Tuesday, June 5, 2018

Building a Capable State: Service Delivery in Post-Apartheid South Africa 1st Edition by Ian Palmer, Nishendra Moodley and, Susan Parnell (Zed Books)

A detailed overview of many of the technical and institutional difficulties involved in creating effective local government in South Africa. The authors command a vast field of knowledge and the book is authoritative. Yet it seems to have been cobbled together in haste - the writing quality is extremely uneven, and the book is very thin on analysis. For the most part, it simply describes the complex arrangements and frameworks that were set in place to support effective state building, with very little in the way of insightful or critical commentary on why these systems failed or even whether they were appropriate in the first place. Despite these flaws, it will remain a good reference tool for students of this fascinating area. The case studies at the end of the volume - on water, electricity, transport and housing provision - are particularly interesting and of great relevance.

With the signing of  new sustainable development goals in 2016, marking a new phase of global development focused on ecologically and fiscally sustainable human settlements, few countries offer a better testing ground than post-Apartheid South Africa. Since the coming to power of the African National Congress, the country has undergone a revolution in policy, driven by an urgent need to improve access to services for the country’s black majority. Twenty years after the end of Apartheid, Building a CapableState asks what lessons can be learned from the South African experience.

The book assesses whether the South African government has succeeded in improving key services, focusing on the vital sectors of water and sanitation, energy, roads, and public transport. Emphasizing the often-overlooked role of local government institutions, Building a CapableState demonstrates that effective service delivery can have a profound effect on the social structure of emerging economies, and must form an integral part of any future development strategy. Employing a detailed, country-focused case study, this book will be essential reading for practitioners of public policy and researchers across the social sciences.

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