Governance in Developing Countries

Some developing countries are experiencing an Industrial Revolution, with all its attendant social changes, at breakneck speed.  This gives rise to many governance problems:

  • Sources of supply can develop very rapidly to adapt to new demands if they are allowed to (3.3.2), but politicians need to ensure that the necessary regulations keep pace (3.3.1).
  • There are huge population movements from the countryside to the cities, requiring major infrastructure investments. The Dharavi slum in Mumbai, which was the setting for the film Slumdog Millionaire, is a vivid example of what happens when people move into a city before there is housing available for them.  An Economist article, A flourishing slum, describes the dreadful conditions there.
  • The growing industrialisation can create pollution problems, as described in The Economist article, Pollution in China: Man-made and visible from space.
  • Education is essential for an industrial workforce, whereas many rural populations have high levels of illiteracy. It is a huge logistical challenge to gear up the capacity of the education system and there are signs that India, for example, is not succeeding in meeting the challenge. The Economist article, Indian education: Why the world’s biggest school system is failing its pupils, noted that:

“More Indians are attending school than ever before. But they are not learning much”.

  • Enormous economic inequalities can emerge, as in India. The Economist article, India has a hole where its middle class should be, draws attention to political risks: “Eight in ten Indians cite inequality as a big problem, on a par with corruption”. Resentment might emerge, although in India there has been a long experience of inequality due to the operation of the caste system.  Poor people are more likely to accept these gross inequalities in the 21st century if they feel that their children have a chance of achieving success – but, as noted above, Indian education is sub-standard.

These problems are huge, but not insuperable.  Duncan Green’s book, From Poverty to Power, Edition 2: How Active Citizens and Effective States Can Change the World, uses case studies to describe ways in which developing countries can transform their governance:

“Active citizens and effective states are driving this transformation. Why active citizens? Because people living in poverty must have a voice in deciding their own destiny and holding the state and the private sector to account. Why effective states? Because history shows that no country has prospered without a state structure that can actively manage the development process.”

Politicians in developing countries can also offer incentives, as suggested below (



This is a current page, from the Patterns of Power Edition 3a book, © PatternsofPower.org, 2020.  An archived copy of it is held at https://www.patternsofpower.org/edition03/6762a.htm