Robinson, James A. 2008. “Governance and Political Economy Constraints to World Bank CAS Priorities in Sierra Leone”.

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Governance and Political Economy Constraints to World Bank CAS Priorities in Sierra Leone

In this paper I discuss the political economy of Sierra Leone and how it should influence the World Bank’s Country Assistance Strategy (CAS). The main focus of the research is to try to understand the extent to which the perverse political incentives which drove the country into poverty and civil war between 1961 and 1991 have re-asserted themselves since the return of peace in 2002. This question is made particularly compelling by the return to power in 2007 of the All People’s Congress Party, who presided over the decline of the country. My preliminary conclusion is that while there are some obvious changes in the political environment, appeal remains in the political strategies which were so costly to the nation and some new forces which have emerged have potentially perverse consequences. This likely undermines the effectiveness of advice by the World Bank and also seriously reduces the prospects of successful economic development. There are also changes in the economic environment, such as the terms of trade, which may provide the prospect of sustained economic growth, but without political change such growth will likely be oligarchic, lead to large increases in inequality and unlikely to be pro-poor. I suggest that the best option for the World Bank is to attempt to further deepen the reform of political institutions which it has supported since 2002. Though political institutions are not the whole story, they do heavily influence political incentives and the history of Sierra Leone makes clear that they have first-order effects. While the Bank has, correctly, fostered decentralization, the reform process needs to be deepened and complemented by the reduction of executive autonomy, the strengthening of Parliament and the introduction of greater democracy into the institution of chieftaincy.