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Politician-Proof Policy?

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  • Robinson James A.

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Abstract

In this paper I discuss the nature of the political constraints that the World Bank faces in delivering basic services to the poor. The main problem arises because the Bank has to work through domestic governments which have political aims different from helping the poor. The conceptual approach attractive to economists and central to much recent thinking in the World Bank, particularly the 2004 World Development Report, is the notion of politician proofing". Given that political incentives derail good policies, how can those policies be politicianproofed? I argue that evidence and theory suggests that such an approach is ultimately futile, basically because we simply do not understand the relevant political incentives. I discuss alternative policy strategies and conclude that what is required is a much more fundamental assessment of what type of political equilibria deliver services to the poor. As I illustrate with the case of Botswana: once the political equilibrium is right, everything goes right and politician proofing is redundant.In this paper I discuss the nature of the political constraints that the World Bank faces in delivering basic services to the poor. The main problem arises because the Bank has to work through domestic governments which have political aims different from helping the poor. The conceptual approach attractive to economists and central to much recent thinking in the World Bank, particularly the 2004 World Development Report, is the notion of "politician proofing". Given that political incentives derail good policies, how can those policies be politicianproofed? I argue that evidence and theory suggests that such an approach is ultimately futile, basically because we simply do not understand the relevant political incentives. I discuss alternative policy strategies and conclude that what is required is a much more fundamental assessment of what type of political equilibria deliver services to the poor. As I illustrate with the case of Botswana: once the political equilibrium is right, everything goes right and politician proofing is redundant."

Suggested Citation

  • Robinson James A., 2005. "Politician-Proof Policy?," REVISTA DESARROLLO Y SOCIEDAD, UNIVERSIDAD DE LOS ANDES-CEDE, January.
  • Handle: RePEc:col:000090:003355
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    File URL: http://economia.uniandes.edu.co/revistadys/Articulo55_5.pdf
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. James A. Robinson & Daron Acemoglu, 2000. "Political Losers as a Barrier to Economic Development," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 90(2), pages 126-130, May.
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    Cited by:

    1. Nihan Akyelken, 2011. "Distance in the Existence of Political Pathologies: Rationalized Transport Policies and Trade," Chapters,in: Transportation and Economic Development Challenges, chapter 4 Edward Elgar Publishing.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    politician;

    JEL classification:

    • D02 - Microeconomics - - General - - - Institutions: Design, Formation, Operations, and Impact
    • D72 - Microeconomics - - Analysis of Collective Decision-Making - - - Political Processes: Rent-seeking, Lobbying, Elections, Legislatures, and Voting Behavior
    • H5 - Public Economics - - National Government Expenditures and Related Policies
    • O19 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development - - - International Linkages to Development; Role of International Organizations

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