Frame

The Political Economy and Governance cluster is interested in the political impact of socioeconomic change, issues of state capacity and performance, and local government structures and localized politics. The cluster’s research activities are guided by a variety of themes, prominent of which are extant relationships of accountability between states, citizens, and political intermediaries; institutional and structural determinants of socio-economic inequality; the form, type, and nature of bureaucratic state capacity; regional and sub-national variation in development and its relationship with political economy.

The cluster’s concurrent focus on governance both in its formal (bureaucratic) and informal (social and cultural) variants also lends itself to an overarching prescriptive concern with issues of policy. Researchers associated with the cluster remain engaged with issues of institutional interventions for improved welfare; the design of local governments, and upgradation of state human resource capacity through civil services reform.

Context

The recent COVID-19 crisis has highlighted the importance of governance by diverting the attention of the world to fundamental issues of governance, particularly based on the response of various governments in managing the pandemic at home. The ongoing debate about whether democracies or authoritarian states dealt with the health crisis better remains central to this. With South Asia constituting a large percentage of the world’s population, its different forms of governance happen to also carry a question mark.

Pakistan, which has seen periodic swings between civilian and military rule since its founding in 1947, is currently dealing with the COVID-19 crisis under a civilian government. It has employed its decentralized governance structure to handle the pandemic with certain interventions from the federal government. Therefore, responsibility for dealing with the crisis primarily lies with the provincial governments. However, it still remains too early to determine its role in dealing with the health crisis.

Research Problems

  • Key questions being explored by the cluster include:
  • What forms of governance exist? Since formal institutions of power co-exist and overlap, how can we adequately describe and categorize them?
  • Are states and politicians accountable to their citizens? What affects this accountability?
  • How do bureaucrats and politicians influence governance?
  • What political factors affect patterns of resource distribution (i.e., the distribution of development funds), and what are the long-term implications of these distributive patterns for development?
  • What explains subnational variations in state performance and capacity?
  • What are the limitations of existing political vehicles, parties, and organizations that have set up aforementioned localized operations?

Projects

Zakat, Tax, and the State: Obligation and Charity in Times of COVID-19

The project draws on a comparative set up between Egypt, Morocco, and Pakistan with varying relationships between zakat and state and a phone-based survey of nationally-representative samples. Through a comparative study, the project seeks to explore questions around three central issues pertaining to the research topic.

Read More

Learning from the History of Epidemics

The project aims at curating a social history of the influenza epidemic in colonial India. By exploring archival materials and survey reports, it hopes to understand the notions of diseases, body, and cure through an exploratory survey of approaches towards the influenza epidemic.

Read More