Bureaucratic reform in irrigation: A review of four case studies

Diana Suhardiman
International Water Management Institute (IWMI), Vientiane, Lao PDR; d.suhardiman@cgiar.org

Mark Giordano
Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service, Georgetown University, USA; mg1382@georgetown.edu

Edwin Rap
International Water Management Institute (IWMI), Cairo, Egypt; e.rap@cgiar.org

Kai Wegerich
International Water Management Institute (IWMI), Tashkent, Uzbekistan; k.wegerich@cgiar.org

ABSTRACT: Poor performance of government-managed irrigation systems persists globally. This paper argues that addressing performance requires not simply more investment or different policy approaches, but reform of the bureaucracies responsible for irrigation management. Based on reform experiences in The Philippines, Mexico, Indonesia, and Uzbekistan, we argue that irrigation (policy) reform cannot be treated in isolation from the overall functioning of government bureaucracies and the wider political structure of the states. Understanding of how and why government bureaucracies shape reform processes and outcomes is crucial to increase the actual significance of reforms. To demonstrate this, the paper links reform processes in the irrigation sector with the wider discourse of bureaucratic reform in the political science, public administration, and organisational science literature. Doing so brings to light the need for systematic comparative research on the organisational characteristic of the irrigation bureaucracies, their bureaucratic identities, and how these are shaped by various segments within the bureaucracies to provide the insights needed to improve irrigation systems performance.

KEYWORDS: Irrigation development, irrigation bureaucracies, policy reform, poor systems performance, bureaucratic reform