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Success versus failure in local public goods provision: council and chiefly governance in post-war Makeni, Sierra Leone

Workman, Anna (2013) Success versus failure in local public goods provision: council and chiefly governance in post-war Makeni, Sierra Leone. PhD thesis, London School of Economics and Political Science.

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Post-war Sierra Leone faces a deep deficit in the supply of basic public goods which is detrimental to quality of life and remains a risk factor for future conflict. The government, under substantial donor influence, seeks to address this deficit through democratic decentralization. However, evidence of the link between decentralization and improved public goods provision remains weak. I approach the public goods deficit from a different angle; rather than assuming that an imported solution is needed, I consider what can be learned from existing patterns of public goods provision. At the core of this study is a comparison of ‘success versus failure’ in local public goods provision in the city of Makeni, with the aim of understanding key dynamics that lead to divergent outcomes. While I set out to focus on cases of public goods provision led by two main categories of local government actors — elected councils and chiefs — I found that it in all four cases, citizens played a substantial role. I therefore analyze the cases as instances of coproduction of public goods. I find that coproduction is an important means of maintaining a basic supply of local public goods when state capacity is weak. With this in mind, I draw on the case study evidence to develop a set of propositions about the conditions under which coproduction is more likely to succeed in contemporary Sierra Leone. These propositions are suggestive of an alternate institutional approach to addressing the public goods deficit—one that is based on the development of workarounds for key obstacles rather than institutional overhaul. However, coproduction is no ‘magic bullet’; it has troubling implications for social equality and the development of state capacity over the longer term and thus judgements about the desirability of coproductive arrangements are likely to involve complex trade-offs.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Additional Information: © 2013 The Author
Library of Congress subject classification: H Social Sciences > HF Commerce
J Political Science > JS Local government Municipal government
Sets: Departments > International Development
Supervisor: Meagher, Kate and Howell, Jude

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