Lost in translation - the nexus of multi-layered housing policy gaps : the case of Ghana
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Paradigms of housing policies in developing countries have undergone significant changes since the 1940s in the post-colonial era. The involvement of international development agencies such as the World Bank and the United Nations with their substantial financial and technical resources have engendered a conventional narrative of the hegemony of paradigms sponsored by these agencies. It is in this light that the “enabling principles” of housing policy emerged as the dominant policy discourse from the 1980s. This housing paradigm -“enabling shelter policies” –was actively promoted by the World Bank and the United Nations, acting through its housing agency the UN-Habitat, for adoption by developing countries to reform their housing sectors from the 1980s. One of the main instruments of the enabling principles was the withdrawal or contraction of the state from direct housing development in preference for private sector-led and community initiatives in housing development. Government involvement in direct development of housing was conceived to be an ineffective policy choice which had little geographic impact and therefore had to give way to a systematised approach to housing delivery. Ghana was one of the first African countries to adopt these principles for the reform of the housing sector in the country. Two decades later, it has been observed that the government was making housing policy choices that contradicted the ethos of the enabling principles. In particular it was observed that the state was re-engaging in direct housing development. In the light of the past conception of these activities as being defective policies, their re-emergence was characteristic of policy “reversionism”. This concept of policy reversionism is adopted from theories of theology and criminal justice (where it is known as recidivism) in which processes of reform or progression are reversed. The question explored by the thesis is why housing policy reversionism was emerging and what were the generating factors. The thesis draws on a critical realist perspective to deconstruct the conventional narratives about the homogenous state and the hegemony of international agencies such as the World Bank and the UN in the advancement of “unproblematic” enabling principles through which the housing sector reforms were designed and implemented. In doing so the thesis established the heterogeneity of the state driven by competition for domination by sectoral, intra-state as well as supra-state interests. In this process, hegemony becomes vulnerable to manipulation as these principles were translated or “indigenised”. Furthermore it is established that this nuanced perspective is further complicated by a dialectical relationship between the contexts of events and prevailing material conditions and the actions taken by policy agents. These complexities layered the housing policy sphere in ways that masked the primary motivations of class interests and political legitimisation underpinning the incidence of reversionism.
Thesis, PhD Doctor of Philosophy
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