ed to do and their mandates are often conflicting.
Moreover, some of these agencies are either dormant or not
functioning because of insufficient resources.
Conclusion: the Importance of Motivation
Success stories in Malawi and Peru show that progress can
be made even under authoritarian and corrupt leaders based
upon the implementation of political software requisites (see
Werlin, 1998/2001). Under President Banda in Malawi (1961-
1994), road repair was made a national priority. A management
system was installed, using micro-computers to provide needed
information at various levels of organization. Workshops were
also established to set objectives for the implementation of all
repair activities. In addition, there was a comparison of work
performance between districts, creating a spirit of competition
and an incentive for supervisors to perform to the limits of their
potential. Consequently, as of l990, only 6 percent of Malawi’s
paved roads and l6 percent of its unpaved roads were in bad
shape, compared to an estimated one-quarter of paved roads
and 40 percent of unpaved roads being in a similar dismal
shape in Sub-Saharan Africa as a whole. In Peru, the percentage
of the Gross Domestic Product collected in taxes nearly tripled
during the early 1990s (from less than 5 percent to nearly 15
percent) when the tax collecting agency (Sunat) was profes-
sionalized.
Vietnam is an interesting example of the importance of po-
litical motivation in linking improved public administration to
economic development. A comparison of Bangladesh and
Vietnam is suggested by Yunus (the Nobel Prize winner for his
micro-credit innovations), noting (p. 12) that Vietnam’s success
in reducing its poverty rate to 20 percent (as against more than
50 percent in Bangladesh) is partly linked to its greater success
in attracting Foreign Direct Investment ($20 billion in 2006, as
against only $700 million for Bangladesh, with twice Viet-
nam’s population). In 1999, Bangladesh and Vietnam had ex-
actly the same GNP per capita ($370), using World Bank
(2000/2001: pp. 274-275) data; but Vietnam has clearly done
better than Bangladesh in recent years in improving economic
and social conditions. According to The Economist (April 26,
2008: p. 3), average annual growth over the past decade has
been 7.5 per cent; and, not only has it become a big exporter of
clothes, shoes, and furniture, but also “one of the world’s main
providers of farm produce.” More than 90 percent of house-
holds have electricity. Even in rural areas, most have stoves,
television, and mobile phones. Less than 10 percent of the
population is illiterate, and higher education is being empha-
sized, with rich countries being invited to set up universities
and training facilities. World Bank sources indicate that ex-
treme poverty (less than $1 a day) has declined from about 58%
in 1993 to about 25%. Purchasing Power Parity figures suggest
that the ordinary Vietnamese citizen at $2310 was in 2006
about twice as wealthy as his Bangladeshi counterpart (at
$1230).
Explaining Vietnam’s economic and social progress is diffi-
cult, considering that it remains an authoritarian country, with a
weak judicial system, limited press freedom, and a bloated
bureaucracy. The 2008 Danish Global Advice Network (Den-
mark, 2008: p. 1) suggests that corruption costs the country 3%
- 4% of its GDP annually, with more than two-thirds of compa-
nies and citizens reporting “informal payments” in order “to get
things done.” Starting a business, registering property, and
paying taxes seem to be far more time-consuming than the av-
erage for East Asia. Moreover, businesses have to waste a great
deal of time “trying to follow, evade, or adjudicate complex or
unclear legal regulations that even judges and lawyers often do
not understand (The Economist, April 26, 2008: p. 3).”
Using an interesting 2004 comparison of Tanzania and Viet-
nam (Van Arkadie, Dinh, 2004: p. 27), we are left with the
simple explanation that Vietnam has taken development more
seriously than equally impoverished countries in recent years:
“Vietnam has replicated what could be seen as an East Asian
model of the development state, which is both flexible in the
use of market instruments, but pragmatic about the require-
ments for active State intervention when required to implement
national development goals.” In doing so, it has exercised “so-
Copyright © 2012 SciRes.
22
H. H. Werlin
cial energy,” not only actively investing its own resources in
infrastructure and human resource development, but also re-
taining an active State Enterprise sector and providing strong
planning and policy guidance regarding medium-term growth
goals (Van Arkadie & Dinh, 2004, p. 27).” While Vietnam
remains formally undemocratic, it has been cautious and prag-
matic in its approach to economic reform, emphasizing con-
sensus-building and learning-by-doing. This conclusion is sup-
ported by a 2001 World Bank evaluation report (2001: p. 3)
having to do with Vietnam resettlement projects, in which it is
noted that Vietnam has demonstrated a willingness to revise its
policies out of “a concern for equity and for alleviating pov-
erty.” Land reform has been also been equitably undertaken,
with farmers given long leases. Consequently, there is no evi-
dence of the rural or urban misery found in so many other de-
veloping countries, nor is there evidence of political unrest
except possibly in remote areas where there are concentrations
of ethnic minorities.
Elastic decentralization is evident in Vietnam. On the one
hand, Vietnam remains a one-party centralized system, with the
central government collecting all nontrade revenue, approving
new taxes, and setting the rates for existing taxes (Smoke, 2005:
pp. 25-52: Joint Donor Report, 2005: p. 24). On the other hand,
nearly half of total expenditures are undertaken by sub-national
entities using several types of intergovernmental transfers or
block grants, based upon negotiations among various levels of
government, together with consideration of local circumstances
and priorities White, Smoke, 2005: p. 2). According to a 2005
report of various donor organizations (2005: p. 24), Vietnam
has had a very successful program to reach the poorest house-
holds and communities with social and health services, relying
on “targeted programs to ensure that national goals are met in
spite of the increasing extent of decentralization.” The fact that
civil servants are carefully selected and well compensated ap-
parently contributes to Vietnam’s outstanding performance and
its ability to keep corruption roughly comparable to “what
could be expected given the country’s current development
level (Joint Donor Group, 2005: p. 24).”
