Question 4

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Do you know how to identify a government partner to work with?


This might help you find out

Why is this important?

Suggestions for further reading


This might help you find out

Do (or did) you take into account the following factors or features when identifying government partners?

  • Authorised with sufficient decision making power
  • experienced with partnerships and private sector
  • attempts to bring about positive change
  • has influence on bringing about change
  • legitimate and good reputation (also with customers and beneficiairies of PPP)
  • knowledgeable on PPPs
  • interested, committed and motivated to work in partnership for development


Why is this important?

The importance of understanding incentives stems from the general problem that political incentives are frequently at odds with a technocratic approach to development has long been recognized. Politicians prefer policies and seek institutional changes that support their current needs, including exigencies such as horse trading when negotiating over policies with other powerful stakeholders or designing intergovernmental relations with a view to maintaining some form of centralized control, rather than optimizing service delivery. At the same time, the interests of politicians can also broadly converge with development objectives, such as seeking to deliver growth, jobs, or social protection benefits as a way to secure legitimacy or reelection. But even when politicians seek development progress, they may struggle to pursue these goals effectively because of the need to maintain the support of vested interests, including pressures for favor from family members or close allies; to lead difficult- to-manage coalition governments; or to navigate a difficult mix of fiscal problems and public discontent.

Given these challenges, there has been an increasing effort to better understand stakeholder incentives and the way they shape institutions. Why do good policies and effective institutions emerge in some places, even though these changes typically entail some powerful losers? What is blocking reforms in other places, and what could be done about it? It is important to understand how such political incentives shape decisions and to build an awareness of political constraints—as well as opportunities—into the provision of advice and development engagement.

Careful attention to the interaction of economics and politics is crucial to understanding the actual incentives that prevail for stakeholders associated with a specific problem in a specific setting. Policies and their development effects are shaped by incentives that derive from the political as well as the economic realm. Moreover, understanding the way in which political and economic interests intersect can be much more revealing about fundamental drivers than just looking at politics and day-to-day political maneuvers in isolation.8 Learning about these incentives is not easy. This difficulty is particularly true of ownership patterns in the economy that are often important for analyzing certain interest structures. Other economic factors can be more readily observed: for example, fiscal pressures (such as spiraling costs of food or fuel subsidies) create strains on governments and may compel action in a variety of policy areas. Natural resource booms frequently create new economic interests and power holders in countries that previously had fewer sources of wealth.

This tool provides a particular perspective on local governments in developing countries and an avenue for PPPs to involve them into their partnerships. Starting point is the design phase of the project, at which stage it should be clear what the motivations of the partnership are to work with the local government, as it does have certain implications for the partnership. PPPs focusing on the roles and contributions that they seek from government should also reflect on the probability that these will be implemented properly. One way to find out is to reflect on government’s motivations to do so – what is the appetite for reform. (Fritz)

This knowledge will prove particularly useful in the face of challenges in working with government, such as limited accountability and low capacity. To regain government’s commitment, it is key to have a repertoire in mind, playing on different motivations of government to work with the partnership. A general risk of partnering with government is the role of politics and institutional change. This is not unique to developing countries, however behind institutions lie politics and PPPs need not only be aware but also flexible to shift its institutional focus if needed.


Suggestions for further reading

Andrews, M et al (2013) ‘Escaping Capability Traps Through Problem Driven Iterative Adaptation’

Cammack, D and Booth D (2013), ‘Governance for Development in Africa: solving collective action problems, London, Zed Books

Fund for Peace, Fragile States Index 2014: Indicators

Edelmann, D., (2009), ‘Analysing and Managing the Political Dynamics of Sector Reforms: A Sourcebook on Sector-level Political Economy Approaches’, Overseas Development Institute, London

Fritz, V. et al (2014), ‘Problem driven political economy analysis: The World Bank’s experience’, from: The World Bank. Series Directions in Development Public Sector Governance, 2014

Hazenberg, J., (2009), ‘The SGACA Experience: Incentives, Interests and Raw Power – Making Development Aid More Realistic and Less Technical’

Kitscheit H. and S. Wilkinson (2007) ‘Patrons, Clients and Polcies Patterns of Democratic Accountability and Political Competition’

North, D. et al (2007) ‘Limited Access Orders in the Developing World A new Approach to the Problems of Development’

Caplan, Ken (2015) ‘PEP Initiative: Assessing the State of the Art in Partnering on Water (SDG6), Approach’, september

Fritz, V. et al (2014), ‘Problem driven political economy analysis: The World Bank’s experience’, from: The World Bank. Series Directions in Development Public Sector Governance, 2014

‘Unraveling the role of the private sector: where industries can contribute to the Sustainable Development Goals’, (2015), Index Initiative.

Hallward-Driemeier, M. and Pritchett, L ‘How business is done in the developing world: Deals versus rules’, Journal of Economic Perspectives, 29 (3), 2015, pp. 121-140

ODI (2013) ‘Analytical Framework for Conducting Political Economy Analysis in Sectors; World Bank Problem Driven Governance and Political Economy Analysis

Rittel, H. , Dilemmas in a General Theory of Planning, Pokicy Sciences 4 (1973), 155-169

Pfisterer, S. et al, (2011), ‘Overview of available country level data indicators relevant for government portfolio & cross-sector partnerships’, first draft

Van Tulder, R. (2011), Positioning the MDGs as societal issues: issues, responsibilities, partnerships (second draft)

Van Tulder, R. with Pfisterer, S. (2015), Creating partnering space: exploring the right fit for sustainable development partnerships (in draft)

Van Tulder, R., How does context define partnering space? Short note on how to portray and how to measure this, internal document, file: partnering space

World Bank (2014), ‘Ease of Doing Business Report’

Cross Sector Partnership Formation: what to consider before you start?, PrC 2012

Guide for developing an overview on partnership models in a country, PrC

World Bank (2015), ‘Worldwide Governance Indicators’

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