The political economy of local infrastructure planning LEONARDO ROMEO AND PAUL SMOkE
Introduction Developing countries often have complex, multi-level infrastructure planning systems that not uncommonly underperform relative to needs and expectations.1 These systems have undergone numerous transformations as development thinking and practice have evolved. Many countries, however, continue to face great challenges in making local infrastructure planning and delivery more effective. Political economy forces are a critical factor in how local infrastructure planning systems have developed and perform. Planning, both in general with respect to infrastructure, covers a vast landscape. It can involve multiple levels of government and administration, from central to grassroots, and relationships among levels can be complex and poorly defined in law and/or in practice. Sub-tiers within levels may play a role in infrastructure. At each level, there is an array of interested and/or influential actors-elected bodies, government bureaucrats, and diverse nongovernmental entities ranging from business to civil society groups. In aid dependent countries, international agencies can play a major role, and particularly in large urban areas, private sector firms may be engaged as infrastructure service delivery partners. Each actor faces incentives that may support or undermine infrastructure delivery. Infrastructure itself is diverse because of variations in its inherent characteristics, such as the extent to which it is “public” in nature, the scale at which it must be provided, and the types of skills required to deliver it, among others. Land and natural resources, often subject to complex legal frameworks and contested control and use, are involved in creating and operating infrastructure, adding further complexity. The various levels, actors, and characteristics of infrastructure shape the political economy environment in which it must be delivered. Some challenges of infrastructure planning have been at least partly created or exacerbated by the pursuit of the very reforms intended to improve public sector performance in developing countries. Decentralization, which has been an influential trend for more than two decades, typically augments existing local infrastructure responsibilities and introduces important new actors, processes, funding sources, and accountability channels into development planning. Existing actors, however, do not simply disappear, and political economy dynamics
set in motion by decentralization can affect how local planning and the overall intergovernmental reforms in general perform. Beyond decentralization, reforms in service delivery and financing mechan isms pursued through sectoral line ministries, finance ministries, and community driven development initiatives can further affect the development planning landscape. Such reforms may be undertaken in response to perceived threats from or independently of decentralization. Whichever the case, gaps and redundancies in service responsibilities and conflicts over power and resources can easily arise as the multiple-typically uncoordinated-reform processes unfold. These in turn can have consequential effects on the delivery of infrastructure and citizen confidence in and satisfaction with government. Other evolving dynamics can significantly affect local infrastructure planning. The demand for more and better infrastructure increases with greater economic development, higher citizen awareness/expectations, and the influence of external trends and global agreements (e.g., the Millennium Development Goals). The 2008 global financial crisis affected resource availability for infrastructure and placed subnational governments in many countries under pressure to replace funds they could no longer get from national budgets.2 Spatial factors may also evolve in consequential ways. Commercial and residential developments in legally separate jurisdictions, for example, may grow physically closer over time, making administratively independent jurisdictions more interdependent and potentially complicating infrastructure planning. Finally, local political dynamics can be very important. These are related to interactions among different types of subnational institutions (e.g., cooperation or lack thereof among neighboring jurisdictions in providing network infrastructure) and relationships between local governments and their constituents (e.g., the degree of political competition, the extent of elite capture and patronage, and the nature of citizen interactions with locally elected officials). These dynamics can affect the success of decentralized planning systems in using securable resources for the right infrastructure in the right places. Given the vast scope of local infrastructure planning systems, approaches, and influences, this chapter is selective in coverage. A broad overview of the political economy landscape of infrastructure planning is provided in the first few sections, but the core of the chapter focuses on the development of planning systems under decentralization, particularly in least developed countries. The next section briefly summarizes the evolution of thinking about development planning with a focus on the role of decentralization reforms that have emerged under varying political economy conditions. The third section provides a brief overview of infrastructure planning related roles played by key actors, and the fourth section reviews how a range of public sector reforms beyond decentralization-with their own political economy dynamics-affect local infrastructure planning. The fifth section summarizes a country case that illustrates common challenges to local infrastructure planning and their political economy underpinnings. The sixth and seventh sections provide a more detailed treatment of local infrastructure planning with a focus on least developed countries, respectively
outlining relationships between decentralization and planning systems and considering the role of planning systems in infrastructure development. Finally, the last section provides some concluding comments.