Policies, Politics | Poor Economics
Chapter 10
Policies, Politics

Even the most well-intended and well-thought-out policies may not have an impact if they are not implemented properly. Unfortunately, the gap between intention and implementation can be quite wide. 

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Even the most well-intended and well-thought-out policies may not have an impact if they are not implemented properly.
Corruption, or the simple dereliction of duty, creates massive inefficiencies. Many people believe that until political institutions are fixed, countries cannot really develop.
There may be no natural process to completely eliminate bad institutions. Institutional change from the outside is probably an illusion. But it is not clear that things will eventually fix themselves.
However, fighting corruption appears to be possible to some extent even without fixing the larger institutions. Relatively straightforward interventions, such as threatening audits or publicizing corruption results have shown impressive success.
Often, small changes make important differences. In Brazil, switching to a pictorial ballot enfranchised a large number of poor and less educated adults. The politicians they elected were more likely to target their policies to the poor.
In China, even imperfect elections led to policies that were more favorable to the poor.
In India, when quotas for women on village councils in India were enacted, women leaders invested in public goods preferred by women.
Policies are not completely determined by politics. Good policies (sometimes) happen in bad political environments. For example, Suharto built tens of thousand of schools in Indonesia.
And bad policies happen in good environments, because what the government is trying to do is hard: generally, the government tries to convince people to do something they would not like to do, like wearing a helmet on a motorcycle! The opportunities for corruption are rife.
Bad policies are often a product of the three I's: ideology, ignorance, inertia. For example, nurses in India, whose job description is so overwhelming that they have decided that they cannot possibly do it, and instead do nothing.
Careful understanding of constraints can lead to policies and institutions that are better designed, and less likely to be perverted by corruption. Changes will be incremental, but they will sustain and build on themselves, and perhaps even improve the political process.

Political Economy studies

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Policies, Politics

Even the most well-intended and well-thought-out policies may not have an impact if they are not implemented properly. Unfortunately, the gap between intention and implementation can be quite wide. 

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Extended Body: 

Even the most well-intended and well-thought-out policies may not have an impact if they are not implemented properly. Unfortunately, the gap between intention and implementation can be quite wide.

The many failings of governments are often given as the reason good policies cannot really be made to work. Is there any hope for poor countries that are often still living under the “long shadow” of extractive colonial institutions. Countries that suffer from corruption and capture by the elite? Or should they - can they - be rescued from themselves?

Politics, we feel, is not that different from anything else. Well-designed incremental changes in the rules of the game, often implemented at the most local level, can make real differences on the ground. And although one never knows when the spark will come, local progress can pave the way to a quiet revolution.

 

Spotlight 

Esther Duflo / GCD Sabot Lecture / Policies and Politics: Can Evidence Play a Role in the Fight against Poverty?

Prof. Esther Duflo presented the Sabot Lecture at the Centre for Global Development. CGD president Nancy Birdsall hosted and served as moderator for the discussion following the talk.

Even the most well-intended and well-thought-out policies may not have an impact if they are not implemented properly. Unfortunately, the gap between intention and implementation can be quite wide.

The many failings of governments are often given as the reason good policies cannot really be made to work. Is there any hope for poor countries that are often still living under the “long shadow” of extractive colonial institutions. Countries that suffer from corruption and capture by the elite? Or should they - can they - be rescued from themselves?

Politics, we feel, is not that different from anything else. Well-designed incremental changes in the rules of the game, often implemented at the most local level, can make real differences on the ground. And although one never knows when the spark will come, local progress can pave the way to a quiet revolution.

 

Spotlight 

Esther Duflo / GCD Sabot Lecture / Policies and Politics: Can Evidence Play a Role in the Fight against Poverty?

Prof. Esther Duflo presented the Sabot Lecture at the Centre for Global Development. CGD president Nancy Birdsall hosted and served as moderator for the discussion following the talk.