Governance and Nationbuilding

Governance and Nationbuilding

The Failure of International Intervention

Kate Jenkins and William Plowden

Governance and Nationbuilding describes how aid donors have attempted to improve the performance of government in developing countries and countries in crisis. Kate Jenkins and William Plowden review the widespread lack of success, tracing the history of international government intervention, the roles of donors and recipient countries, the ways in which expert advice and support have been provided, and the donors’ own evaluation of their work.

Chapter 5: The System and its Objectives

Kate Jenkins and William Plowden

Subjects: development studies, development studies, politics and public policy, international politics, international relations, public policy, regulation and governance


In the early post-war years aid tended to focus on achieving specific development objectives in the recipient countries – improved transport links, economic development, better education and welfare. The possibility of improving the quality of government was seldom explored, even though almost all aid was processed through government agencies. Furthermore, whatever the formal objectives of aid policies, the process of implementation, in general or in detail, was seldom seen by the donors as a matter of concern. Where changes in government institutions were in question, the prescriptions were not complex. Especially in Africa, the dominant donor view was that the public sector was consuming an excessive share of national resources. The main need, therefore, was to reduce its size and cost. Civil service ‘reform’ programmes concentrated on reducing the numbers directly employed by the state and the size of the wage bill, with a secondary emphasis on improving human resource management, raising real wages and ‘decompressing’ salary scales to ensure that those at the top were paid significantly and adequately more than their subordinates. The capability of the state and the quality of the services which it provided were not matters of concern. Where the programmes of reform succeeded in reducing numbers the consequence was, as many commentators have argued, that state capability was negatively affected. But all too often even objectives simply defined numerically were not met. FOCUSING ON GOVERNMENT As aid budgets increased in size, questions of public sector management became more significant, stimulated in part by the recognition...

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