From policy to politics? Exploring feedback effects of social protection on state-citizen relations in Ghana

This paper addresses two interrelated questions: Do social protection policies generate feedback effects on state-citizen relations? If so, how do such policies change the perception and interaction of both citizens and the state? The paper is based on an in-depth mixed methods study on Ghana's Livelihood Empowerment Against Poverty cash transfer programme (LEAP) conducted in two implementation districts. I find emergent positive resource and interpretive/policy learning effects on state-citizen perceptions and interactions. This is evidenced in increased state presence in service provision and changing citizen recognition of the state as a legitimate provider of their welfare, with these impacts being higher among beneficiaries with previously limited access to or negative perception about the state. Notwithstanding, these effects may be limited, unsustainable or undermined partly due to the way in which LEAP is promoted and delivered as a clientelist resource. The paper highlights the ideational and relational impact of social protection by arguing that when implemented well, social policies can generate political feedback effects beyond their poverty reduction and human development impacts by fostering policy learning opportunities for reconfiguring the perceptions of and interactions between the state and citizens.