Multisectoral Initiatives, Sectoral Inertia: A Dilemma of Governance for Development Policy-makers

Publication Year : 1999

The opinion of development professionals at home and abroad has converged on the point that bad governance lies at the root of the loss of the momentum of economic growth, increasing poverty and failed investment in social sectors. Early concern of development economists with market failure brought in the arguments for the role of government. Government failure was the dominant issue of the eighties. The last decade of the twentieth century is witnessing a focus on governance failure, a broader concept in that the government is not viewed as the only governing entity. This paper addresses an issue which has been there during the reigns of all these “failure” paradigms. It arises from the inability of governments, organised traditionally into the vertically operating line departments, to deal effectively with multisectoral or cross-sectoral problems and cross-cutting issues. The paper traces the evolution of multisectoral issues and looks at the standard approach of treating multisectoral initiatives as a horizontally fathomed coordination problem to show that it has been an unmitigated disaster. It argues that the multisectoral issues can be better addressed by internalising the elements of coordination, particularly in social sectors, though there have been situations which raise questions about this approach as well