Development Administration

Last Updated: 15 Mar 2023
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This paper seeks to identify and discuss the predicament of Development Administration as it relates to public administration in the Commonwealth Caribbean. It will seek to elucidate thought and provoke discussion on the topic by first of all taking a journey back to the period of colonial rule and the historical antecedents that impacted administration during that period.

It will take a cursory glance at the independence period and the course of development taken by some of the Commonwealth Caribbean, utilizing mainly the Trinidad and Tobago experience (because of the exigencies of time and space). The exercise will attempt to look briefly at the origin of Development Administration and examine the thinking and writings of some of the leading theorists on subject. Additionally, it will focus on some of the reasons for the seeming failure of development administration in addressing some of the key problems and challenges of administration in the Commonwealth Caribbean.

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Further, it will look at some of the new approaches to public administration and finally it will attempt to provide some solutions and recommendations on the way forward. i


In looking at the predicament of development administration in the Commonwealth Caribbean, this paper will examine the topic under two (2) broad themes. These are:

  1. The theoretical inadequacy of Development Administration; and
  2. The inability of development bureaucracies to realise development goals, particularly the region under review i.
  3. The Commonwealth Caribbean. Jamal Khan writing in 1982 probably encapsulates it best.

He said “the Caribbean region with a visage all its own and located at the gateway the American continents, is a grouping of thirty-three (33) English, Dutch, French and Spanish speaking countries, all islands except the four (4) mainland countries Guyana and Suriname in the South America, Cayenne and Belize in Central America.

The region is divided into three (3) main geographic groups: the Greater Antilles, the Lesser Antilles consisting of the largest islands lying between Puerto Rico and the South American mainland and the Bahamas off the Florida coast is a string of islands, small cays and rocks of which a greater many are barren and uninhabited. ” In looking at the region in its historical context, Khan notes that “the region born out of the conquest, settlement and colonisation had sustained numerous racial migrations, protracted imperial subjugations and enormous human tragedies.

Historical forces have created a diversity of ethnicities, cultures, religions, traditions and loyalties. While parts of the region have moved through the process of de-colonisation other segments still retain ii dependency status. The Eastern Caribbean in particular is facing not only the usually problems of post-independence national development and transition from colonial status to independence but also the special problems created by geographic, political and economic fragmentation”.

The paper attempts to look at this region and its unique history and examines some of the approaches that have been employed to treat with the thrust towards development. It reviews the work and pronouncements of the some of the leading thinkers and authors in areas of public administration and development administration and the effectiveness or lack thereof of these systems of governance. Development Administration emerged in the 1960s with the field of comparative public administration. It is a general theory of development and was esigned as a possible agent of change. The term represented those aspects of public administration that were needed to execute politics, programs and projects to improve social and economic conditions. Some countries of the Commonwealth Caribbean sought to adopt the model as a point of departure from the rigid, hierarchical and bureaucratic forms of public administration that existed after Independence. It was viewed as a “best fit” for the efficient running and functioning of the public service. iii

But, as will be developed later in the paper, it was the history and culture of the public administration environment that made the adaptation to the model of development administration difficult, and contributed to the factors that accounted for the predicaments it faced. The analysis part of the paper will look at what attempts have been taken and the approaches to development administration in the Commonwealth Caribbean and the factors that accounted for the predicament and the eventual failure of the process in the region.

In this context, it will cite briefly the experience of successive administrations in the case of Trinidad and Tobago and their approaches to development administration in the country. iv CASE A cursory glance at some of the definitions proffered by some of the leading thinkers and writers in the field of public administration may prove instructive and useful in placing the discussion on the predicament of development administration in its proper perspective as repeated reference will be made to the work of these during the course of the paper.

Fred Riggs (1970) described development administration as “the methods used by large scale organisations, particularly government, to implement policies and plans designed to meet development objectives”. In his “Frontiers of Development Administration”, Riggs identified two (2) areas of focus in his approach to the subject: a. The development of administration and b. The administration of development Hope (1987) and Jean Claude Zamor (1973:422) examined development administration both from a conceptual and an operational point of view.

They wrote that “development administration in this context is the bureaucratic process that facilitates or stimulates the achievement of socio-economic progress through the utilisation of the talents and expertise of bureaucrats. It involves the mobilisation of bureaucratic skills for speeding up the development process”. Hope (1987) also added that “development administration or the public administration of economic development applies to the activities of governments to achieve development or 1 modernisation.

The administration of development in developing countries is effected primarily through politicians and the civil service operating within a ministerial system or government agency and is characterised by its purpose, its loyalties and its attitudes”. In his definition of development administration, Gant (1979) said that “the term development administration came into use in the 1950s to represent those aspects of public administration which are needed to carry out the policies, projects and programs to improve economic conditions”.

