• Dhirendra K. Vajpeyi
Part of the Urban Research International book series (URI, volume 3)


To generalize about the nature of politics and political institutions in the vast and complex area as the Third World is an exercise in futility. The countries of the area are different from one another in their levels of social evolution, political development, economic achievement, and technological change; however, most of them have experienced colonialism in the past with varying degrees of exploitation and changes introduced by the colonialists. After gaining independence these countries are attempting to decolonize themselves by establishing new institutions and political systems at national and sub-national levels. The degree of their success has been uneven due to several factors such as the quality of their political elites and their commitment to bring modernization, their economic resources, and last but not least, the degree to which the process of democratization, at all levels of society has been introduced, and internalized by the people themselves. With a few exceptions the ghost of colonialism keeps haunting these societies. Due to lack of political-administrative experience, a participatory culture, and weak infrastructure the colonial centralized-bureaucratic model of administration has not been replaced. This is more obvious and prevalent in the intergovernmental relationships between national, state/province, and local (district) governments. Under the imperial administrative system most of the indigenous institutions of local government and governance such as Panchayats in India were either abolished or became irrelevant and ineffective. The colonial administration’s narrowly defined goals were to maintain law and order, collect revenues, and work only with those natives who had accepted colonial goals and objectives. The European model of participatory governance at local level based on principles of accountability, responsiveness, and representativeness was considered ill suited to the context in the colonies. Local government institutions were reduced to the status of subordinate agents of the higher administration, and were 1) not accorded a separate legal identity, 2) denied budgetary rights, authority to raise taxes and allocate resources, 3) with no responsibilities to deal with local development functions, and 4) not accorded popular mandate and local choice for local development (Mawhood 1983). In almost all these countries the colonial administration established a few local agencies primarily for public health — preventive measures for malaria, cholera, and small pox — and sanitation. Local population was taxed to maintain this system, which in most cases was totally inefficient. In sum local agencies had no responsibilities in the areas associated with democratic functions (representativeness), welfare/social service functions, development functions, and nation-building functions (Vajpeyi 1990: 2), however, it should be noted here that in several countries such as India (Pandey 1969: 125), Nigeria (Gboyega 1987), and Sri Lanka the colonial administration did grant limited government and governance mainly under the pressure of nationalist movements or/and demands by the local population.


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