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Contingent technocracy: bureaucratic independence in developing countries

  • Manuel P. Teodoro (a1) and M. Anne Pitcher (a2)


This study investigates the effects of formal bureaucratic independence under varying democratic conditions. Conventional accounts predict that greater formal independence of technocratic agencies facilitates policy implementation, but those claims rest on observations of industrialised, high-income countries that are also established democracies. On the basis of research in developing countries, we argue that the effects of agency independence depend on the political context in which the agency operates. Our empirical subjects are privatisation agencies and their efforts to privatise state-owned enterprises in Africa. We predict that greater independence leads to more thorough privatisation under authoritarian regimes, but that the effect of independence declines as a country becomes more democratic. Using an original data set, we examine the relationship between formal agency independence and privatisation in Africa from 1990 to 2007. Our results modify the conventional wisdom on bureaucratic independence and culminate in a more nuanced theory of “contingent technocracy”.



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