaps remain. The aim of this paper is to fill some of these holes and push the boundaries of coproduction analysis. Drawing on the case of water coproduction in Ecuador, it highlights three issues that are overlooked or undeveloped in the existing literature: a) the history and ubiquity of coproduction b) the form of state-society relations that emerge through the process and c) the relationship between coproduction, commodification and accumulation.  Through the discussion of these three issues and a critical review of the existing scholarship, the paper will seek to lay the foundation for a critical approach to coproduction analysis. 

  • Coproduction
  • State-society relations
  • Autonomy
  • Water
  • Ecuador

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Working Paper 190
The Uberization of Mozambique's heroin trade
Joseph Hanlon

Mozambique is a significant heroin transit centre and the trade has increased to 40 tonnes or more per year, making it a major export which contributes up to $100 mn per year to the local economy. For 25 years the trade has been controlled by a few local trading families and tightly regulated by senior official of Frelimo, the ruling party, and has been largely ignored by the international community which wanted to see Mozambique as a model pupil. But the position is changing and Mozambique may be coming under more donor pressure. Meanwhile the global move toward the gig economy and the broader corruption of Mozambican police and civil service makes it easier to organise alternative channels, with local people hired by mobile telephone for specific tasks. Mozambique is part of a complex chain which forms the east African heroin network. Heroin goes from Afghanistan to the Makran coast of Pakistan, and is taken by dhow to northern Mozambique. There, the Mozambican traffickers take it off the dhows and move it more than 3000 km by road to Johannesburg, and from there others ship it to Europe.

  • Mozambique
  • Heroin
  • Drugs
  • Transnational crime
  • Smuggling
  • Whatsapp
  • Gig Economy

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Working Paper 189
Beyond Performance Legitimacy: Procedural Legitimacy and Discontent in China
Dr Mayling Birney

Conventional wisdom maintains that the Chinese Communist Party is upheld by performance-based legitimacy.  Yet what about procedural legitimacy?  Analyzing national survey data on China, this study finds that governance procedures affect the legitimacy of subnational levels of governing, if not necessarily that of the national level.  Good governance contributes to trust in local leaders, while corruption not only detracts from trust in local and regional leaders, it increases the public’s willingness to protest.  This reality was not well-incorporated into the core legitimacy-building approach adopted during the Hu-Wen era.  Despite low priority and constrained governance reforms, the main legitimation strategy in the Hu-Wen era remained focused on performance—as growth and equity—even as the public valued procedural legitimacy. While performance legitimacy and traditional legitimacy are also shown to be important phenomena, this study highlights why these are fragile bases for legitimacy, especially considering rising modernization forces and economic slowdown.

  • Legitimacy
  • Trust
  • Governance
  • Corruption
  • Protest
  • Election
  • Modernization
  • China

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Working Paper 188
The Politics of Ethnic Identity in Sub-Saharan Africa
Dr Elliott Green 

Recent literature on ethnic favouritism suggests that Presidents tend to target co-ethnics with patronage, especially in non-democracies.  Coupled with evidence on the role of incentives in driving ethnic identity change, I propose that a change in the ethnic identity of presidents in non-democracies should lead to ethnic switching among citizens towards the new ruling ethnic group.  Using Demographic and Health Survey data from thirteen African countries, I show that change in the ethnic identity of the President leads to a shift of women identifying with the new ruling ethnic group of around 1.5% of the population in non-democracies, or on average 10% of the President’s ethnic group.  This relationship is robust to the use of a variety of control variables and different specifications as well as the use of qualitative case study evidence from Ghana and Guinea; I also suggest it may be an underestimate due to data limitations.

  • Africa
  • Ethnicity
  • Ethnic Identity
  • Democratization
  • Ethno-Regional Favouritism
  • DHS Data

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Working Paper 187
Anything But Safe
Problems with the Protection of Civilians in so-called “safe zones”
Professor David Keen

There is something rather magical in the idea of a ‘safe zone’ - almost as if by declaring an area to be safe one can make it so. Yet it would be more accurate to suggest that ‘safe zones’ are extremely fragile and depend for their existence on the complex and shifting goals of in-country actors and international actors. The history of ‘safe areas’ in Iraq, Bosnia, Rwanda, Sri Lanka and Sudan shows some of the severe limitations in the ‘safety’ that has been offered – reflecting the complex agendas of national and international actors who may perpetrate or tolerate large-scale abuse despite – and often under the cover of – an officially declared ‘safe area’.

