Edited by Ehtisham Ahmad and Giorgio Brosio
Chapter 2: Information Distortion, Elite Capture and Task Complexity in Decentralized Development
Jean-Philippe Platteau* INTRODUCTION 1 The main advantages associated with decentralized, participatory development lie in the better knowledge of local conditions and constraints (environmental, social and economic) that communities or user groups possess, as well as the dense network of continuous inter-individual interactions that constitute community life (often labelled “social capital” in the recent literature. As a result of these two features, communities are assumed to be better able than a central government or an external donor not only to set up priorities, identify deserving beneficiaries, design projects, select techniques and inputs, but also to enforce rules, monitor behaviour and verify actions. Furthermore, people’s motivation to apply effort and to contribute resources is expected to be stronger when they are let free to choose their objectives and their ways to achieve them rather than being told from above what to do and how to do it (see, for example, Hoddinott et al., 2001; Conning and Kevane, 2002; Bardhan, 2002; Platteau and Abraham, 2002, 2004). In view of all these advantages, participatory development is viewed as an effective mechanism for reducing poverty and empowering the poor, for spreading democracy and accountability and for making progress both inclusive and sustainable. Given the above diagnosis and following the disappointing performances of development aid when channelled through central governments, it is not surprising that the donor community, bilateral donors and big international organizations alike, have laid stress on participation in the design of their development assistance programmes, and/or to funnel substantial amounts of aid money...
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