The Politics of Distributing Social Transfers: State Capacity and Political Contestation in Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia

The book provides a systematic analysis of the political processes shaping the distribution of social transfers in six countries in Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia. In doing so, it addresses a notable gap in recent research on social protection concerning the politics of implementation. Individual chapters examine international and sub-national variation in programme implementation in Bangladesh, Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Nepal and Rwanda. Each study draws upon a common analytical framework that highlights the importance of state capacity and reach, rooted in histories of state formation, and contemporary political competition in shaping the distribution of social transfers. Comparative analysis of the case studies supports the view that variation in the capacity and reach of the state within countries is a centrally important factor shaping the effectiveness and impartiality of distribution. Yet state capacity alone is insufficient. Political competition and power relations shape how this capacity is actually deployed in practice. As such, this book underscores the inherently political nature of implementation and questions common technocratic efforts to improve implementation by de-politicizing the social protection policy process.