03 January 2012

Political Economy is Hard

2 big political announcements in South Sudan this week (umm, this was written on 31 Oct 2011) illustrate how difficult it is as an outsider to even begin to understand local politics.

The respected Minister for Civil Service Reform Awut Deng Acuil has resigned for reasons that have not been made clear, and top civil servant Aggrey Tisa Sabuni has been appointed Economic Adviser to the President (from Undersecretary at the Ministry of Finance. Congratulations Tisa!). The implications of these two moves are probably significant, but there just isn't any English-language media analysis.

Doing "political economy analysis" in the UK simply means picking up almost any newspaper on a regular basis. What is a donor supposed to do when they can't do that?

So the implications of this:
(a) if we believe that understanding politics is important for effective policy design, and
(b) we generally aren't very good at understanding politics in developing countries

---> we should probably go for simple interventions with either very high benefit-cost ratios, or with low dependence on understanding local systems.

Sidenote: I did a bit of googling for some analysis of the last Nigerian budget. Well done to PWC for coming up with something. But really, the rest of the whole entire world, we don't think its worth bothering to figure out some way of funding someone to take a really hard serious look at the spending decisions of the government of the most populous country in Africa, and then get surprised when things blow up??

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