Building Administrative Capacities in Developing Countries: SWAT Teams or Beat Cops?


Sunil Tankha received his doctorate from MIT and is a lecturer in the Institute of Social Studies at Erasmus University Rotterdam. His teaching and research involves public policy and management, and economic infrastructure development, with several years of fi eld experience in Latin America, South Asia, and Africa.


After reading Professor Ali Farazmand's essay “Building Administrative Capacity in the Age of Rapid Globalization: A Modest Prescription for the Twenty-First Century,” one is reminded that the list of capacities we need to develop is long, the tasks are diverse, and the challenges are tremendous. By offering a “modest” prescription, Farazmand departs emphatically from recent attempts to rewrite administrative capacity by downgrading it and outsourcing it to the market or by making it imitate corporate structures and techniques. Such exercises of yesteryear are correctly being excoriated now, but it would be well to remember that this failed model was inspired and facilitated by the stagnation and many perversities of the state-centered model that it replaced. As we stand at the cusp of a new generation of public administration reforms, we are reminded by Professor Farazmand's exposition that we no longer have any widely accepted and integrative theories left to guide our practice of reform, and that a search must begin to look at past evidence with a critical eye toward developing practical and theoretical insights to advance the public administration agenda.