  • Safe zone
  • Safe area
  • Protection
  • Civilians
  • Civil war
  • Humanitarian space

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Working Paper 186
Shifting Visions of Property under Competing Political Regimes:Changing Uses of Côte d'Ivoire's 1998 Land Law
Professor Catherine Boone

Land law reform through registration and titling is often viewed as a technocratic, good-governance step toward building market economies and depoliticizing land transactions. In actual practice, however, land registration and titling programs can be highly partisan, bitterly contentious, and carried forward by political logics that diverge strongly from the market-enhancing vision. This paper uses evidence from Côte d'Ivoire to support and develop this claim. In Côte d'Ivoire after 1990, multiple, opposing political logics drove land law reform as it was pursued by successive governments representing rival coalitions of the national electorate. Between the mid-1990s and 2016, different logics -- alternatively privileging user rights, the ethnic land rights of autochthones, and finally a state-building logic -- prevailed in succession as national government crafted and then sought to implement the 1998 land law. The case underscores the extent to which deeply political questions are implicated in land registration and titling policies.

  • Land law 
  • Côte d'Ivoire
  • Governance
  • Democracy
  • Property rights

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Working Paper 185
"Community Land" in Kenya: Policy Making, Social Mobilization, and Struggle Over Legal Entitlement 
Francesca Di Matteo

Stemming from colonial legacy, independent Kenya failed to recognize customary interests in land as possessing force as statutory derived rights. This lies at the heart of the so-called “land question” in Kenya. Moreover, issues related to land rights are perceived as the root causes of conflicts occurring in the 1990s and 2000s. As a result of a crisis recovery process, the 2010 Constitution has embodied the fundaments of land reforms; it has acknowledged “communities” as legally entitled to hold land. The present paper studies decision-making processes via a socio-anthropological approach showing how it contributes to understanding the issues at stake in the reform of Kenya's land tenure system, and the politics surrounding the design of new legislation around “community land”. Through the analysis of interlocking of scales of governance, the paper documents the manner in which local actors participate in, interpret, divert, or exploit policy debates undergoing at the national level. 

  • Community
  • Land reform
  • Kenya
  • Policy process
  • Actors agency
  • Land politics

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Working Paper 184 
JUST LIKE BOLIVIA Structural Change and Political Disintegration in the West 
Prof. Jean-Paul Faguet

The rise of outsider, populist, and nativist politicians across the West is no coincidence, nor a “sign of the times”. It is symptomatic of political party systems disintegrating from the bottom up, as structural changes in the economy and society unmoor them from the major social cleavages that defined political contestation throughout the twentieth century. Predicting how the process will unfold is difficult. But we can open an analytical window into the future by examining the experience of Bolivia, where politics was much less institutionalized than the West, allowing disintegration and realignment to happen much earlier and faster. A first lesson is that left/worker vs. right/capital politics is probably doomed in societies where industrial workers as a self-conscious group have dwindled to a small fraction of the workforce. What will replace it? The current front-runner is the politics of identity, anchored in social cleavages of ethnicity, religion, language, and place. This is a danger not just for affected societies, but for democracy as an ideal, as identity politics revolves much more than class politics around exclusionary categories and zero-sum games. In the UK and Europe, realignment would likely be triggered by Brexit, and the (partial) collapse of the Eurozone. Lastly, while Evo Morales is an experienced politician with deep roots in the social organizations that now define Bolivian politics, Donald Trump is a self-created, top-down, ultimately directionless triumph of social media. Morales transformed Bolivia. Trump will likely destroy much but build little.            

  •                 Political parties              
  •                 Party system collapse              
  •                 Social cleavages              
  •                 Identity politics              
  •                 Political realignment              
  •                 Bolivia              
  •                 the West

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Working Paper 183
On the 'Holy Poor': from the Hebrew Bible to the literature of developing countries, 1945 -            
David Aberbach

The notion of the ‘holy poor’ ceased to figure significantly in the literature of most developed countries after World War II but continues to resonate in countries where poverty is widespread and the Church has grown. This paper explores 1. the origins of the ‘holy poor’ in the Hebrew Bible, and its consequent betrayals and survivals; 2. the discrepancy between the image of the poor in English Poor Law and English literature from Shakespeare to Orwell; and 3. the continuing relevance of Scripture to literature on the poor in post-1945 developing countries, in Nigeria (Achebe), South Africa (Coetzee), Egypt (Mahfouz), and Brazil (Lispector).            

