Local State Institution-Building and the Unfulfilled Promise of Participatory Development: The case of Ghana


Dr. Matthew Sabbi

Research Area:


This study examines local institutional reforms and how they relate to the notion of participation and socio-economic well-being. For nearly three decades, the development discourse and practice in Ghana predicate local socio-economic transformation on decentralization and local institutional reforms. Indeed, the latter are conceived as panacea for accountable and responsive local institutions that engender change and prosperity. Meanwhile, this assumption often proceeds without recourse to how policy actors make use of these institutions and the changes in everyday situations. Although the notion of local democracy is persistently linked to poverty reduction, the conceptual argument and empirical evidence in this study, following an actor-centered institutional framework, point to the contrary. As the study argues, the rhetoric linking local democracy to socio-economic well-being persists because no clear distinction is made between local political reforms, local autonomy and local socio-economic change. Therefore, critical insights on how actors of local public policy take advantage of local political reforms to advance their own interests and preference at the expense of specific local priorities and socio-economic change are often missed. The study contributes not only to the theoretical debate on institutional reforms in development cooperation but also to the discussion on the content of local public policy in the Global South.