In 1887, in his famous essay “The Study of Administration”, Woodrow Wilson states that “public administration is the detailed and systematic execution of the public law”. Wilson looked at public administration in one specific perspective and that is the ability of the bureaucracy to implement the policies of the legislator without political interference. Waldo proffered two (2) definitions. He saw public administration as “the organisation and management of men and materials to achieve the purposes of the state” and public administration as “the art and science of administration as applied to the affairs of the state”.

Schaffer, in defining the concept, noted that “development administration is about programs, policies and projects in which there are unusually wide and new demands and in which there are peculiarly low capacities and severe obstacles in meeting them”. Schaffer’s specification of a “particular set of conditions and the particular task of development” 2 distinguished development administration from administration’s other forms, particularly generic administration.

Edwin Jones defined administration as the model that places strong accent on change and opines that is primarily concerned with action oriented administration and places such administration at the centre of the attainments of development objectives. For Jones, development administration constitutes a progression of guiding public organisations towards the achievement of such objectives. It is a concept, he says, that places a strong emphasis on carrying out planned changes in the total system.

He also outlined that a central concern of development administration aims at improving the capability of the public administration sector to manage change processes and innovation. The model, Jones add, places high value on the injection of relevant new ideas, procedures and structures and as such development administration as an activity must always challenge control centred management and centralised decision making. F. A. Nigro and L. G.

Nigro in their book “Modern Public Administration” identified public administration as “a cooperative group effort in a public setting” and “covers all three (3) branches: executive, legislative and judicial” and identifies the inter relationships as having a critical and significant role in formulating public policy and as such is part of the political process. For his part, Nicholas Henry, another writer on the subject offered his view of public administration by noting that “it is a broad ranging and amorphous combination of theory and practice, with its purpose to promote a superior understanding of government and its 3 elationship with the society. It governs as well as facilitates the creation of public policies more responsive to the social needs and to institute managerial practices attuned to effectiveness, efficiency and the deeper requisites of the citizenry”. Turner and Hulme said that “bureaucracy is another way of saying public administration”. They said whether one looks at the OECD countries, former and present communist countries of the nations of the third world, bureaucratisation is ubiquitous. They noted “that in many cases, the public service is blamed for poor developmental performance”.

They concluded that despite this, “bureaucracy is an essential and vitally important instrument of development”. Their perspective on the particular problems of the colonial legacy of administration which was largely adopted by the Commonwealth Caribbean was probably summed up best in their observation that the colonial state is best characterised as “an administration unit, a bureaucratic state” and that bureaucracy has often been the strongest institutional inheritance of the post-colonial state.

They noted however that “in the ideal Weberian model, bureaucracy is an efficient instrument of policy implementation, but in many developing countries the practice of implementation had been disappointing”. This they attributed to poor administrative capacity. Looking at the colony legacy, Mills had his take when he noted that “the Crown Colony systems which existed in the Caribbean before the fourth decade of this century, governors exercised executive powers with advice from councils of committees consisting entirely of officials and nominated embers (only in Barbados which retained elements of the old 4 representative system, did elected members of the legislative to sit in the executive committees). There were no well organised political parties and although labour organisations had existed for a number of years, trade unions had not yet become the important pressure groups”. Mills showed that the colonial overloads were primarily concerned with the maintenance of law and order and with tax collections. He noted that the colonial secretaries/governors were esponsible for the overall administration functions and were accountable only to the imperial governments or monarchies and were primarily concerned with their future careers than with the business of administration for development. Mills continues, following the social and political disturbances throughout the British Caribbean during the latter part of the 1930s and the report of the Moyne Commission, far reaching social, economical and constitutional reforms were introduced.

He said the Commission recommended the institution of a semi ministerial form of government which would bring elected members into direct association with the work of departments, the old colonial secretariat to be divided into sections or departments with responsibility for areas such as health and education. Mills said the public now looked to the elected members as persons responsible for providing and maintaining services. But these members had no real power and authority as executive power continued to reside in the governor and senior civil servants.

Mills showed that the sub dividing of the colonial secretariat did not effect any real de-centralisation of decision making. He said the structures remained un-wielding and cumbersome centralised agencies. 5 Mills observed that after a while, West Indian governments began to adopt a different posture as they began expressing increasing concern of the need to modernise their societies and to undertake social economic programmes for providing employment and raising the living standards of their peoples.