  •                 Poverty               
  •                 English Poor Law              
  •                 Nigeria              
  •                 South Africa              
  •                 Egypt              
  •                 Brazil

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Working Paper 182
The Political Economy of Import Substitution in the 21st Century: The Challenge of Recapturing the Domestic Market in Rwanda            
Pritish Behuria

Import substitution has been marginalised from development policy discourse since the 1970s. This paper examines the Rwandan government’s recent attempt at reintroducing industrial policy with some attention devoted to ‘recapturing the domestic market’ – a term used to replace the ignominy associated with ‘import substitution.’ The paper examines two cases – cement and textiles – where such policies have been recently established in Rwanda.            

  •                 Import substitution               
  •                 Industrial Policy              
  •                 Rwanda              
  •                 Political economy              
  •                 Textiles              
  •                 Cement

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Working Paper 181
The Paradox of Land Reform, Inequality and Development in Colombia*            
Prof. Jean-Paul Faguet, Fabio Sanchez and Marta-Juanita Villaveces      

Over two centuries, Colombia transferred vast quantities of land, equivalent to the entire UK landmass, mainly to landless peasants. And yet Colombia retains one of the highest concentrations of land ownership in the world. Why? We show that land reform’s effects are highly bimodal. Most of Colombia’s 1100+ municipalities lack a landed elite. Here, rural properties grew larger, land inequality and dispersion fell, and development indicators improved. But in municipalities where such an elite does exist and landholding is highly concentrated, such positive effects are counteracted, resulting in smaller rural properties, greater dispersion, and lower levels of development. We show that all of these effects – positive and negative – flow through local policy, which elites distort to benefit themselves. Our evidence implies that land reform’s second-order effects, on the distribution of local power, are more important than its first-order effects on the distribution of land.      

*A follow up Corrigendum was published in 2022 (link below)     

  • Land reform              
  • Inequality              
  • Development              
  • Latifundia              
  • Poverty              
  • Colombia

Download the paper here and view the Corrigendum here


Working Paper 180
REVOLUTION FROM BELOW: The Rise of Local Politics and the Fall of Bolivia's Party Systems            
Prof. Jean-Paul Faguet

For 50 years Bolivia’s political party system was a surprisingly robust component of an otherwise fragile democracy. How did a gas pipeline dispute spark a revolution that overturned the political system, destroyed existing political parties, and re-cast the relationship between state and society?  I examine how the arrival of local government shifted the nation’s politics from a typical 20th century, left-right axis of competition deeply unsuited to a society like Bolivia, to an ethnic and cultural axis more closely aligned with its major social cleavage. This shift made elite parties redundant, and transformed the country’s politics by facilitating the rise of structurally distinct political organizations, and a new indigenous political class. Decentralization was the trigger – not the cause – that made Bolivia’s latent cleavage political, sparking revolution from below.  I suggest a folk theorem of identitarian cleavage, and outline a mechanism linking deep social cleavage to sudden political change.            

  •                 Cleavage theory              
  •                 Political parties              
  •                 Elite politics              
  •                 Decentralisation              
  •                 Latin America              
  •                 Bolivia

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Working Paper 179
Managing Water (In)security in Brazil- Lessons from a Megacity            
Claudia de Andrade Melim-McLeod

This paper discusses the 2013-2015 water crisis in São Paulo from a water governance perspective and seeks to offer an explanation for the crisis by exploring the political and administrative decisions that contributed to it. It aims  to uncover the rationale behind the decision making processes that, combined with drought, led to increasing water scarcity, with a view to understanding how political economy factors  impact water security in a megacity such as São Paulo. It argues that under some circumstances, elections do not promote accountability, but rather may act as an incentive to undermine it. Finally, it makes recommendations with a view to institutionalizing greater accountability, averting future crises and adapting to increased water insecurity under changing climatic conditions.            

  •                 Brazil              
  •                 São Paulo              
  •                 Water governance              
  •                 Water security              
  •                 Governance              
  •                 Climate Change

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Working Paper 178
Land Politics under Kenya's New Constitution: Counties, Devolution, and the National Land Commission       
Catherine Boone (lead author)us, Seth Ouma, James Kabugu Owino, Catherine Gateri, Achiba Gargule, Jackie Klopp, and Ambreena Manji              

Kenya's new constitution, inaugurated in August 2010, altered the institutional structure of the state in complex ways.  The general motivation behind reform was to enhance the political representation of ordinary citizens in general and that of marginalized ethno-regional groups in particular, and to devolve control over resources to the county level.  In the land domain, reform objectives were as explicit and hard-hitting as they were anywhere else. Reform of land law and land administration explicitly aimed at putting an end to the bad old days of overcentralization of power in the hands of an executive branch considered by many to be corrupt, manipulative, and self-serving.

