Rethinking spatial inequalities in development: the primacy of politics and power relations

Rethinking spatial inequalities in development: the primacy of politics and power relations

This paper offers a political explanation to the problem of spatial inequality in developing countries, paying particular attention to the implications of patronage politics and inter-elite power relations for the spatial distribution of public goods.

The paper states that given the problem of resource scarcity in developing societies, various ethno-regional groups seek access to influential positions in government as means of presenting group interests in the decision-making process. Thus, developing countries are typically under the control of a coalition of competing elite factions.

Subsequently, the document suggests that comprehensive policies that skew benefits towards the poorest are more likely to be implemented on a sustained basis when elites who represent the interest of those segments have substantial influence over resource allocation decisions.

Consequently, the author concludes that:

  • spatial patterns of resource allocation would be driven more by the differential bargaining powers of regional elites rather than any abstract ethical principle like equity
  • whereas the political inclusion of lagging regions matters for their socio-economic development prospects, it is the terms and conditions of their inclusion that are especially critical in shaping their access to vital state resources
  • strategies that aim to bridge interregional development gaps should also consider ways to shift inter-regional power relations in favour of poorer regions

 

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