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Facilitating Development: Evidence from a National-Level Experiment on Improving Bureaucratic Performance in Myanmar

Research co-authored by DCID Director Edmund Malesky is published in the Journal of Politics.

Edmund Malesky, director of the Duke Center for International Development, co-authored the article, “Facilitating Development: Evidence from a National-Level Experiment on Improving Bureaucratic Performance in Myanmar,” which is published in the Journal of Politics.

Edmund Malesky
Edmund Malesky, PhD

Malesky and co-author Dean Dulay, Singapore Management University, explore why, despite strong theoretical foundations, randomized evaluations demonstrate that subnational performance assessments have a mixed record in improving governance.

The authors suggest “a key factor influencing this disappointing result has been the omission of facilitation—working with bureaucrats on how to use subnational performance assessments (SPAs) effectively and encouraging collaboration across government agencies.”

They tested the argument on a nationally representative panel of townships in precoup Myanmar. “Facilitation workshops were conducted in 20 randomly assigned townships, bringing together officials from multiple government agencies and introducing them to the results of the Myanmar Business Environment Index (MBEI), an SPA that scored a panel of 60 townships on 92 governance indicators,” the authors write in the article’s abstract.

“Results show that businesses in townships where officials attended facilitation workshops ranked their townships twice as high as the businesses in the control group. Variation in MBEI improvements was moderated by the degree of decentralization in bureaucratic agencies.”

The Myanmar Business Environment Index, initiated in 2018 by The Asia Foundation, measures key aspects of state, regional, and township business environments and shares its findings with local, public decision-makers. Malesky led the development of the MBEI’s research methodology.

Established in 1939 and published for the Southern Political Science Association, The Journal of Politics is a leading general-interest journal of political science and the oldest regional political science journal in the United States.

Malesky, a professor of political economy at Duke, is a specialist on specialist on Southeast Asia, particularly Vietnam. His research agenda is at the intersection of Comparative and International Political Economy, falling into three major categories: 1) Authoritarian political institutions and their consequences; 2) The political influence of foreign direct investment and multinational corporations; and 3) Political institutions, private business development, and formalization. He joined the Duke Center for International Development as the director in 2020.