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Political Economy of Reform


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National University of Singapore
Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy

PP5145 Political Economy of Reform
Special Term 2014 – 2015
(as at 8 April 2015)

YEE, (Henry) Wai-Hang, Ph.D.
Li Ka Shing Building 02-03
6516 5832

Class Hours:
Office Hours:

Monday 14:00 – 17:00; Thursday 14:00 – 17:00
By appointment

Course Description
Public managers need to master the skills of not only managing organizations but also managing projects, programs, and particularly larger-scale policy reforms.
Good understanding of the political economy embedded in policy and administrative reforms are thus essential. This course examines the political-economic dynamics embedded in the reform process from an institutional perspective. It is a master–level course designed for practitioners in the field of public administration and public policy. It discusses strategies for achieving and enhancing reform outcomes. Theories and practices proposed by academics and practitioners will be drawn on as learning resources for the class.

Class Format
To achieve a high level of synergy and make the most out of our classroom meetings, I expect students to learn from both the instructor and one another in the class. Each of our class will be divided into 2 parts. In the first part, I will begin by giving a general introduction of the assigned readings. Then, a number of students, appointed in advance, will deliver a brief presentation on the assigned readings of the week. Each student will be responsible for presenting one piece of readings. Then, the class will be divided (sometimes randomly) into groups to discuss and share their views and reflections on the readings with their group members. Each group will then share their views with the class. The second half of the session will be followed after a break. The instructor will be in-charge of the session after the break, carrying out various class activities designed for the session (e.g., case discussion, role play, debate). More and more emphasis will be put on case discussion as students become familiar with the field.


Learning Objectives
Through exposing students to various streams of institutional literature, the course seeks to provide students a variety of perspectives and frameworks for systematically understanding reform dynamics. It seeks to enhance the analytical ability and expand the management repertoire of public managers for effectively achieving development outcomes of policy reform. At the end of the semester, students are to be equipped with the ability to critically analyze and strategically manage the political-economic dynamics of policy and administrative reforms.

Learning Expectations
Students are expected to

Utilize various institutional perspectives to comprehend reform dynamics that affect reform outcomes

Diagnose challenges and obstacles and prescribe strategies for reform implementation. 

Use basic strategic management devices to improve reform outcomes

Assessment and Grading
Assessments in this course are designed to enhance students’ learning. They provide a paced, step-by-step process for achieving the learning objectives.
a. Class participation (20%), and peer evaluation (10%)
b. Presentation (20%)
c. Case analysis I (15%), and Case analysis II (35%)
a. Class Participation, and Peer Evaluation
Active participation in class is crucial for your learning and the learning of others.
This can only be achieved when everyone is contributing. Students are expected to share their thoughts on the assigned readings and discuss them with the class.
Relevant experiences are particularly welcomed as this brings varieties to the knowledge pool of the class.
b. Presentation
Effective verbal communication is an essential skill for carrying out reform. Each student is expected to deliver presentations in class (~10 minutes) and facilitate and stimulate the subsequent class discussion. They may raise questions based on their experience, other assigned readings, or some current affairs.


c. Case Analysis I & II
In the case analyses, students are expected to first identify and describe in detail some key dynamics embedded in policy and administrative reform phenomenon in focus, analyze the reform using one or more theoretical perspective(s), and propose suggestions and strategies for further consideration and action.
For Case Analysis I, students will be given a case scenario, whereas in Case Analysis
II, students will analyse a reform at their own choice. Especially for Case Analysis II, students are encouraged to incorporate objective data, relevant literature review, their experience and creativity into the analysis.
The objective of the exercise is to allow students to put in use the knowledge they have learnt in the class. Students will be graded according to depth and clarity of their writing, analytical rigor, appropriateness in the use of theoretical perspective(s), and the plausibility of the solutions/strategy they suggest.


