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The political economy of roads: an overview and analysis of existing literature

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Written by Joseph Wales, Leni Wild

Roads are a key element in nation building – crucial to expanding governance, ensuring national security and developing a national market for goods and labour. Their role in poverty reduction is also increasingly recognised – allowing governments to expand service provision into remote regions and linking rural farmers into national food markets.

However, despite considerable spending in road and infrastructure aid, we still find road networks in many developing countries to be poorly maintained, vulnerable to climate events and failing to link with poor rural populations.

This piece draws on literature from a range of countries and contexts to provide a structured political economy analysis in relation to the roads sector. It explores how a variety of governance conditions interact with the particular characteristics of the road sector to facilitate or impede positive results and reforms.
Joseph Wales with Leni Wild