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Designing Reforms: Problems, Solutions, and Politics

  • Grindle, Merilee

    (Harvard U)

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    Stimulated by the extensive policy changes introduced in developing countries in the period after 1980, a large literature has demonstrated that the success or failure of reform is profoundly influenced by power relationships among affected interests, executives and legislatures, leaders and party elites, and national governments and international institutions. Most studies demonstrate that proposals for policy or institutional change are generated by the executive rather than by legislatures, political parties, interest groups, or think tanks. Despite the evidence that reformers within government generate most proposals, their importance to the political economy of reform remains understudied and underappreciated. Current research generally tells us more about the correlation of factors or events that surround policy introduction or defeat and about the behavior of winners and losers than it does about how the contents of reform initiatives are hammered out and taken up by national decision makers. This paper analyzes three decentralization initiatives that provide insight into how public problems become defined and solutions are posed for national political agendas. In these cases, the work of the design teams was critical to explaining how and why the reforms took the shape they did and what conflicts they evoked when they were introduced by political leaders. This paper indicates that who is appointed to design teams, what tasks they are asked to take on, and how they carry out these tasks are important determinants of the contents of reform initiatives and the kinds of conflicts that will surround the introduction of new policies and institutions.

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    Paper provided by Harvard University, John F. Kennedy School of Government in its series Working Paper Series with number rwp01-020.

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    Date of creation: May 2001
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    Handle: RePEc:ecl:harjfk:rwp01-020
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    1. Alberto Alesina & Roberto Perotti, 1994. "The Political Economy of Budget Deficits," NBER Working Papers 4637, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    2. Alberto Alesina & Allan Drazen, 1989. "Why are Stabilizations Delayed?," NBER Working Papers 3053, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    3. Mariano Tommasi, 1995. "Where are we in the Political Economy of Reform?," UCLA Economics Working Papers 733, UCLA Department of Economics.
    4. Grindle, Merilee S., 1997. "Divergent cultures? When public organizations perform well in developing countries," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 25(4), pages 481-495, January.
    5. Fernandez, Raquel & Rodrik, Dani, 1991. "Resistance to Reform: Status Quo Bias in the Presence of Individual-Specific Uncertainty," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 81(5), pages 1146-55, December.
    6. Maria Victoria Murillo, 1996. "Latin American Unions and the Reform of Social Service Delivery Systems: Institutional Constraints and Policy Choice," Research Department Publications 4044, Inter-American Development Bank, Research Department.
    7. Cardoso, Eliana & Helwege, Ann, 1992. "Below the line: Poverty in Latin America," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 20(1), pages 19-37, January.
    8. Harberger, Arnold C, 1993. "Secrets of Success: A Handful of Heroes," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 83(2), pages 343-50, May.
    9. de la Jara, Jorge Jimenez & Bossert, Thomas, 1995. "Chile's health sector reform: lessons from four reform periods," Health Policy, Elsevier, vol. 32(1-3), pages 155-166.
    10. Psacharopoulos, G. & Morley, S. & Fiszbein, A. & Lee, H. & Wood, B., 1997. "Poverty and Income Distribution in Latin America: The Story of the 1980s," Papers 351, World Bank - Technical Papers.
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