IDEAS home Printed from
   My bibliography  Save this paper

Designing Reforms: Problems, Solutions, and Politics


  • Grindle, Merilee

    (Harvard U)


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.

Suggested Citation

  • Grindle, Merilee, 2001. "Designing Reforms: Problems, Solutions, and Politics," Working Paper Series rwp01-020, Harvard University, John F. Kennedy School of Government.
  • Handle: RePEc:ecl:harjfk:rwp01-020

    Download full text from publisher

    File URL:
    Download Restriction: no

    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Mariano Tommasi & Andres Velasco, 1996. "Where are we in the political economy of reform?," Journal of Economic Policy Reform, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 1(2), pages 187-238.
    2. 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.
    3. 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 1146-1155, December.
    4. Alberto Alesina & Roberto Perotti, 1994. "The Political Economy of Budget Deficits," NBER Working Papers 4637, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    5. Alesina, Alberto & Drazen, Allan, 1991. "Why Are Stabilizations Delayed?," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 81(5), pages 1170-1188, December.
    6. Cardoso, Eliana & Helwege, Ann, 1992. "Below the line: Poverty in Latin America," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 20(1), pages 19-37, January.
    7. Grindle, Merilee S., 1997. "Divergent cultures? When public organizations perform well in developing countries," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 25(4), pages 481-495, January.
    8. 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.
    9. Harberger, Arnold C, 1993. "Secrets of Success: A Handful of Heroes," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 83(2), pages 343-350, May.
    10. 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.
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)

    More about this item


    Access and download statistics


    All material on this site has been provided by the respective publishers and authors. You can help correct errors and omissions. When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:ecl:harjfk:rwp01-020. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (). General contact details of provider: .

    If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

    If CitEc recognized a reference but did not link an item in RePEc to it, you can help with this form .

    If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your RePEc Author Service profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

    Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

    IDEAS is a RePEc service hosted by the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis . RePEc uses bibliographic data supplied by the respective publishers.