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The Political Economy of Roads


The Political Economy of Roads Dr Lyla Mehta Institute of Development Studies, UK, Noragric, Norway Every road has a story to tell : Demenge 2011 Why are roads ... – PowerPoint PPT presentation

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Title: The Political Economy of Roads

  • The Political Economy of Roads
  • Dr Lyla Mehta
  • Institute of Development Studies, UK,
  • Noragric, Norway

Every road has a story to tell Demenge 2011
  • Why are roads built? What do they say about our
    relationship with the environment, power
    relations and wider socio-political processes?
  • How are the environment and society transformed
    with roads?
  • Most concern with technical aspects, not
    political economy

Narratives around roads
  • Development and modernity / poverty alleviation
  • Several purposes served e.g. strategic,
    military, control, geopolitical
  • Roads portrayed as technically and politically
  • Increase mobility and enhance access to services/
  • Modernization project

Nature of roads
  • Low levels of maintenance and poor quality can
    make them rivalrous - sometimes excludable (e.g.
    through tolls etc.) but in SSA difficult to
  • Natural monopoly and entail high sunk costs in
    terms of land, labour, materials
  • High demand for roads, low demand for maintenance
    (linked to political mileage and political
  • Cost and time overruns/ donor and external

Benefits and transformation
  • Labour intensive and generate employment
  • Transport and construction industry support
    employment / also serve as a conduit for
    livelihood activities
  • Access to services, markets, state interventions
  • Mobility and movement
  • Increases in crop prices, improvement in health
    (e.g. material health)
  • Improved school attendance

Mixed experiences with roads
  • Access to some resources also lost (e.g. land,
    pastures, CPRs)
  • Water related changes (loss, flooding,
  • Dramatic changes to livelihoods
  • Mobility and isolation are gendered
  • Increased political control
  • Hierarchy of benefits rich benefit more than
  • Men tend to control surpluses and travel more
  • Lack of consultation/ decision making

Road construction as a political process
  • Macro politics states pursue specific goals
    e.g. territorializing regime - political
    control is exercised over land and allows
    sovereignty to be extended over the frontier
  • Making people and places legible
  • Military and border politics
  • Taming wild landscapes and people
  • Micro politics battles for the road different
    strategies exercised to gain access to resources
    and adapt to changes from road

Roads for water sociopolitical research will
focus on
  • Changes to access to resources, services and
    CPRs before and after the road
  • Little known links between water and roads and
    patterns of adaptation
  • Knowledge/ perceptions of roads/ water related
  • Changes to livelihoods and food and water
  • Changes to social and gender relations
  • Links with wider drivers of changes
  • Ways to create sustainable and modified practices
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