Final Thoughts
Dwight Waldo (who died in October, 2000, to the dismay of
his students, including myself) never lost his mixed feelings
about administration. He argued (Waldo, 1980: p. 30) that the
“enterprises of civilization and administration have from the
beginning been intimately joined, each sustaining and stimulat-
ing the other.” However, as did Max Weber, Waldo feared what
he believed to be the inevitable triumph of bureaucracy. He
frequently quoted Weber’s famous threat: “The bureaucratic
organization is, together with lifeless machinery, about to pro-
duce the iron cage of future serfdom in which men will have to
live helplessly like the fellahin in Egypt... (Waldo, l980: p. 139).
“Yet, a successful democracy requires an efficient and effective
bureaucracy.
However, there has also been an evolution of the concept of
political power in regard to bureaucracy. According to Kenney
and Florida (1993), the Japanese model has been successful
because of its non-Weberian characteristics: self-managing
work teams, job-rotation, overlapping functions, flexible and
limited job classifications and specialization, close alignment
between work and home life, social control rather than control
from above, use of persuasion rather than commands, white
collar/blue collar overlap, welfare corporatism, labor-manage-
ment cooperation, quality circles, innovation from below, and
continual training. The “entrepreneurial government” advocated
by Osborne and Gaebler (1992)—decentralized, problem-solv-
ing, innovative, responsive to consumer concerns, and both
cooperative and competitive with the private sector—also sug-
gests the need to reexamine the Weberian model and the tradi-
tional concept of political power.
Baldwin (1989) spends an entire chapter discussing the dif-
ficulties of determining the costs of political power. These dif-
ficulties, as I see them, stem from the fact that, they are not
really monetary but have to do with the requisites for political
software development presented in the fourth proposition of PE
theory. This can perhaps be seen in a comparison of South Ko-
rea and Ghana in the introduction of a Value Added Tax
(VAT).
When South Korea introduced a VAT in l977, the govern-
ment took two years to prepare for its implementation (Choi,
1991: pp. 286-340). Nationwide tryout exercises were carried
out on three separate occasions before the changeover to the
VAT. Along with a consultation and information program, it
expanded and retrained its tax administration staff. A staff
handbook was prepared in anticipation of questions by staff and
taxpayers. While difficulties and criticisms remain, the VAT is
considered relatively successful and an improvement over the
indirect taxes it replaced
Ghana, on the other hand, carelessly introduced a high VAT
(set at 17 percent of the price of many commodities and ser-
vices) in February, l995, without proper consultation with
business and community groups (Berry, 1995: p. xxxiv). It led
on May 11, 1995 to the largest protest demonstrations in Accra
during the Rawlings administration. Eventually (June, l995),
the government was forced to return to a national sales tax be-
fore some years later and more carefully reintroducing the
VAT.
Finally, the reason why political power must be considered a
“relationship,” as well as a resource is well explained in a 2004
World Bank publication, Doing Business in 2004. Businesses in
poor countries face three times the administrative costs and
nearly twice as many bureaucratic procedures (causing long
delays) as in wealthy countries. Consequently, in poor countries,
40% of the economy is informal, with businesses lacking access
to credit or legal protection. Moreover, property owners in poor
countries are accorded less than half the protections of their
counterparts in rich countries. This means that governments in
poor countries are unable to either induce or persuade busi-
nesses to take advantage of economic opportunities, even when
they are genuinely interested in expanding their businesses. In
Kenya, for example, between 1999 and 2002, nearly 150 for-
eign investors left Nairobi, citing corruption, poor infrastructure,
bureaucratic bottlenecks, and increased crime rates (Katumana
& Cliffe, 2005; USAID, 2005). These problems, according to
the World Bank (2004), meant that the economy as a whole was
growing at only about one-third of its potential.
We might end this essay with the point made by John Rapley
in his 2006 Foreign Affairs article, “The New Middle Ages (p.
95),” that in much of the developing world, “groups ranging
from criminal gangs to Islamist civil-society networks have
assumed many of the functions that states have abandoned,
funding their operations through informal taxes as well as with
proceeds from the drug trade, human trafficking, and money
laundering”. People under these circumstances are not so much
Copyright © 2012 SciRes. 23
H. H. Werlin
concerned about democracy as they are about security and ser-
vices. Consequently, they support “political machines” (similar
to those found a century ago in many American cities), with
votes being “sold” to those who offer jobs, safety, and the ne-
cessities of life. As a result, partisanship prevails over states-
manship, underscoring the inadequacy of political software as
the primary reason for the poverty of nations. For this to change,
political leaders are going to have to see political power as a
“form of social energy,” rather than as “a form of coercion,”
with an “all or nothing” connotation. Without an “enabling
environment.” economic development will remain impossible.
The weakness of so many impoverished countries may sim-
ply be due to the unwillingness of their leaders to undertake
reform. In other words, as pointed out in a recent (2012) book
(Why Nations Fail: The Origins of Power, Prosperity, and
Power by Daron Acemoglu and James A. Robinson), poor
countries are poor because leaders purposely make them so.
The reasons have to do with fear of losing power, the desire for
personal wealth, ideological considerations, and the need for
powerful allies. Examples include: the destruction of a railroad
to the affluent south in Sierra Leone; the giving of land to po-
litical supporters without land rights security in Zimbabwe; the
prevention of capitalism in the Soviet Union; and the misuse of
marketing boards in Africa to impoverish farmers. Unless these
reasons are addressed, foreign aid tends to be useless.
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