"Any way the wind blows" - Queen, Bohemian Rhapsody
Policy, Theory and Practice
Earlier in the year I started a distance course via the School of Oriental Studies (SOAS) of the University of London. My 1st subject was on multinational enterprises which was interesting and very different from the usual “development” stuff I have dealt with. My final essay was on financialization, an interesting and complex issue.
I’m now doing global public policy. We’ve just started, so it’s fairly theoretical at this point. Having worked for a range of institutions, including the Commission, some of it seems familiar, but some of it fairly far.
Several articles discussed the impact of the “Washington Consensus” and international donors. Essentially, international donors are imposing policies on developing countries. Having worked in development cooperation, I’m much less convinced that donors have so much influence on policies in developing countries (even the “donor dependent” countries). One article by Kown et al., “Shaping the national social protection strategy in Cambodia: Global influence and national article”, gives an interesting overview of the “policy dynamics” regarding Cambodia’s development of its social protection strategy. It’s clear that donors had influence, running projects, with technical assistance, etc… As the author states, “The article has pointed out that, in introducing the NSPS, the Cambodian government relied heavily on technical and financial support from global agencies.” Nevertheless, the article goes on to conclude that, “… global influence without substantial financial commitment had only limited impact on the national government. The national government, despite their eagerness for policy ownership, would rather have others take financial responsibility.” While it is clear that donors play a role, financing one thing and not another, and clearly push language and international agendas, it remains unclear to me how much this impacts real policy and policies on the ground. I remember the cotton budget support program for Benin that was supposed to privatize the cotton sector, but in reality just gave the monopoly from the state to a friend of the president who then became president… The IMF and World Bank are the point of the spear of the Washington Consensus, but in most African countries they’re still pushing many of the same structural reforms of the past 40 years (electricity sector, harbor, road maintenance, etc…) If policy only exists on paper and has no impact in the real world, is it a policy?
Niamey, Niger, 01.11.2018
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Online encampment of A. S. Barry. Disparate and not-so-disparate thoughts on international relations, development, writing, and life.