Bureaucracy and Pro-poor Change

Ali Cheema, Asad Sayeed
JEL codes: 
PIDE Working Papers 2006:3

Based on the premise that a functioning state is a necessary pre-requisite for pro-poor change, it is critical to investigate the role of the bureaucracy as a key catalyst in this process. Weber (1968) ascribes bureaucracies to be anchors of the modern nation state as their conduct is based on rational-legal norms. Bureaucracies, according to this ideal type, temper the populist urges of politicians who wish to execute policy unencumbered by rules and procedures. State success or failure in many cases, therefore, can be gauged by the degree to which this tensionbetween the rules based bureaucratic form of administration and populist politicsis resolved. Prognosis on pro-poor change in the light of the present and anticipated balance between bureaucratic procedures and political compulsions is thus an important area of inquiry.
There is consensus that the disconnect between policy formulation and execution in Pakistan has widened considerably in the last three decades or so. And this is in spite of the fact of the generally acclaimed view that Pakistan inherited a well functioning and competent bureaucracy from the British Raj [Braibanti (1966)]. While part of the blame for this disconnect can be ascribed to incoherence in policy formulation on the part of the political leadershipboth civil and militarybut bureaucratic malfeasance, incompetence and corruption have been critical factors in the level of governance declining over time.
This paper takes a political economy perspective in analysing the nature and causes on the decline in bureaucratic conduct. Section 1 lays out the details of this structure. Based on a logical model which places the bureaucracy within the larger context of the objective function of the state, the nature of the political process, the degree of centralisation and fragmentation of the bureaucratic structure and processes for monitoring and accountability of the bureaucracy, this model provides the basis for subsequent analysis. Section 2 provides a historical overview with regard to changes in the bureaucratic and political structure and the impact it had on the above mentioned balance between bureaucratic conduct and political compulsions. Section 3 then analyses the consequences on service delivery that this systematic weakening of the bureaucratic structure has had.
Section 4 then critically assesses some of the recent attempts at bureaucratic reform in the light of the framework developed in Section 1. The conclusion then summarises the paper and draws implications for pro-poor change of the structure and conduct of the bureaucratic structure in Pakistan.