He noted that during the 1940s, the emphasis shifted with a tendency towards greater stress on economic development and the provision of facilities such as income tax and customs duty concession for creating a climate conducive to private enterprise development. He showed that all these activities resulted in a considerable growth of the public sector, a dramatic rise in public expenditure, the expansion of existing departments and creation of new public agencies, including public corporations and regulatory commissions.

Mills noted that since the introduction of ministerial systems, administrative and organisational evolution has continued with the process of what he termed “integration” of departments with ministries. He informed that both the larger and smallest countries have their own peculiar difficulties with respect to this. Mills identified three (3) broad inter related strands that have influenced the development of public administration and the operations of administrative systems in the region. 1. Westminster / Whitehall Heritage. 2.

Political and constitutional changes during the past three (3) to four (4) decades with the transition from Crown Colony status through the internal self-government stage towards independence, coupled with the introduction of universal adult suffrage and the subsequent development of strong political parties and trade unions.

The current concern with programmes for social and economic development

Mills points out that these changes have stimulated or accentuated conflict in a number of important areas and the public services are currently faced with challenges and demands which emphasises the need for reform and re-organisation.

He identified the three (3) areas of conflict as:

  1. Relations between ministries and officials, noting that this atmosphere of conflict has seriously hampered the effective functioning of governments;
  2. Relations between administrators and technical personnel. He notes that this rational dichotomy engenders resentment, friction and frstration leading to a lowering of staff morale and
  3. The relations between Central Government and Statutory Corporations.

These are some of the key factors that have accounted for the predicament of Development Administration in the countries of the Commonwealth Caribbean and will be further discussed in the analysis.


After the attainment of Independence by most countries during the 1960s and the early 1970s, the new administrations comprised inexperienced government officials and ill equipped bureaucracies. With Independence came responsibilities of charting one’s own course of development through elected executive authority which now were the primary decision making bodies in most instances.

All these responsibilities were previously the purview of the colonial administrators. These “new” governments were expected to give life and meaning to the demands of the new “free” societies. Such expectations were supposed to manifest themselves in policies, plans and programs designed to meet the needs of the people of the newly independent territories and raise their standards of living. With the attainment of Independence and a say in electing their own governments, the peoples of the Commonwealth Caribbean began to legitimately look forward to high levels of social and economic transformation.

In the case of Trinidad and Tobago, for example, such lofty ideals were expressed through the People’s Charter developed in the 1950s by the Williams’ administration and then through a series of five (5) year development plans conceived thereafter. One also recalls the process of nationalisation of several industries by the Burnham regime in Guyana during the 1970s and 1980s and Manley’s own experimentation with a form of democratic socialism in Jamaica. These may be viewed as the political directorate’s approach to effecting the process of development through attempts at economic reform. In most of the countries, development administration was seen to be viewed as the “ideal” model to achieve the expected outcomes and satisfy the demands of the newly independent nations. However, they were still steeped in the old systems and establishments of public administration which they inherited, systems that were not designed to be responsive to such demands for economic and social transformation now being demanded by the newly independent countries.

The major predicaments that came along with the inherited systems were a high degree of centralisations, a lack of high level manpower and planning, the sheer size of the countries themselves, economic growth or the lack of it within the societies themselves and the inability of government officials to successfully conduct the administration of development. Hope noted that “the lack of trained administrators in the less developed countries was a direct result of three (3) factors.

Chronic brain drain. Poor government recruitment policies and  A lack of proper manpower planning and assessment. The last factor Hope notes produced haphazard recruitment policies, under employment and unemployment and inevitably frustration on the part of the dew skilled administrators present that forced them to emigrate”. The top-down bureaucratic public administration model is one major predicament for development administration process to be successfully implemented.  While public dministration requires a high degree of centralisation on the one hand, the concept of development administration boosts modernization and transformation where desirable or necessary to achieve development goals and discourages adherence to the old norms that constitute a more rigid bureaucratic system. The purposes of development administration are to encourage and enable defined programmes of economic and social progress. The model lends itself to the ideals of change modernization and movement as contrasted with a desire to maintain the status quo.

Additionally, development administration is designed to make the process of change desirable, attractive and possible through the application of policies and programs that evolve from creative, participative and democratic forms of decision making. It is also a process where at all levels, those involved feel a sense of belonging and ownership of the plans, policies and programs of the organisation and therefore are more highly motivated to work towards their achievement.

