What Makes Poor Countries Poor?

What Makes Poor Countries Poor?

Institutional Determinants of Development

Michael J. Trebilcock and Mariana Mota Prado

This important book focuses on the idea that institutions matter for development, asking what lessons we have learned from past reform efforts, and what role lawyers can play in this field.

Chapter 5: Public Administration, Corruption and Development

Michael J. Trebilcock and Mariana Mota Prado

Subjects: development studies, law and development, economics and finance, institutional economics, law and economics, law - academic, law and development, law and economics


INTRODUCTION The emergence of an institutional perspective on development over the past decade or so has entailed not only a sharper focus on the nature and quality of a country’s political and legal institutions, but also on the organization of its bureaucracy or civil service. According to Salvatore Schiavo-Campo, formerly of the Public Sector Management Team at the World Bank, ‘the slide of today’s “failed states” can be traced back to, in part, the degradation of their public administrations’.1 The frailties and failures of public administration in many developing countries have long been documented or remarked upon in the development literature. According to these accounts of bad government in developing countries, to quote Judith Tendler: Public officials and their workers pursue their own private interests rather than those of the public good. Governments over-extend themselves in hiring and spending. Clientelism runs rampant, with workers being hired and fired on the basis of kinship and political loyalty rather than merit. Workers are poorly trained and receive little on-the-job training. Badly conceived programs and policies create myriad opportunities for bribery, influence peddling, and other forms of malfeasance. All this adds up to the disappointing inability of many governments to deliver good public services and to cope with persistent problems of corruption, poverty, and macro-economic mismanagement.2 This view of government is exemplified in Hernando de Soto’s widely cited book, The Other Path,3 in which he documents the delays, costs, bureaucratic complexities and corruption entailed in registering title to residential land or obtaining...

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