Accepted paper:

The politics of distributing social transfers in rural Ethiopia: the Productive Safety Net Programme (PSNP)

Authors:

Tom Lavers (University of Manchester)

Paper short abstract:

This paper examines the politics of distributing Ethiopia's Productive Safety Net Programme (PSNP), highlighting how sub-national variation in state capacity and party-state-society relations shape programme implementation.

Paper long abstract:

This paper examines the politics of distributing Ethiopia's Productive Safety Net Programme (PSNP), including targeting, appeals and graduation. The PSNP is one of the largest social transfer programmes in sub-Saharan Africa, and donors and evaluations have lauded the programme, including its community-based targeting. Yet effective implementation, including distribution, places requirements both on state capacity and state-society relations. Where these factors vary within a country, as in Ethiopia, we might expect variation in implementation also. The paper employs a case-based analysis drawing on some 240 interviews and focus groups conducted during 2018 with government officials, donor agencies, community residents and social elites. This research process traces PSNP distribution in three regional states with distinct configurations of party-state-society relations and state capacity: Tigray; Oromiya; and Afar. In each case the targeting approach in practice varies significantly from that envisaged in programme documentation, closely reflecting these factors. In Tigray, the dominant party-state has penetrated local society, with the result that targeting relies not on an idealised view of the community, but the capacity and reach of fused party-state structures. In Afar, in contrast, limited state capacity means that state and party structures defer to more powerful neo-customary authorities. In Oromiya, meanwhile, relatively well-developed though illegitimate, party-state structures were in a state of collapse during fieldwork in early 2018 in the midst of the Oromo protests. The analysis serves both to illustrate the extreme variation in state capacity and party-state-society relations within Ethiopia, and to emphasise the influence of such variation on programme implementation.

panel M2
The politics of implementing social protection programmes: political competition, state capacity and policy feedback