The evolution of donor-recipient relations in electricity reform: rethinking the principal-agent framework

Johnson, Oliver W (2011) The evolution of donor-recipient relations in electricity reform: rethinking the principal-agent framework. Doctoral thesis (DPhil), University of Sussex.

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Abstract

Since the early 1990s electricity reforms across Sub-Saharan Africa have been marked
by controversy. Despite the World Bank’s major role in driving electricity reform as
part of its conditional lending strategy in the electricity sector, its relationship with
recipient countries has received little attention within the electricity reform literature.
This is surprising given the increasing pressure on the World Bank to improve the
effectiveness of its conditional lending more generally. This thesis contributes to filling
this gap by exploring how World Bank-recipient country relations shape and constrain
the direction of reform.

The donor-recipient relationship is commonly espoused in the academic literature as a
principal-agent relationship, whereby international aid organisations (principals)
delegate authority for implementing their development policies to recipient countries
(agents). I develop this framework by incorporating refined concepts of power,
partnership, ownership and knowledge, prominent features in development studies
literature and recent donor discourse. The analytical framework developed is applied to
the process of electricity reform in two countries: Tanzania and Ghana. While the
impetus for reform in these two countries was similar, the way in which the reform
process unfolded was different. The analysis is based on in-depth, semi-structured
interviews and documentary evidence. It uses a process-tracing method, combining
within-case and cross-case analysis. A number of insights emerge from the analysis. I
find that availability of reform expertise plays a significant role in determining the
strength of power relations between donors and recipient countries. It also appears that
reform ownership lies within different ‘domains’. Uneven ownership across domains
accounts for the inconsistent reform implementation noted in both cases. And
knowledge asymmetry provides a useful concept to analyse the impact of decentralised
donor staff. In conclusion, this thesis argues that a modified principal-agent framework
offers additional insight into the workings of the donor-recipient relationship.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Schools and Departments: School of Business, Management and Economics > SPRU - Science Policy Research Unit
Subjects: D History General and Old World > DT History of Africa > DT0348 Central Sub-Saharan Africa
H Social Sciences > HG Finance
T Technology > TK Electrical engineering. Electronics Nuclear engineering > TK3001 Distribution or transmission of electric power
Depositing User: Library Cataloguing
Date Deposited: 22 Jun 2011 14:29
Last Modified: 17 Aug 2015 12:57
URI: http://sro.sussex.ac.uk/id/eprint/6974

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