When the means become the ends: Ghana’s ‘good governance’ electricity reform overwhelmed by the politics of power crises

Barnaby Joseph Dye

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The 1990s good governance agenda created the ‘standard reform model’ for the electricity sector but after widespread adoption of its market and institutional policies, many developing countries’ electricity systems continue to suffer numerous crises. This article, using Ghana as a case study, analyses key drivers producing such crises. In the last decade, Ghana lurched from unprecedented shortages to electricity over-abundance, entailing spiralling debt. Rather than understand this through neo-classical approaches focusing on formal institutions and democratic pressures, this detailed empirical research outlines an alternative heterodox approach focused on political power and ideology. It demonstrates how intense competition entailed an all-consuming short-termist focus on elections. Alongside high modernist ideological beliefs in the power of megawatts to produce industrialisation, this created Ghana’s crises of absence and abundance. The article, therefore, finds that focusing on democratic institutions, the formal separation of policymaking and market motivations appears misplaced given the strength of countervailing political and ideological rationales that overwhelmed reforms. Alongside demonstrating the crucial importance of focusing on informal political power and policymaking beyond de jure institutions, this case study evidences flaws in the standard reform model, refuting its political compatibility and pointing to how it can increase opportunities for distorting the electricity-system.
Original languageEnglish
JournalNew Political Economy
Publication statusPublished - 15 Jun 2022

Research Beacons, Institutes and Platforms

  • Global Development Institute


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