  •                 Kenya             
  •                 Devolution              
  •                 Land laws              
  •                 Reform              
  •                 Governance              
  •                 Rural livelihoods 

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Working Paper 177
What causes inequity in access to publicly funded health services that are supposedly free at the point of use? A case of user fee exemptions for older people in Senegal                                                                                             
Dr Philipa Mladovsky and  Maymouna Bâ

Plan Sésame (PS) was launched in 2006 to provide free access to health services to Senegalese citizens aged 60 and over. As in many countries, this user fee exemption is marred by inequitable implementation. This study seeks to identify underlying causal mechanisms to explain how and why some people were relatively less likely to have access to publicly funded health care. Explanations identified in focus group and interview data are organised into four themes: (i) PS as a poorly implemented and accessed “right” to health care; (ii) PS as a “privilege” reserved for elites; (iii) PS as a “favour” or moral obligation to friends or family members of health workers; and (iv) PS as a “curse” caused by adverse incorporation. These results are analysed through critical realist and social constructivist epistemological lenses, in order to reflect on different interpretations of causality. Within the critical realist interpretation, the results point to a process of social exclusion. However, this interpretation, with its emphasis on objective reality, is contradicted by some local, subjective experiences of inequality and corruption. An alternative social constructionist interpretation of the results is therefore explored; it is argued this may be needed to prevent relatively powerful actors’ versions of the truth from prevailing.            

  •                 Social exclusion               
  •                 Older people               
  •                 Universal health coverage              
  •                 User fees              
  •                 Senegal              
  •                 Critical realism 

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Working Paper 176          
Explaining Aid (In)Effectiveness: The Political Economy of Aid Relationships            
E.A. Brett

International aid plays an ambivalent and contested role in stabilising the global system. It creates asym-metrical relationships between donors and recipients that succeed when their interests can be can harmo-nised but not when they conflict. Donors use their support to persuade sovereign governments to adopt pol-icies they support but cannot always negotiate acceptable settlements with them, producing non-compliance and failed programmes. These relationships and strategies have changed radically since the war in response to changes in the global system, policy paradigms, and crises. We review these processes, treat-ing aid relationships as a structural component of the global system; review the different strategies adopted by donors since the war that culminated in the recent Paris Declaration and Sustainable Development Goals calling for poverty reduction and good governance. We identify the political challenges that donors con-front in addressing these issues, and examine the strengths and weaknesses of their attempts to use of Polit-ical Economy Analysis and New Public Management to address them.                      

  •                 Aid effectiveness               
  •                 Aid Relationships              
  •                 Pro-poor policies              
  •                 Political economy analysis              
  •                 Paris Declaration              
  •                 Fragile states              
  •                 Democratisation              
  •                 Sustainable Development Goals              
  •                 New Public Management

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Working Paper 175
The TPP and the digital trade agenda: digital industrial policy and Silicon Valley’s influence on new trade agreement                                                     
Dr Shamel Azmeh and Dr Christopher Foster

The global economy is undergoing a digital shift that is likely to intensify with rapid growth in digital trade and digital-based restructuring of economic sectors. While trade in “traditional” goods and services is subject to enforceable rules through multiple agreements, key areas relevant to the digital economy are weakly regulated. This has provided policy space for latecomer economies to implement what we call digital industrial policy. Through denying market access, data localization, and technology transfers, some of the digital industrial policy tools represent a threat to US firms that dominated the digital world and to the position of the US economy as a global digital leader. Consequently, underpinned by growing political power of Silicon Valley, the US adopted the “digital trade agenda” in its trade policy particularly in the so-called 21st century trade agreements; the TPP and TTIP. This trade agenda is likely to expand in the future and will have important implications on digital and economic development.                   

