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Implementing social protection in competitive clientelist political settlements: a case study of the Livelihood Empowerment Against Poverty (LEAP) programme in Ghana

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posted on 2023-06-10, 00:31 authored by Betty Akyeampong
Since the early 2000s, transnational actors promoted cash transfer schemes as solutions to extreme poverty in the global south. In the Sub-Saharan African (SSA) region, three transnational actors, the World Bank, DFID1 and UNICEF were instrumental in persuading governments to adopt and implement cash transfer programmes. Research on the politics of social protection policy has to date focused primarily on the promotion and adoption of cash transfers in southern and eastern African countries with dominant-type political settlements. However, not much attention has been given to why and how cash transfers have been adopted and implemented in western African countries with competitive clientelist political settlements. This thesis addresses this knowledge gap, using the Livelihood Empowerment Against Poverty (LEAP) programme in Ghana as a case study. Employing a qualitative case study design, the study examines the influence of domestic and transnational politics on the implementation of the LEAP programme. Specifically, three research questions guide this study. First, how have the ideas and interests of transnational actors influenced the implementation of Ghana’s LEAP programme? Second, how do local government actors and institutions in Ghana’s competitive political setting impact on the implementation and expansion of LEAP? Third, how does Ghana’s competitive democratic politics drive implementation and expansion strategies of LEAP? Using Lavers and Hickey’s Adapted Political Settlements framework, the study finds that the programmatic ideas and organisational interests of the WB, DFID and UNICEF were instrumental in the design and strategy for implementing Ghana’s LEAP. However, the political interests of domestic elites exerted as much influence especially in how the programme expanded, often in unintended ways. The interests of political elites were instrumental in determining which districts the LEAP expanded to and who was targeted. The study makes three contributions to the literature on political settlements and its intersection with social protection. First, an empirical contribution documenting how transnational and domestic politics shape the implementation of social protection in the context of competitive clientelist political settlements. Second, a theoretical contribution, in identifying how socio-cultural values and norms play a key role in shaping targeting decisions at the local government level. Third, a methodological contribution by using a multi-level data collection and analytical strategy to analyse the politics of implementing social protection. The thesis concludes with implications for redesigning social protection and recommendations for future research. 1 DFID is now integrated into a new department called the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO)


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