The altitudes of those involved in a process of development administration tend to be more positive than negative. In emphasising this point, Gant further expresses the view that the “manifestations of development administration, its unique purposes, loyalties and attitudes are found in new and reoriented agencies and in new management systems and processes”. He adds that “these agencies include planning Boards to facilitate decisions about development policies and the allocation of resources towards the accomplishment of those policies. These new 10 inds of agencies are often needed for development and stronger public and private enterprise management systems as called for”. Gant further stated that “development administration encompasses the innovations which strengthen the capacity of the bureaucracy to stimulate and facilitate development and for these purposes the process requires its own supporting institutions, chiefly in the forms of training, research and consulting agencies, but also in the form of an articulate and public expectation of good administrative behaviour and performance”.

One of the major predicaments that continue to affect the growth of development administration in the Commonwealth Caribbean is the bureaucratic structure of the civil service and the excessive centralisation of authority and control reflected in the exercise of power by government ministers. The government ministers in most Commonwealth Caribbean countries assume total control of their respective ministries and departments in terms of decision making and pay little attention or mere lip service and provide very little opportunity for lower level public servants to participate in the process.

This centralisation of decision strikes at the very heart of the purposes and ideas of development administration alluded to earlier in the discourse. This excessive centralisation also contributes to the destruction of the channels of communication in the organisation. It also creates an environment in which there is a lack of coordination of policies among departments, as well as a lack of effective dissemination of information required for effective decision making. A perfect example is the coordination of works between the Water and Sewerage Authority and the Ministry of Works on road improvement initiatives and pipeline installations.

There is absolutely no coordination between  the parties and this leads to road being paved today, and then pipelines being laid on the same road at a later date. This leads to wastage of time and resources and ineffective decisions resulting in an inconvenienced public. Hope notes that the “centralised nature of the civil service in most of the lesser developed countries has become an institution in which personal survival in terms of longevity of service sometimes depends on political affiliation, a situation that does not conform to the regulations governing the non-political nature of the civil service”.

Hope further analyses this phenomenon when he notes that “there exists a great deal of friction and mutual suspicion between government ministers and career officials. Both the ministers and the career officials have adopted an attitude towards the implementation of policy that has alienated the public and hampered the effective functioning of government. Career civil servants are in a position of great insecurity due to the erroneous powers of government ministers.

Most of the career civil servants, if not all of them are usually better educated than the ministers (who are appointed primarily on their politics), and find it difficult to abide by the decisions of the ministers, whom they regard as inadequately educated and not competent enough to make decisions pertaining to the administration of development. The ministers on the other hand, conscious of their newly acquired powers determined to dispel any suggestion of inferiority, are anxious to assert their authority and to make it clear beyond doubt who are the masters (United Nations 1982:49-40).

Inevitably then, for reasons of survival within the civil service, career civil servants have adopted a sycophantic and financial attitude toward their ministers; offering technical and administrative advice to these ministers and not in a firm and objective manner but by attempting to anticipate  what the minister want. The ultimate result of all these manifestations is a lack of coordination of policies among departments and a lack of dissemination of information for effective decision making.

Invariably then, the few individuals at the decision making pyramid, namely the ministers are hard pressed to cope with the range of decisions they have to make. The effect then is either procrastination and long delays or one of After Independence, the bureaucratic, colonial oriented inadequate of inept policies. administration was transformed into a bureaucratic organisation that emphasised the sovereignty of politics rather than the supremacy of administration.

Politics became the most important activity and the politicians came to occupy a position of supremacy in matters of decision making. (Duke 1964:233; United Nations 1982:49-50). Development Administration, therefore, put into a highly centralised environment will not work. This factor have accounted also for part of the model’s predicament in Commonwealth Caribbean countries, in that, after the attainment of Independence, the model was introduced holistically without consideration for other factors within the public environment which directly impact the development process.

Development Administration as noted previously encourages and acknowledges decision making from middle and lower level subordinates, and by its nature, command high levels of innovativeness and flexibility. However, public administration, after Independence, did not allow for such changes to be effected as it met with a most unresponsive public service.

Another factor which impacts the success of development administration is institutional building

However, it must be noted that the sheer small size economy of some of the countries of the Commonwealth Caribbean means that they do not possess the resources to afford an adequate amount of specialists necessary for the effective and efficient operations of government organisations. Khan, in his work, pointed to some major problems that may occur due to small size. He says, “small size could indeed pose a problem for management system that is unwilling to keep abreast or is tardy in keeping pace with changing social conditions. Problems may accrue, inhibitory and unresponsive.

Problems may also arise should the system continue to dispense favour and patronage and disregard achievement factors. Problems may also persist if decision making is timid, incident prone, marginal and incidental to the extent that the system proves unable to impact on the client, population and target group and to modify or alter the existing structure to the degree that it considered necessary to accelerate social change in a certain direction”. The latter part of Khan’s statement points to a factor that can impede the development administration process.

