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Changing Profile of Development Administration

By : brainykey   January 13, 2018

Changing Profile of Development Administration

The era of 1960s is considered as an era of “state led development”. It was in this era that the concept of “development administration” emerged. Earlier public administration was criticized for its inability to do comparative studies e. g. Robert Dahl in 1947 in his work “The Science of Public Administration: Three Problems” criticized it for the same reasons. The term was first time used by an Indian Civil Servant named U. L. Goswami in 1955. Gant, Stone, Riggs and Weidner popularized this term in 1960s.

In the initial years, the underlying proposition was that with the help of sufficient foreign aid and reformed administrative systems, the newly independent nations also could be industrialized like West. These reforms were sought to be done by the modernization of the government machinery through external aid, transfer of technology, training by foreign experts and setting up institutes of public administration etc. in the under developed countries.

Development Administration from 1950s to 1970s : State led Development

The establishment of the United Nations system with its various agencies like WHO, UNESCO & ILO etc along with sufficient foreign aid by agencies like Ford Foundation, American Society for Public Administration etc. encouraged the emergence of the concept of development administration with the aim of transforming the lives of those living in the newly independent developing countries and to attain the living standards of the Western countries. This phase of development was state led as an upgraded administrative system was thought of as the means to achieve the objective. Thus development administration took the shape of “action oriented” administration entrusted with the responsibility to respond to the needs of the people. It was primarily based on westernization and was applicable to both the administrative machinery as well as the community at large.

The modernization which was sought to be achieved was externally induced and the administration was sought to be westernized. Concepts such as five year planning, budgeting, training, community development etc reflected this spirit. In this phase improving the administrative capacity was found to be central to economic growth. However it was soon realized that there was a lack of sufficiently trained manpower to bring about the socio-politico-economic changes in the Third World society. With help of foreign experts “cosmetic structural changes” were done but it did not have any profound impact on the overall administration. The bureaucratic institutions developed more than the political institutions and soon it was found that in many countries of Asia and Africa a new “bureaucratic elite” had developed which was more powerful than even the political class. As the bureaucracy had centralized all powers, it started acting as an interest group which advanced only its interest. Instances of “induced modernization” in South Vietnam, Iran and South Korea point out the dismal failure of development in this phase. The state bureaucracy could not modify its role from ‘governing’ to ‘serving’ the people.

In the late 1970s, it was felt that US-AID-CAG like agencies were actually supporting the policies made by authoritarian and military regimes. Now development administration started to be seen as euphemism for autocratic and military rule which sometimes brought about modernization and industrialization. But this seriously curbed the political freedoms and the lives of poor could not be improved much.

In 1973, comparative administration group (CAG) was disbanded and the subject of comparative public administration saw a steep decline. The CAG’s conceptualization of development administration was criticized on several grounds. In place of systemic changes, turmoil proliferated throughout Asia, Middle East, Africa and Latin America. The recession of the late 1970s and early 1980s led to the demise of western developmental strategies. It appeared evident that externally induced modernization had failed bitterly to solve the basic problems of underdevelopment which it was supposed to solve. While economies of some of the countries grew in terms of GDP still the povery, hunger and disease could not be eliminated. Similar was the case with increasing social inequality. The reasons of failure of development administration in this phase are:


  1. Ethnocentrism shown by the western countries completely ignored the local tradition, culture, qovernance etc.


  1. The foreign aid failed to satisfy the basic needs


  1. The developmental strategies of non-western scholars were not heeded to by their western counterparts.



Development Administration in 1980s : Disillusion with the State

Development administrationists such as Milton Esman and Gerald Caiden, social scientists, development practitioners, policy advisers and international development institutions such as World Bank etc continued to enrich the field of development administration though institutions such as CAG declined. They maintained continuity in the field.

In 1980s, the neo-liberal economists dominated the thinking in political-economy. They had paramountcy in World Bank also. The very ability of governments to carry out the developmental policies was questioned. The state was considered as failure in carrying out development administration. The World Bank pressurized the developing countries to reduce the size of their public sector. Even the biggest protagonists of administrative reforms and development administration like Gerald Caiden had to fall in line.

The developing countries were also disillusioned as in the name of development their debt was increasing and instead of some radical changes on ground they were increasing feeling burden of repaying the debt. This made them economically dependent on the West. Even for overcoming the negative economic growth in the post-socialist Eastern Europe and the sub-Saharan African countries, enhancing the management aspects of capacity building was given as solution by the World Bank experts. The Brandt Commission Report in 1980 suggested sharing of power between the developed and the developing countries in order to create a fair order but it was not given much emphasis as was given to reducing the size of the public sector in developing countries and promotion of privatization of public owned enterprises. So the 1980s were marked by the negative feelings towards the government and public sector.

Development Administration in 1990s : Re-thinking in Managing Development

Before 1990s, developing countries were faced with the “debt crisis” and the purchasing power of the governments eroded substantially. This precipitated into crisis in early 1990s. The centrally planned economic systems of Easter Europe collapsed and all this forced some sort of rethinking in managing the development efforts of developing countries. World Development Report 1991 advocated the “neoliberal model” of development which accords the government a minimal role. The major role of the government was to ensure macroeconomic stability. Trade liberalization and privatization were strongly advocated in this new approach.

