Expanding, Not Shrinking Social Programmes

The Politics of New Policies to Tackle Poverty and Inequality in Brazil, India, China and South Africa

In recent years, as governments in the industrialised world have reduced spending on social programmes, governments in four major emerging countries (Brazil, India, China and South Africa) have by contrast intensified efforts to tackle poverty and inequality. This trend has been almost entirely ignored by scholars – even though these four governments increasingly influence international agendas, and even though they govern more than one-half of humankind. In this project, an 18-member international team, coordinated out of the Institute of Commonwealth Studies, will analyse the political and policy processes which have led to these new initiatives.

Each of the four countries will first be examined in isolation and in depth, and then the four cases will be compared. Variations and commonalities across the four cases will be investigated. The analysis will consider the specific objectives that these governments have pursued, the specific policies that have been adopted, the financial and administrative resources available to the four governments, power dynamics involving advocates and opponents of the policies, and the political machinations that have been used.

The project is multi-disciplinary. The research team includes political scientists, sociologists, economists and specialists in policy analysis.

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