IDEAS home Printed from
MyIDEAS: Log in (now much improved!) to save this paper

Making public sector reforms work : political and economic contexts, incentives, and strategies

Listed author(s):
  • Bunse, Simone
  • Fritz, Verena
Registered author(s):

    Supporting effective public sector reform is a major challenge that the World Bank and other agencies and stakeholders have been grappling with. It is increasingly recognized that political economy factors play a crucial role. However, beyond this broad proposition, specific questions arise: What country contexts are more/less propitious for public sector reforms and what reforms are likely to succeed where? And can more explicitly taking political economy challenges into account help to pursue public sector reforms even in less propitious contexts? This paper addresses these issues in two ways: first, it draws on the existing literature to identify key propositions about factors that can trigger or facilitate public sector reforms, and those that tend to work against (successful) reforms. Second, it investigates the experience of World Bank public sector operations over the decade 2000-2010. It finds that governments in many developing countries face incentives to initiate public sector reforms, but that at the implementation stage, political costs frequently outweigh potential gains; and hence reforms are abandoned or left to wither. Real breakthroughs have been achieved in countries experiencing major structural shifts and those having political leadership committed to higher-level goals. The review of operations shows that successful projects are significantly more widespread than the literature would lead to assume. Furthermore, it provides tentative evidence that investing in understanding political economy drivers has been associated with better project performance. Key implications are the need to differentiate between country contexts more clearly ex ante, concentrate more on reform implementation during windows of opportunity that are typically of limited duration, and design reforms with a clear plan of engagement with stakeholder incentives.

    If you experience problems downloading a file, check if you have the proper application to view it first. In case of further problems read the IDEAS help page. Note that these files are not on the IDEAS site. Please be patient as the files may be large.

    File URL:
    Download Restriction: no

    Paper provided by The World Bank in its series Policy Research Working Paper Series with number 6174.

    in new window

    Date of creation: 01 Aug 2012
    Handle: RePEc:wbk:wbrwps:6174
    Contact details of provider: Postal:
    1818 H Street, N.W., Washington, DC 20433

    Phone: (202) 477-1234
    Web page:

    More information through EDIRC

    References listed on IDEAS
    Please report citation or reference errors to , or , if you are the registered author of the cited work, log in to your RePEc Author Service profile, click on "citations" and make appropriate adjustments.:

    in new window

    1. Devarajan, Shantayanan & Khemani, Stuti & Walton, Michael, 2011. "Civil society, public action and accountability in Africa," Policy Research Working Paper Series 5733, The World Bank.
    2. Eduardo Lora, 2007. "The State of State Reform in Latin America," World Bank Publications, The World Bank, number 6642, December.
    3. Arturo Galindo & Carlos Scartascini & J. Mark Payne & Robert Daughters & Alberto Melo & Koldo Echebarría & Eduardo Lora & Gabriel Filc & Alejandro Micco & Alberto E. Chong & Ugo Panizza & Juan Benavid, 2007. "The State of State Reform in Latin America," IDB Publications (Books), Inter-American Development Bank, number 59578 edited by Eduardo Lora, February.
    4. repec:idb:brikps:59578 is not listed on IDEAS
    5. N. Lesca, 2010. "Introduction," Post-Print halshs-00640602, HAL.
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)

    This item is not listed on Wikipedia, on a reading list or among the top items on IDEAS.

    When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:wbk:wbrwps:6174. 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: (Roula I. Yazigi)

    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 references are entirely missing, you can add them using this form.

    If the full references list an item that is present in RePEc, but the system did not link 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 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.

    This information is provided to you by IDEAS at the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis using RePEc data.