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The extent to which local governments either facilitate or frustrate the delivery of public services is a critical issue in the rapidly growing urban centres of Asia. In November 2017, professors Edward Aspinall and Paul Hutchcroft, from the Department of Political & Social Change, were awarded Australian Research Council Discovery funding for a project that taps into that urgency. Their research will span at least three years, and four countries: Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines and Thailand.
“In terms of scope, it is the most ambitious project comparing local government politics across Southeast Asia yet undertaken,” Professor Aspinall says. By focusing on health and infrastructure services, the researchers hope to gain an understanding of how politics either makes people’s lives better or traps them in cycles of substandard living conditions. “We really see ourselves speaking to a range of audiences but among those are policy makers in the development community,” says Professor Hutchcroft.
Along with their collaborators Meredith Weiss of the State University of New York and Allen Hicken of the University of Michigan, they hope their research will make significant contributions to discussions on national-subnational ties, public administrative service delivery, and patronage and money politics.
Up next is the task of selecting four cities in each of the four countries to be the focus of the research project, careful comparison being a key aim. “No one else has ever picked up this kind of study and done it across four countries,” Professor Hutchcroft says.
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