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IDS (2005) Signposts to More Effective States: Responding to Governance Challenges in Developing Countries, Centre for the Future State, Institute of Development Studies: Brighton.

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This report joins in the criticism of the ‘good governance’ agenda, stressing that donor prescriptions for institutional change have been unrealistic in their excessive expectations of poor countries and have failed to examine the deep-seated causes for bad governance. On the basis of a series of separate research projects, the report draws conclusions on: (a) taxation and state-society relations, (b) civil society organisations and their relationship to the state, and (c) new forms of public-private relations. The conclusion is that the development community cannot create good governance, but it can nurture useful, if less bold, changes, such as:

  • Regarding taxation: restricting access of political elites in poor countries to rents, and stimulating “public debate about the links between revenue-raising and spending”;
  • Regarding civil society: focusing on “the iterative relationship, over time, between state and society, rather than on ‘strengthening’ civil society vis-à-vis the state”;
  • Regarding public-private partnerships: Building on those informal relationships that are working, rather than trying to impose “purer”, imported solutions.