  •                 Digital industrial policy               
  •                 Trans-pacific partnership              
  •                 Data localization              
  •                 The digital trade agenda              
  •                 Silicon Valley              
  •                 Digital catching-up

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Working Paper 174
Land and Property Institutions: endogenous origins and equilibrium effects
Prof. Catherine Boone

The idea of the state in Africa as institutionless underlies much contemporary theorizing about African politics. The term "neopatrimonialism" - widely employed in the comparative politics literature to describe African political systems - implies lack of institutionalization, centralization of power in the hands of a supreme ruler, and government through personalized, shifting networks. The counterpart of this idea is institution-less conceptualization of society, and most importantly perhaps, of rural society, which accounts for 50-90% of the total population of almost all African states. This paper reverses this image of structure-less states and societies. It focuses on rural land tenure institutions and argues that they are the product of institution-building strategies of Africa's modern rulers, both colonial and postcolonial. 

  •                 Africa              
  •                 Neopatrimonialism              
  •                 Land-tenure              
  •                 Institution              
  •                 Rural society

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Working Paper 173
Decentralizing for a Deeper Democracy and a More Supple State
Prof. Jean-Paul Faguet, Dr Ashley M. Fox, and Dr Caroline Pöschl

Well-designed decentralization can deepen democracy and strengthen the state in five key ways. Decentralizing below the level of social cleavages should undermine secessionism by peeling away moderates from radical leaders. The "fragmentation of authority" critique is mistaken; decentralization transforms the state from a simpler, brittler command structure to one of multilevel complementarity more robust to local failure. Decentralizing services with low economies of scale, with devolved taxation and bail-outs prohibited, should increase accountability. Lastly, the small scale of local politics allows citizens to become political actors, promoting social learning-by-doing, strengthening political legitimacy and 'democratic suppleness' from the grass-roots upwards.            

  •                 Decentralization              
  •                 State Strength              
  •                 Fragile States              
  •                 Social Learning              
  •                 Government Accountability              

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Working Paper 172
Captured Countryside? Stability and Change in Sub-national Support for African Incumbent Parties
Prof. Catherine Boone and Dr Michael Wahman

Many existing accounts of African elections assume that voters base their electoral decisions on cues and incentives that are anchored in highly stable ethnic cleavage structures. Yet several newer contributions to the study of African electoral politics have questioned the ethno-clientelistic voting thesis and highlighted other determinants of vote choice, such as class, ideology and performance evaluation. Existing research has, however, not dealt with geographic dimensions of electoral dynamics. In this paper we contribute to this literature by studying Government-Opposition Swing (GOS) voting in 7 African countries, 28 elections and 1900 parliamentary constituencies. We show that the likelihood of GOS differs from urban to rural, and across different types of rural constituencies. GOS is significantly more common in urban areas and in highly populated rural areas, but significantly less common in the president’s home region and in sparsely populated rural regions. The results suggest that electoral and voting dynamics vary across space, even within a single country. We draw inferences about how political and economic geography shapes prospects for autonomous vote choice and performance-related voting.                     

  •                 Africa              
  •                 Elections              
  •                 Democracy              
  •                 Voting              
  •                 Urban-Rural              
  •                 Political Geography

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Working Paper 171
Building Security, Justice and Public Authority in Weak States: contested transitions, unstable social orders and institutional hybridity
Prof. E.A. Brett

Orthodox theorists assume that security and justice, as well as other essential services should be provided by modern state and private institutions in Late Developing Countries, but they provide very inadequate cover in most weal states and almost none in fragile or conflict states where local communities need to rely on often reinvented ‘traditional’ institutions to maintain order and create livelihoods. These coexist and interact in complex and often contradictory ways with modern institutions creating dualistic societies whose institutional arrangements and evolutionary processes can only be understood by developing a theoretical apparatus that not only obliges us to identify the principles that govern both modern and traditional systems, but also the way in which they co-exist and co-evolve together to produce unique hybrid solutions and developmental trajectories. We show how this approach allows us to develop a convincing historically based analysis of the problems involved in creating political order in weak states, and show how Malinowski’s ‘three column anthropology’ (1945/61) provides us with a powerful analytical tool when we do so.                   

  •                 Political Order              
  •                 Security and Justice              
  •                 Conflict States              
  •                 Dualism              
  •                 Hybrid Institutions              
  •                 Malinowski

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Working Paper 170
Instrumental Incoherence in Institutional Reform: Decentralization and a Structural Solution to Political Exigency
Prof. Jean-Paul Faguet and Dr Mahvish Shami

If the effects of institutional reforms are long-term and unpredictable, why do leaders undertake them? We analyze reforms where the incentives of agents pursuing a change, and the effects of that change, are highly asymmetric in time and policy dimensions. We examine detailed evidence from decentralization in Bolivia and Pakistan, and explain very different outcomes with a simple game-theoretic model of the incentives and interactions amongst ruling and opposition parties, and civil society, over multiple periods. Politicians decentralize to solve a discrete, often short-term political problem. But decentralization is neither short-term nor discrete, but rather a deep change in the structure of public finance and authority with long-term effects on government, politics and society. Understanding the original problem is key to understanding the characteristics of the reform implemented, as well as its ultimate success or failure. Our analysis likely extends to a broader class of deep reforms with long-term consequences.            