Class Schedules and Learning Materials

Week 1-1: Introduction, Class Logistics & The Washington Consensus
Williamson, John. 2008. A short history of the Washington Consensus I. The
Washington Consensus Reconsidered: Towards a New Global Governance. Oxford
Scholarship Online.
Stiglitz, Joseph E. 2004. The post Washington Consensus. The Initiative for Policy
Week 1-2: Institution, Development & Reform
Shirley, M. M. 2005. Institutions and Development. Handbook of New Institutional
Economics. The Netherlands: Springer.
Evans, Peter. 1995. States and Industrial Transformation. Embedded Autonomy:
States and Industrial Transformation. UK: Princeton University Press
Asian Development Bank. 2013. A framework for the political economy of reform.
Managing Reforms for Development: Political Economy of Reforms and Policy-Based
Lending Case Studies.
Week 2-1: Administrative Reform & Capacity Building
Kamensky, John M. 1996. Role of the “Reinventing Government” movement in
Federal Management Reform. Public Administration Review 56 (3): 247-255.
Cheung, Anthony B. L. 2011. NPM in Asian countries. In Tom Christensen, Per
Laegreid, (eds.), The Ashgate research companion to new public management, pp.
131-144. England: Ashgate
Case: What Makes a Policy Intervention Successful? Brazil's Fundescola Education
Reform (HKS)
Week 2-2: Institutional Analysis
Ostrom, Elinor. 2005. Understanding the Diversity of Structured Human Interactions.
Understanding Institutional Diversity. Princeton University Press.
Miller, Gary. 2005. The Political Evolution of Principal-Agent Models. American
Review of Political Science, 8: 203-25.
MacCarthaigh, M., Martin Painter and Wai-Hang Yee. Agency Governance in its
Constitutional Context: Comparing the cases of Hong Kong and Ireland


Week 3-1: Economic Development
Acemoglu Daron, and James A. Robinson. 2012. The Making of Prosperity and
Poverty. Why Nations Fail: The Origins of Power, Prosperity and Poverty. London:
Profile Books.
De Soto, Hernando. 2000. The Mystery of Capital. Basic Books. The Mystery of
Capital. Ch 3, pp. 39-68
Case: Chang, Ha-Joon. 2003. Policies for economic development: Industrial, trade, and technology policies in historical perspective. Kicking away the ladder:
Development strategy in historical perspective. London: Anthem Press.
Week 3-2: Institutional Change
North, D. C. 1990. The path of institutional change. Institutions, Institutional Change and Economic Development. UK: Cambridge University Press.
Theleen, Kathleen. 2003. How Institutions Evolve: Insights from Comparative
Historical Analysis. In James Mahoney and Dietrich Rueschemeyer (eds.),
Comparative Historical Analysis in the Social Sciences, 208-240. UK: Cambridge
University Press.
Pierson, Paul. 2004. Institutional Development. Politics in Time: History, Institutions, and Social Analysis. Princeton and Oxford: Princeton University Press.
Week 4-1: Regulatory Governance
Eisner, M. A., Worsham, J. & Ringquist, E. J. 2006. Contemporary Regulatory Policy.
A Brief History of Contemporary Regulatory Politics. Ch. 3, pp. 33-56
Levi, Brian, and Pablo T. Spiller. 1994. The institutional foundations of regulatory commitment: A comparative analysis of telecommunications regulation. Journal of
Law, Economics, & Organization 10: 201-246.
Case: Regulatory Reform at OSHA B&C (HKS case)
Week 4-2: Power, Institution & Environmental Reform
Yee, W. H., S. Y. Tang & C. W. H. Lo. Forthcoming. Regulatory compliance when the rule of law is weak: Evidence from China’s Environmental Reform.
Moe, Terry M. 2005. Power and political institutions. Perspectives on Politics, 3(2):
World Bank. Sept 2009. Problem-driven Governance and Political Economy
Analysis: Good Practice Framework.


Week 5-1: Institutional Facts & Standard Setting
Searle, John R. 2010. Making the Social World: The Structure of Human Civilization.
New York: Oxford University Press. The general theory of institutions and institutional facts: language and social reality (or the journal article).
Scott, Colin. Standard-Setting in Regulatory Regimes. In R. Baldwin, M. Cave, & M.
Lodge, (eds.), The Oxford Handbook of Regulation. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Ch 6, pp.104-119.
Case: The Control of LIBOR
Week 5-2: Decentralization
Weingast, Barry R. 2005. The performance and stability of federalism: An institutional perspective. Handbook of New Institutional Economics. The Netherlands:
Yee, Wai-Hang. Transforming Rules-in-form into Rules-in-use: Voluntary Program,
Exemplar and Regulatory Governance in China.
Week 6-1: Beliefs, Mental model and Informal Institutions
North, Douglas C. 2005. Understanding the process of economic change. Princeton and Oxford: Princeton University Press. The Scaffolds Humans Erect, Ch. 5. pp. 48 64.
Helmke, Gretchen, & Levitsky, Steven. 2004. Informal institutions and comparative politics: A research agenda. Perspectives on Politics, 2(4): 725-740.
Case: Adani Agri Logistics Limited: Blocking the Grain Drain Week 6-2: Project Presentation
Week 7-1: Wrap-Up
Rodrik, Dani. 2008. A practical approach to formulating growth strategies. The
Washington Consensus Reconsidered: Toward a New Global Governance. Oxford
Scholarship Online.
Stiglitz. Joseph E. 2008. The future of global governance. The Washington Consensus
Reconsidered: Toward a New Global Governance. Oxford Scholarship Online.


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