Abstract

This paper focuses on the link between economic rights and institutions. Simple analysis of data is used to demonstrate countries' human development effort in advancing economics rights of the citizens. A country's human development effort is evaluated on the basis of the well-being of the poorest members of the society. An analysis of data reveals that there is a wide variation in countries' pro-poor stance. While it is accepted that positive rights are pro-poor, this paper argues that so too are negative economic rights and in fact the two are complements rather than substitutes. Classifying countries into human development income deficit and human development effort deficit, it is demonstrated that a large number of countries could achieve higher welfare levels for the poor if they improved on bother positive and negative economic rights. The paper attempts to explain variations in the observed commitment to economic rights by focusing on pro-poor institutions. The basic thesis advanced in the paper is that pro-poor policies are more likely to be implemented and sustained in those institutions where power is sufficiently diffused such that even the poor have leverage over policy outcomes. The paper focuses on how institutions impact on power diffusion and therefore the adoption of pro-poor growth and policies. The failure of countries to adopt pro-poor growth and policies is attributed to institutional failures manifested in concentration of power. The policy recommendations emanating from the analysis focus on institutional reforms to enhance power diffusion. These policies include enlarging the political space through democratization, strengthening institutions and capacity to fight corruption and improve transparency, and bringing the government closer to the people through appropriate design and implementation of decentralization schemes. Some recent examples of improvements in economic rights following power diffusion are provided.

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