  •                 Decentralization              
  •                 Pakistan              
  •                 Bolivia              
  •                 Institutional Reform

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Working Paper 169
Transformation from Below in Bolivia and Bangladesh: Decentralization, Local Governance, and Systemic Change
Prof. Jean-Paul Faguet

I examine decentralization through the lens of the local dynamics it unleashed in the much-noted case of Bolivia and the less-noted case of Bangladesh. I argue that the national effects of decentralization are largely the sum of its local-level effects. Hence to understand decentralization we must first understand how local government works. This implies analysing not only decentralization, but also democracy, from the bottom up.  Beginning with Bolivia, I explore the deep economic and institutional determinants of government quality in two extremes of municipal performance. From this I derive a model of local government responsiveness as the product of political openness and substantive competition. The quality of politics, in turn, emerges endogenously as a joint product of the lobbying and political engagement of local firms/interests, and the organizational density and ability of civil society. The model explains the micro-foundations of good vs. bad local government performance, and hence of Bolivia’s overall decentralization success.  I then test these ideas using qualitative data from Bangladesh. The evidence shows that civic organizations worked with NGOs and local governments to effect transformative change from the grass-roots upwards – not just to public budgets and outputs, but to the underlying behaviours and ideas that underpin social development.  In the aggregate, these effects were powerful.  Key development indicators show Bangladesh leap-frogging past much wealthier India between 1990 and 2015.  The combination of tests shows that the model generalizes to very different institutional, cultural, and economic contexts.                   

  •                 Democracy              
  •                 Decentralization              
  •                 Local government              
  •                 Good governance              
  •                 Civil society              
  •                 Bolivia              
  •                 Bangladesh

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Working Paper 168
The Democratic Contribution of Participatory Budgeting
Prof. Yves Cabannes (UCL) and Dr Barbara Lipietz (UCL)

Participatory Budgeting (PB) has emerged as one of the major innovations in participatory governance for local management and local democracy world-wide. With more than 3,000 experiences recorded in over forty countries, PB is gradually changing the living conditions of increasing numbers of citizens across the world. Highly heterogeneous in processes and underlying ambitions, PB in its diversity provides a challenging alternative to the New Public Management-informed route to public sector reform. In most cases, PB has positively contributed to administrative modernization and other 'good governance' imperatives, including bringing substance to decentralization policies. In its most radical incarnations, PB has moreover contributed to inversing established spatial, social and political priorities in cities, in favour of the more deprived.

  •                 Participatory budgeting              
  •                 Governance              
  •                 Democratization              
  •                 Spatial justice              
  •                 Local governments

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Working Paper 159
Reframing African Political Economy: Clientelism, Rents and Accumulation as Drivers of Capitalist Transformation
Dr Hazel Gray and Dr Lindsay Whitfield

This paper examines the underlying assumptions about socioeconomic transformation within the dominant approaches to the political economy of African countries. We argue that the dominant frameworks within African Studies miss important aspects of contemporary processes of socioeconomic change. As an alternative, we argue that political settlements theory provides a better theoretical framework through which to understand contemporary African political economy. We set out the major assumptions and trace the intellectual landscape in which to locate the Political Settlement approach in a way which highlights the distinctions with existing dominant approaches in African studies. The paper then goes on to explain the underlying assumptions about capitalist transformation and the drivers of clientelism embedded within a political settlements approach. We explain how variations in politics and clientelism stem from variations in the distribution of power across countries and how these variations affect the process of capitalist transformation. The paper outlines the implications of the Political Settlements approach for the study of African political economy. It argues that there is not one African political economy, because the distribution of power is quite diverse across African countries; rather, what has accounted for many similarities in African experiences is to be found in the size and capabilities of domestic capitalists and the historical construction of relations between domestic capitalists and the state over time. In concluding, we propose the contours of a new research agenda based on the Political Settlements approach.            

  •                 Socioeconomic transformation               
  •                 Clientelism               
  •                 Africa               
  •                 Political Economy               
  •                 Neo-patrimony 

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Working Papers from 2000-2013 can be viewed here.