The Political Economy of Bureaucratic Effectiveness: Evidence from Local Rural Development Officials in India
47 Pages Posted: 24 Oct 2017
Date Written: October 23, 2017
Government development programs often founder because of a lack of effectiveness on the part of local implementing bureaucracy. What determines local bureaucratic effectiveness? Public choice arguments emphasize incentives and monitoring, while theories of state capacity highlight the importance of organizational autonomy from excess political interference. Drawing on a nationwide survey of the capacity and time usage of local rural development officials in India, this paper provides evidence for a different pathology: local bureaucracies are chronically under-resourced relative to their responsibilities because politicians make these decisions (inefficiently). We provide quantitative evidence that: i) inadequate personnel and resources force rural development officers to multi-task excessively; ii) this inability to specialize has an adverse impact on the performance of development programs. Factors affecting the electoral incentives of politicians to invest in local state capacity, including political alignment and fragmentation, account for much of the variation in local bureaucratic resources and therefore behavior and effectiveness.
Keywords: Bureaucracy; Political Economy
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