Measuring the Effectiveness of Governments in Developing Countries

A New Working Paper by Matthew Andrews

March 17, 2008
Doug Gavel

What do effective governments look like, especially in the developing country context? That is the research question asked by assistant professor Matthew Andrews in a new Harvard Kennedy School Working Paper.

The paper, titled “Are One-Best-Way Models of Effective Government Suitable for Developing Countries?,” critiques the current “one-best way model” of developed government, and calls for a more robust methodology suitable for the developing world.

“The good governance picture of effective government is not only of limited use in development but also constitutes a threat, promoting isomorphism, institutional dualism, and ‘flailing states’ and imposing an inappropriate model of government that ‘kicks away the ladder’ today’s effective governments climbed to reach their current states,” Matthew writes.

Andrews cites the example of Armenia, in which experiments in decentralization only exacerbated the country’s fiscal problems, and Bolivia, in which attempts to formalize the civil service and public financial management systems may have actually undermined government transparency.

“A theory of government is needed before we measure government effectiveness or propose specific models of what government should look like. Such theory should address basic questions that center on the fit of different governing systems to different contexts,” Andrews concludes.

Matthew Andrews is assistant professor of public policy at Harvard Kennedy School. His research focuses on public sector reform, particularly budgeting and financial management reform, and participatory governance in developing and transitional governments. His recent work focuses on forging a theoretical understanding of the nontechnical factors influencing success in reform processes.

Access the Working Paper: “Are One-Best-Way Models of Effective Government Suitable for Developing Countries?”

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