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Developmental states in the new millennium - Launch of Development Policy Review Theme Issue

Time (GMT +01) 12:00 13:15

James Putzel, Director of the Crisis States Research Centre, LSE
Susan Loughhead, Team Leader, Effective States Team, DFID


David Booth, Research Fellow, ODI and Editor, Development Policy Review

1. David Booth, in the chair, opened the launch and expressed his pleasure in considering and publishing a special issue on developmental states. He introduced the panel members.

Susan Loughhead

2. Susan Loughead outlined that her presentation would be both a personal reflection and overview of current DFID thinking on developmental states and why the publication of this special issue is so timely.

3. Different political systems are taking different directions and witnessing different types of development results. For example, China, Brazil, Botswana, Vietnam and India have different political systems but are all developmental states according to the helpful definition provided by the special issue of DPR. Certain states are adopting other types of political systems and directions and are stagnating.

4. Different development paradigms exist. For example, the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), peace and security agenda, democracy, voice and power, political freedoms, etc. These contribute to the DFID White Paper, where the emphasis is on freedom from (derived from Amartya Sen's work on material deprivation) and freedom to (with a focus on choice).

5. These different development paths and paradigms have implications for choices, trade-offs and sequencing:

i. Growth as a precondition of development: questions about the extent to which inequality and social inclusion in the growth process matter? General recognition that growth is underplayed in the DFID White Paper (over-emphasis on governance).
ii. MDGs: a precondition for voice; focus on removing constraints; quite welfarist in approach.
iii. Government capacity-building: move from focus on governance capacity of institutions to a much broader understanding of how the development process happens. But how should this be integrated with the MDGs and the growth story?
iv. Political systems and democratic politics: is this the political system that will offer poor people the best route out of poverty?

6. Swift shift of external players on how we think about development (which is driven by political agendas):

i. Cold War and democracy as the counter to communism
ii. Post Berlin: democracy part of development agenda - democracy promotion is seen as legitimised activity for external players.
iii. Reality check in late 1990s: is democracy really delivering for poor people? There is a chequered global picture around this - the number of democracies has not increased, and some democratic systems are quite shallow and have not delivered for poor people.
iv. Democracy itself has been undermined by the War on Terror and Guantanamo Bay. There is also evidence that some regimes cultivate democratic forms because they know that 'we' like it.

7. Local 'development' processes: do we know where to look? For exmaple, reflections on gender and power relations: to what extent do we understand where step changes have occurred in power relations from a historical perspective and what can this tell us about how we think about states today?

8. Current DFID pre-occupations:

i. State-building and democratic politics.
ii. Growth, governance and the MDGs.
iii. Ambitious agenda: Moving from aid relationship, to development relationship, to foreign-policy relations.

9. Getting there:

i. Joining up government: for example, the joint Whitehall departments on trade.
ii. Considering sequencing.
iii. But how can we match our ambitions to the developmental states agenda? How to shift from being a project factory to an organisation that can influence global trends and at the same time the nature of the state at the country level? Perhaps existing instruments don't necessarily match these two objectives. Are our ambitions greater than our current reach?

James Putzel

10. James Putzel welcomed this publication from ODI and Blackwell, stating that it is timely and thought provoking. The contributions echo a lot of the concerns of the Crisis States Centre at LSE, particularly in relation to rebuilding states after war.

11. Discussions in development policy circles about post-war state-building have been dominated by propositions for good governance and poverty reduction, but devoid of hard facts about security and restoring and promoting economic production and wealth creation - recentring growth.

12. Good governance has been about competitive electoral contests, decentralisation, anti-corruption, pro-accountability, pro-transparency, macroeconomic stability. For example, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) research: every armed political organisation in election promoting themselves as parties of 'good governance'. In part, this is the result of donor discourse on good governance.

13. Poverty reduction has been generally focused on health, education, livelihood enhancing programmes, and sometimes pro-poor growth. But less about promoting agricultural production, manufacturing and internal economic integration.

14. The development community is surprisingly halting in dealing with the hard nose realities of creating security beyond support for disarmament, reintegration, etc. Not enough confrontation with what it means to develop security or credible monopolies over large-scale means of violence. Often this is not very savoury (as it might involve impunity for former combatants, for example) but when it is not achieved (e.g. DRC) it is very difficult to pursue the rest of the development agenda.

15. Concern for promotion of democracy and poverty reduction has a sound normative basis and sometimes a real resonance with countries emerging out of war, but is not adequate for state-building and kick-starting development and sometimes might be self-defeating.

