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Against the Odds reading notes.docx

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McGill University
Political Science
POLI 227
Rex Brynen

Against the Odds This study assesses leading politicians in three quite different developing countries: o Uganda o India o Brazil Poverty reduction is neither politically infeasible nor politically unproductive for those who pursue it. Author agrees that institutions are important. 1) First, the main concern in most studies has been the economic impact of institutions on strategies for economic reform, fiscal discipline, revenue generation, taxes and tariffs, public sector enterprises, subsidies and much else. 2) Second, many analyses of institutions fail to provide an adequate understanding of how they work—because they tend to assess institutions in rather schematic, formalized terms. [These institutions are inhabited and usually dominated by politicians who are complex creatures] 3) Third, while institutions in less developed countries often need to be created or substantially altered, institutions cannot easily change themselves. a. Change requires the intervention of actors, among whom senior politicians are almost always the most important. b. In order to explain the creation of new institutions or change within existing institutions, we need to study political agency and entrepreneurship and the interventions of political leaders. The author examines the political machinations of three senior leaders in less developed countries—to ensure their political survival, to enhance their influence and reputations, and to tackle poverty. The three are: o Yoweri Museveni—the leader of Uganda since 1986 and its President since 1996 o Digvijay Singh—Chief Minister of the state of Madhya Pradesh in India’s federal system between 1993-2003 o Fernando Henrique Cardoso—President of Brazil between 1995-2003 Geoffrey Hawthorn argues that since the early190s, governments in most LDCs have faced crippling problems. The international economic order and globalization have deprived them of much of their former influence over crucial levers of macro-economic policy. If leaders ignore that limitation on their power, international forces beyond their control will punish them. Laws and constitutions sometimes do more to impede them than to help them. This study assesses both political and economic reforms or initiatives that had some impact on poverty. Senior politicians in LDCs today are certainly constrained, but they have more room for manoeuvre than most others have recognized. The Author is not arguing that great men make history, but IS arguing that the importance of political agency has been widely underestimated. These politicians have crafted initiatives to tackle poverty in ways that were intended to enhance their own political influence and survival. They were not sacrificing their interests in order to help the poor. Entrepreneurship entailed two crucial elements: 1) The first was the shrewd, intelligently measured design of policies and political strategies. 2) The second was the adroit, determined implementation of them with the flexibility to make well-judged and well-timed tactical adjustments. This study addresses six shortcomings and gaps in the literatures on politics, reform and poverty reduction in LDCs—two misperceptions, two omissions, and two exaggerations. The two misperceptions both have to do with politics. (This study seeks to counter both misperceptions) 1) Many analyses offer a rather static view in that they fail to recognize that political interventions and manoeuvres can change the nature of the political game in ways that can make poverty reduction more likely. 2) Many other studies—especially by policy analysts—take an excessively pessimistic view of politics, as a set of largely unsavoury activities, which cannot contribute to constructive outcomes in the struggle against poverty or in other spheres. The omissions: 1) The first omission also applies to politics. Many policy analysts avoid any mention of politicians, while others given them far less attention than they devote to social forces, bureaucratic structures, development sectors and the like. a. Stress the capacity of politicians to reshape political processes in ways that may yield gains for the poor. 2) The second omission occurs when analysts overlook the promise of initiatives, which open the political, and policy processes to participation and pressure from below (from poor). The two exaggerations are also addressed: 1) Author argues that studies, which emphasize the veto points that stand in the way of poverty initiatives, have overstated the case. 2) They challenge analysts who believe that the conditions which politicians have faced since the early 1990s thwart poverty initiatives. Are these three cases so different that it is impossible to extract common insights from them? o Reason to why they pursue is because of the strategies and tactics of the 3 politicians who use this to sustain and increase their influence, as well as tackle poverty. o In all 3 cases, these political entrepreneurs dealt with two challenges—the need to acquire and project political influence, and the need to address poverty. Are they insufficiently representative of less developed countries in general? Author stresses that the central theme of this analysis is political entrepreneurship. How representative are these cases? Only to a limited extent—it can be argued that each of our three cases—apart from being important in its own right, epitomize a cluster of other LDCs. Uganda – o Vast numbers of people were poor o Even after Museveni programmes had begun to ease the population, 82.2 % of population lived on less than one dollar per day. Museveni was a leader who had to re-create a political order in a land in dire need of aid. Indira Ghandi did little to nothing for to abolish poverty in India. In India and the state of Madhya Pradesh, political bosses—some who were corrupt and all who supported factional strife, ruled it. At the time, India’s federal system had generated numerous policies to address poverty and to promote social and political inclusion. Before tacking poverty, Brazil’s President Cardoso, had to tackle hyperinflation and serious fiscal indiscipline. Laid out an elaborate set of political institutions where were democratic and well-entrenched o He led a party that was genuinely committed to progressive, redistributive policies. o Huge numbers of Brazilians were decidedly ‘poor’. o Inherited a set of progressive
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