There are several rationales put forward for delegating powers to non-majoritarian agencies, such as the IRA (Thatcher and Stone Sweet 2002). They largely focus on the policy outcomes in a developed country context. This chapter has suggested an important process-related rationale specifically relevant for developing countries. The process-related rationale is to provide a neutral and autonomous venue for design and implementation of policy formulation tools. Based on this rationale, the mechanism of policy formulation by autonomous agencies can be extended beyond the scope of IRA-led policymaking. An 'autonomous policy formulation venue' can be envisaged irrespective of whether the final policy decision is made by an IRA or other government agencies or Ministers. However, the cases show that there are still some barriers in this regard. Although there have been positive outcomes, the policy options related to 'rights-based' water tariffs or the option of cost regulation of water utilities were not accepted in the final policy. Hence, there are certain conditions of tool use that need to be created and maintained to achieve the objective of countering vested interests in the policy formulation process.
Considering the specific context of developing countries, we suggest four important conditions of tool use in an 'autonomous policy formulation venue'. First, there is a need to evolve systems and mechanisms for mobilization and organization of the marginalized sections so that they can effectively participate in the process of tool use. This will act to counter-balance attempts by dominant interests to capture the tool-use process. Enabling the formation of coalitions of the marginalized sections and capacity building of such groups are some of the important mechanisms that the cases in this chapter throw light on. Second, the autonomous policy venue should be backed by a robust institutional design for tool design and implementation. The design should include rules and regulations for maintaining high levels of transparency and accountability.
Third, there is a need to leave some space for enabling 'negotiations' that might be needed at different stages of tool design and implementation. Theoretically such a space for negotiation should not exist in an autonomous type of venue because of its non-majoritarian status. But the cases show that one-to-one negotiation with the IRA helped the representatives of the marginalized sections gain a stronger foothold on the design of the tool, especially in terms of increasing the intensity of the participatory consultations. Given the social-political reality of developing societies there is higher possibility that whatever system is evolved for ensuring evidence-based policy formulation, including the autonomous venue for tool use, it will eventually be captured by dominant groups.
Thus, extra efforts are needed to even out the excess advantage of the dominant sections by providing negotiation space for the marginalized. The cases presented in this chapter show how the coalition of civil society actors played an important role in negotiating a more participatory and transparent tool design in favour of the marginalized. Thus, officially recognizing the existing coalitions as representative of this section of society, or appointing special representatives for it, are some of the mechanisms that would facilitate the development of a negotiated approach within an autonomous venue.
A fourth important condition in this regard relates to the pre-existence of a framework of social principles under which policy formulation within autonomous venues can be exercised. Such a framework may be spelled out in the country's Constitution or other legal instruments. The framework will lay down the broader principles such as equity and social justice. Without such a framework, tool use under an autonomous venue will lead to de-politicization of the policy process which might be harmful for the poor and marginalized sections of the society.
These four conditions define the features of the autonomous policy formulation venue adapted to the sociopolitical reality of developing countries. Tool use in such a venue can prove to be an effective strategy in developing countries to counter the interference of undue vested interests and promote evidence-based politics that are more pro-poor. Thus, the path to reforms in developing countries cannot be merely of 'institutional transplantation' of developed country models. Instead there is a need to undertake a fresh 'institutional design' approach to accommodate and address the problems specific to developing countries.
1. Based on interviews with senior social activists working on rehabilitation of project-affected people.
2. Based on interviews with social activists who participated in the consultation process.
3. Based on government data collected by Right to Information Act by the NGO PRAYAS.