16. Developmental state experience: What are the lessons (especially from north, east and south-east Asia)? Does it have any relevance in the post-war states in Africa? While nothing may be directly transferable (very different colonial histories, regional economies that were different and time-bound international contexts that were different) much can inform current agenda in post-war states:

i. State-building requires the establishment of an effective monopoly over the means of large-scale violence that exist across most of a states territory (especially parts of the territory that are demographically important and productively important). In all developmental states establishing an integrated military that eliminated significant armed challenges within the territory was paramount to subsequent development efforts. For example, in Rwanda this has been crucial, and similarly in Uganda, where success has been achieved by cordoning off areas where the military does not have credible force.
ii. States need to establish an elite bargain to ensure that the elites buy into the state and its institutions. In the development states, this was achieved by coercion and positive incentives (sticks and carrots). The elite bargain often has unsavoury implications (impunity for past crimes, protection of elite privileges and assets) but it is crucial to ensure that there are no armed challenges to the state. This elite bargain has seldom been achieved by competitive democratic politics. For example, in Malaysia, limited democratic politics allowed the elite bargain to consolidate over time. In states affected by war, unless the elites agree on the general rules of the game in the political and economic arena, electoral competitions lead to conflict.
iii. Centralised elite bargains need some checks to limit despotic power. These checks can come from the international community (though experience in Iraq has demonstrated that this may not be very effective these days) or credible domestic threats (for example mobilised rural populations in South Korea, Taiwan and Indonesia).
iv. The promotion of development by elites is crucial to sustaining elite bargains. In the developmental state, there is the presence of a political organisation with a programme and a vision for development.
v. The elite bargain of the developmental state is built around production and growth.

17. Much of the policy prescriptions for post-war states and other developing countries today is built around welfare, sound economic management, liberal trading regimes and international integration.

18. There is much less focus on internal economic integration. But for the development state, internal economic integration is crucial.

19. If agriculture was central to development in east, north and south-east Asian development, it is absolutely crucial in Africa. It has not received adequate attention, though there is increasing discussion about agricultural production systems in Africa:

i. Some of this may not be pro-poor - some might be pro-rich strategies.
ii. Must address property rights in agricultural lands.

20. The focus on agricultural production is not only about enhancing production but also generating peace. It lies at the heart of the conflicts in Rwanda, DRC, Uganda, Afghanistan and Colombia. The peace-enhancing role of agricultural reforms and production-enhancing programmes have a lot to do with creating stakeholders with an interest in the state. This can act as a check on the despotic potential of the type of elite bargains we see in developmental states. Agriculture is not a solution alone, but needs to be part of the solution to promoting development and consolidating peace.

21. Hypothesis that needs testing: that the success of RPF in Rwanda is analogous with the success of Taiwan. RPF who returned and established power in the wake of the genocide had few ties with the land, considerable education, extensive business networks in exile, a shared ethos and faced collectively monumental threats to their existence. Rwanda is making impressive progress and, while it is not a development state, it is developing through a similar type of dynamic - tough measures on security, limited political competition and a focus on production.


During the discussion, the following selected points were raised:

- Susan Loughhead asked whether there are regularities in forms of development and development performance? What is the place of democratic competition in all of this? James Putzel suggested that there are some regularities at a certain level and maybe not the ones that have been conventional in recent discussions of governance.

- There are no easy answers to the promotion of developmental states. There are embedded tensions and trade-offs that we might not want to face (for example, the place of democracy in developmental states' agendas).

- Economic growth and jobs are critically important. DFID has been anti-growth, but public opinion has shown that people want jobs. Susan Loughhead acknowledged that involving the poor in growth is crucial, but the challenge for DFID is to consider the level of inequality and poverty they are prepared to allow for. James Putzel stated that, from a developmental sense, growth is good and this is sometimes forgotten in the poverty reduction rhetoric. It was also noted that the emphasis now being placed on governance is a healthy corrective to pure emphasis on economics, and that it is essential to bring back the state in many of these contexts - the state needs to enable growth in a way that 'trickles down'.

- Developmental states have vision, leadership and a sense of national purpose. They are very clear about what they want and go for it, and donors get 'chucked out' if they are not in line with this (for example, Vietnam and India).

- Agriculture should be central to development policy in Africa. It was noted that Blair's Africa Commission hardly focused on agriculture. But it was also flagged that demography, and issues relating to climate change and the environment, must also be considered in the context of the economic growth debate.


The developmental state is back at the centre of international policy debate. Building states that work is increasingly recognised as crucial for achieving development progress. This special theme issue of Development Policy Review (DPR 25 (5), September 2007, edited by Verena Fritz and Alina Rocha Menocal) seeks to promote a discussion about the conditions under which more developmental states may emerge in today’s poor countries – and what may be holding them back.

While closely related to the governance agenda, thinking about the developmental state is more strongly rooted in comparative history and evidence-based analytical theory and hence less value-laden and prescriptive. There are rich academic literatures on the state and its underlying political economy in different regions of the developing world. However, their relevance to today’s policy concerns have remained relatively unexplored and few attempts have been made to use them as building blocks for development policy. This theme issue intends to help fill this gap. Drawing on the contributions made by leading academics and practitioners to an ODI meeting series in 2006, the issue seeks to inform the process of rethinking how more effective and responsive states can be (re)built – and what the role of the international assistance community may be in that process.