The government institutions and structures were sought to be reduced. Contracting out work wherever it was possible, decentralization and multiplicity of institutions for delivery of services were advocated. The government, according to this new approach, was not like a large vehicle for socio-economic development but it stood for guiding the development process. Building the educational, technological, financial and social infrastructure was one of very important roles of the government. Some features of this new thinking in the field are as follows:

Enabling Rather Than Controlling Administration

A culture of interventions in micro-managing the economy prevailing in the developing countries was sought to be removed. The renewed thinking calls for elimination of controlling & licensing functions. A greater reliance was placed on the private sector rather than the public sector for pursuing the development objectives. Though World Bank strongly pursued for substantially reduced role of the state still the public sector plays a significant role in managing the various aspects of the economy. Creating infrastructure for the private sector to flourish, human resource training, technological & social developments have been some of the key areas where governmental intervention is still relevant. Private sector entrepreneurship and the non-governmental organizations (NGOs) are the key players now. The “administered development” was sought to be replaced with “participative development”

Overall Management Rather Than Micro Management

Classically public administration focused on micro-management like enunciating the principles of administration etc. On the other hand, macro management focuses on creating inter-relationships among different agencies to achieve the goals of development administration. It emphasizes enhancing the state capability to face the challenges and their anticipation in advance rather than doing everything on its own.

In 1950s and 1960s the capacity building aspect emphasized more on technical assistance, educating and training. But the contemporary model focuses on enhancing the “policy monitoring” and “policy analysis” capacity. This is called “macro-management by World Bank. This has been advocate because many Asian, African and Central American countries etc. lack effective capacity to formulate and co-ordinate economic and strategic policies. This is due to problems with the bureaucracy of these countries

The World Development Report 1997 suggests a two way approach to solve this problem:


  1. The state should assume that much role only which it can accomplish effectively


  1. The public institutions should be strengthened to raise the capability of administration


Tax administration, social security administration and the regulatory institutions are the pillars of this approach.

A Culture of Managing Rather than Typical Bureaucratic Institutions

It is now widely recognized that the markets alone cannot solve all the ills of the society and eliminate the problems like poverty. However equal acceptability is there of the fact that too much government intervention is counterproductive. The pragmatic framework is balancing the strengths and weaknesses of both markets and the government and to devise a mechanism so that both could be complemented with each other. For this purpose the partnerships with the private sector and the non-governmental organizations has been suggested. Innovative concepts such as commercialization of the public sector agencies while continuing in the public sector have been propounded to create synergy between the public and private sectors. Giving so much importance to the private sector requires deregulation also. In education, health and rural sector development programmes, India had a positive experience of the NGOs’ role.

The Managerial approach means emphasizing the results and not the procedures and rules. Many countries such as Malaysia, Singapore and Mauritius have taken steps to improve the service delivery for their citizens which they now view as customers. This approach focuses more on quality of service and identification with the public. This new approach is de-administered development in contrast to administered development in which only bureaucracy was the sole actor in development. The new approach has been propounded by World Bank, the International Monetary Fund and the US Agency for International Development (USAID) etc.

Recently there have been massive decline in the moral standards of politicians and the bureaucrats. The bureaucracy is termed as bloated, inefficient, spine less, authoritarian, self serving etc. and it is totally devoid of idealism. Scholars such as O. P. Dwivedi advocate that bureaucracy should take “government service as a calling” and governance should be based on spiritual guidance from the world religions. The seniority based system in bureaucracy is being replaced by contract based short term appointment in many countries and this speaks of a changing culture towards

Focus on Decentralisation and Autonomy to Managers Rather Than Centralization of Powers

Areas like social sectors call for decentralized approach to development and this is being followed by many countries. Decentralizing the state power brings the administration closer to the people. This is required because traditionally the bureaucracies have been considered as the instruments to centralize power. Decentralization enables the administration to respond to the local demands and to usher in a culture of responsiveness towards the people at large. “Performance Agreements” are signed between the Ministers and the Departmental Head to accomplish the organizational tasks. Thus autonomy is being provided to the managers to manage the show. Decentralization of power and increased powers to spend at the local levels accompanied with democratization has led to “quiet revolution” in changing the political landscape in Latin America.

An active civil society consisting of media, non-governmental organizations, private sector etc is emerging in many of the developing countries and this civil society demands closer access to decision making and accountability through instruments such as citizen charters.

Development Administration: Agenda for 21st Century

In the earlier few pages, the changing profile of development administration from 1950s to the recent times has been presented. As already mentioned the area of development administration is highly dynamic and ever changing field. It requires solutions for the newly emerging problems faced by the various countries. In 21st century, the problems faced by the citizenry are multifaceted ranging from abject poverty & lack of probity in public life to the increasing environmental destruction. A society cannot develop without solving such problems. Hence the agenda of development administration in the times to come is quite challenging.

Despite a negative image of bureaucracy as projected by media the administrative apparatus is functioning and the statecraft has not completely collapsed. The next few decades are crucial for the developing countries for uplifting people from the vicious cycle of poverty, malnutrition and illiteracy. The challenge before the political leaders and the administrators is to achieve sustainable development and at the same time providing basic human needs like food, habitat, health and education. Social justice will have to provided to remove the menace of “inequality” from the society. This all has to happen with the limited resources with the state. In this process the developing countries will have to “self reliant” as the same level of aid from foreign countries cannot be expected and also this aid with all kinds of strings attached which endangers the national sovereignty and consciousness.

A cadre of professionally trained and dedicated administrators would be required for this purpose. Morality and probity on the part of politicians is a thing of utmost necessity to support the administrators. The development administration in 21st century has to be such that it enhances the capabilities of the individuals to attain their full potential and to develop their human faculties. Various indigenously developed alternatives for achieving development and satisfying people need to be searched and they should be made more people friendly. The “ethno-centricism” in the form of western bias towards development has to be abandoned for the development administration to provide sustainable development.

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