Life for most people in most developing countries continues to steadily improve, but raising basic levels of human welfare from a low base was the (relatively) easy part of the development journey. To consolidate and expand these achievements, the key challenge going forward is building the state’s capability to implement incrementally more complex and contentious tasks (e.g., health care, justice, regulation, taxation, land administration) at scale.
Unfortunately, this capability seems to be stagnating or declining in most low-income countries, despite long-standing efforts. Implementation challenges will only intensify in the coming decades: the ailing delivery systems of low-income countries will have to serve roughly twice as many people, even as citizens’ expectations are on the rise. Responding to these challenges, by definition, will be hardest and most consequential in fragile states.
Our prevailing aid architecture was not designed for addressing the kinds of problems that have emerged as the ‘binding constraints’ on effective policy implementation, and that developing countries themselves have identified as priority concerns. Drawing on the recently published book Building State Capability co-authored with Lant Pritchett and Matt Andrews, Woolcock will outline a rather different approach to building state capability for policy implementation.