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“Thinking and Working Politically”: The case of donor‐supported reform coalitions in the Philippines

Gerard Clarke Orcid Logo

Development Policy Review, Volume: 39, Issue: 3, Pages: 398 - 418

Swansea University Author: Gerard Clarke Orcid Logo

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DOI (Published version): 10.1111/dpr.12494

Abstract

Reform coalitions represent a potential means for donors to support macro-political reform in developing countries, enabling them to avoid the limitations of micro-political or public sector reform where appropriate circumstances exist. Donor support for reform coalitions, however, is difficult to e...

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Published in: Development Policy Review
ISSN: 0950-6764 1467-7679
Published: Wiley 2021
Online Access: Check full text

URI: https://cronfa.swan.ac.uk/Record/cronfa53344
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Abstract: Reform coalitions represent a potential means for donors to support macro-political reform in developing countries, enabling them to avoid the limitations of micro-political or public sector reform where appropriate circumstances exist. Donor support for reform coalitions, however, is difficult to engineer in institutional terms, and is fraught with political risk, including the risk of partisan taint. To illustrate these difficulties and risks, this article explores the efforts of Australian Aid and the World Bank to promote reform coalitions and constituencies in the Philippines during the Presidency of Benigno S. Aquino III (2010-2016) and to institutionalise the reform agenda of his administration. It draws on a range of sources including programme design documents, mid-term & end-of-term reviews, and contextual policy documents. It also draws on economic and governance data sets to explore relevant correlations. It finds that second-generation reform coalitions brought together stakeholders from government, the private sector and civil society and promoted both economic and other reforms. These donor strategies arguably failed, however, with the election of Rodrigo Duterte in May 2016, a President critical of Aquino’s record of office and ostensibly committed to reverse-engineering many of the Aquino administration’s positive achievements. The article critiques a governance-centric explanatory chain of causation and proposes an expanded politics-centric chain to aid the assessment of reform coalition activities. Policy recommendations from this article come in two main forms. In conceptual terms, planning of reform coalition activities must better account for dominant coalitions and the political settlements which they underpin and must set out explicit theories of change, specifying distinct political pathways to change. In operational terms, donors must work to avoid traditional 'transactional' relationships in favour of more innovative 'transformative' ones and must balance 'strategic opportunism' with strategic retreat and adaptation where necessary.
Keywords: Aid, Philippines, political economy, politics, reform
College: College of Arts and Humanities
Issue: 3
Start Page: 398
End Page: 418