The Politics and Governance of Public Services in Developing Countries

A Special Issue of Public Management Review Volume 14 Number 2, 2012 puts the spotlight on the politics of public services in developing countries. It is edited by Richard Batley of the International Development Department (IDD) with Willy McCourt of the World Bank. The editorial article is authored by them together with Claire Mcloughlin, also of IDD.

Politics and governance have become central to explanations of the widespread under-provision of public services in developing countries. Political analysis offers an understanding of what might otherwise appear to be exclusively managerial or capacity problems. The articles in this special issue of PMR contribute to three main aspects of this new literature on the political economy of service provision: how the incentives of elites are formed and affect whether, to whom and how services are provided; how top-down and bottom-up systems of accountability may act and also interact to affect incentives; and the effect of service provision on state-society relations.

The articles suggest that the politics of service provision should be understood as a cycle of causation: politics affect the policy, governance and implementation of services, but in turn service provision is a theatre of politics and affects citizen formation and the development of state capacity and legitimacy. Taken as a whole, the articles suggest that a political perspective enables new insights into the causes of weak service provision, and how it can be improved.

The Special Issue is available on: ( (Public Management Review Volume 14 Number 2, 2012).