Invitation - AL16

The 16th WIDER Annual Lecture was given by Professor Lant Pritchett, currently Professor of the Practice of International Development Harvard Kennedy School of Government, in Helsinki, in September 2012, under the enticing title ‘Folk and the Formula: Pathways to Capable States’.

After fifty years of development efforts, 80 per cent of states are still at low, stagnating or failing levels of capabilities. Why? What could be done better?

‘Development needs a state that can carry out its responsibilities -formulating effective policies; delivering the mail, educating children, enforcing the law, and collecting taxes. But most developing country states are still failing or stagnating.

The Weberian civil service as the backbone of state capability can work well. But this formula has failed when transplanted to many countries. Increasingly a crisis exists: postal workers don’t deliver the mail, teachers don’t teach, police don’t police, and the taxman does not collect taxes.

If the current formula was sound, it should have worked by now. The reality is that success in building state capability typically comes from a struggle to replace bad institutions with good [‘folk practices’], based on learning from experience – and not from imposing a rigid formula unsuited to local conditions.’

- Lant Pritchett

The Annual Lecture by Professor Pritchett is now available online. Please download from this website or contact our publications department for more information.


Professor Lant Pritchett
Professor Lant Pritchett, giving the WIDER Annual Lecture 16.


Go here for video of the event.