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Public Sector Reform in Developing Countries (Claremont Graduate University)

This course, run by Professor Robert Klitgaard from January to May 2013, explored strategies for preventing and mitigating corruption across a range of national, sectorial, municipal, and organizational contexts. Drawing on theory, empirical research, and lessons from successful cases of corruption control, students learned to combine strategic and managerial dimensions into effective diagnosis and action.

“Public sector reform” can mean many things.  Think of democracy, participation, decentralization, efficiency, and impartiality—to name a few.  In many developing countries, fighting corruption is high on the list of challenges.  Independently but tellingly, leaders of China, Vietnam, and Mexico have called corruption a cancer.  A few years ago, World Bank deemed corruption the foremost obstacle to development. 

This course explores strategies for preventing and mitigating corruption across a range of national, sectorial, municipal, and organizational contexts.  Drawing on theory, empirical research, and lessons from successful cases of corruption control, students learn to combine strategic and managerial dimensions into effective diagnosis and action.

 Along the way, students confront key challenges in countries such as Colombia, Georgia, Haiti, India, Indonesia, Pakistan, Peru, the Philippines, and South Sudan.  Students also study such champions of reform as Hong Kong and Singapore. 

Many lessons from diagnosing and fighting corruption link to larger lessons about effective reforms (for example, doing a few things that work in the short run to build momentum; in the longer run, changing incentives and information).  Some of the things that don’t work also carry lessons (for example, simply changing a code of conduct or a law when there are weak incentives and opaque information).

The course also confronts the uses and limitations of quantification.  As students examine the foremost data and quantitative analyses on corruption and development, they develop skills applicable to other questions where comparisons using imperfect data are made across countries, states, and cities. 

 Finally, by working through case studies of real situations, students appreciate the uses and limitations of received theory.  Students see how successful reforms go beyond formulas to incorporate the idiosyncrasies of local context.  They learn how policymakers can borrow without copying, how models can be used without being taken as literal truth.


14 Nov 2013



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