The emergence of an institutional perspective on development over the past decade or so has entailed not only a sharper focus on the nature and quality of a country’s political and legal institutions, but also on the organization of its bureaucracy or civil service. According to Salvatore Schiavo-Campo, formerly of the Public Sector Management Team at the World Bank, “the slide of today’s ‘failed states’ can be traced back to, in part, the degradation of their public administrations”.1
Public administrations embrace not only central and line agencies of government, but specialized administrative arms of government (such as SARAs and quasi-IRAs, discussed in Chapter 4). They also include a highly heterogeneous range of quasi-autonomous, non-governmental organizations (QUANGOs), such as public hospitals, universities, colleges, housing, transit and health authorities, conservation, planning and land-use agencies, and so on, each with their own governance structures. They also embrace state-owned enterprises (SOEs), which are a prominent feature of many developing countries’ economies, and hybrid arrangements such as public-private partnerrships (PPPs), discussed in Chapter 11. This institutional complexity is often replicated at sub-national levels of government, especially in federal states.
The frailties and failures of public administration in many developing countries have long been documented or remarked upon in the development literature. According to these accounts of bad government in developing countries, to quote Judith Tendler:
Public officials and their workers pursue their own private interests rather than those of the public good. Governments over-extend themselves in hiring and...
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