Decisions made should reflect policies developed and as a result policies must be relevant to deal with the demands of a society. Development administration requires altering the existing structure to the degree that is considered necessary to accelerate social change in a certain direction and therefore decisions must be made to facilitate such change. It can be deduced that it is probably for this reason that administrations in the region are now looking outside the realm of the public service to seek alternative vehicles for the realisation of 14 evelopment goals and objectives. Case in point may cite the example of the move by the Trinidad and Tobago government over the last decade or so creating several special purpose State Enterprises such as the Urban Development Corporation (UDECOTT, the National Infrastructure Development Company, the Education Facilities Company and more recent the establishment of Export TT in a bid to accelerate the rate of development to realise some of the ideals purported to exist in model of development administration.

It could also account for the reason why the Trinidad and Tobago administration has also sought technical assistance through government to government arrangements, for example, that sought through a partnership with the Cuban, Filipino and Nigerian governments for doctors and nurses to provide effective and efficient health care services. Governments that seek to utilise such vehicles of development also hope that the ideal of greater accountability and transparency and a reduction in the levels of corruption that have beset other forms of development approaches in the Commonwealth Caribbean.

Another of the predicaments that have beset the process to move towards development administration has been the sometimes half-hearted support from some of the political directorates in the countries of the Commonwealth Caribbean. Administrative change inevitably involves a challenge to accepted modes of action and traditional value and prerogatives (Chikulo, 1981:56:57). Projects of administrative, reform if they are other than routine and minor must be backed fully by the chief executive of the nation and his or her Cabinet.

If political leaders are to inspire a population and to direct the bureaucracy to higher levels of performance and development, their words and action must carry 15 an aura of legitimacy. Historically, political leaders of the region have been primarily concerned with maintaining their own existence as politicians and this has resulted in much confusion between the administrative and political functions in the decision making process and in the creation of political elites who alone cannot execute the achieve developmental goals.

Functional reform of development administration can only be brought about through a derived effort and critical support of the political leadership. The foregoing have been some of the major problems and predicaments that have plagued the model of development administration and its implementation in the countries of the Commonwealth Caribbean. 16 Recommendations and Conclusions Although it was deemed at the time to be the “ideal” model for administrative reform, one can deduce from the study that this model of development encountered some major obstacles and problems which are still with us today.

It was thought that development administration would be the panacea that will solve all problems of public administration as inherited from a colonial system of governance, these being the top-down bureaucratic structure and a deep centralisation of authority and decision making. And as we have garnered from the study, these problems are still very much with the Commonwealth Caribbean today and very much a part of the system of public administration.

Even though several reform methods have been tried and tested, including new public management, administrative reform and programmes associated with structural adjustments policies, there seems to remain some difficulty with achieving radical change and much of those problems stems from the colonial legacy which still persists in the cultures of the countries of the Commonwealth Caribbean. Hope (1987) had offered some of his recommendations for development administration to achieve some level of success.

These were listed as:

  1. Major administrative reforms minus the western concepts.
  2. An urgent eradication of the remaining features and characteristics of the colonial civil service through processes and re-education and rerientation to bring civil servants in line with the current development thrust.
  3. Manpower planning and training.
  4. Decentralisation and communication.
  5. Support of the political leadership.
  6. Economic development.

Judith Walker writing in her book “Development Administration in the 21st Century” notes that “As Caribbean nations of the Commonwealth move into the 21st century, they do so in a context of economic restructuring, incorporation into the internalisation of criminality and considerably challenges to the nationhood project launched in the early 1960s. Given this context, it is imperative that the role and function of administration be re-examined and discussed”.

In her work, Walker, looking critically at the UNC government’s goal in the 1990s to create a total quality nation notes that “It was envisioned that a new type of public administration would set an example for civil society by becoming a symbol of patriotism and national pride. In short a total quality public administration is expected to lead a total quality nation. It was further envisioned that the public service and civil society will demonstrate a work ethic and organisational behaviour based on competence, performance, productivity, quality and high standards of service to the public and consumers”.

Bissessar in her book painted a somewhat bleak picture for reform of the public service in Trinidad and Tobago. In “the Forgotten Factor” she states that “if an evaluation of the entire reform effort was to be carried out, it would reveal that no one system of New Public 18 Management has been successfully implemented in the public service of Trinidad and Tobago”. She argues however that “for any reform to achieve success, one vital ingredient that must be included in the reform package is the attitudes, beliefs and perceptions of those who are required to introduce and implement such reforms, namely the public service themselves”.

Any meaningful change to the process of development administration must by necessity find ways of deepening the consultative process to make it more inclusive for those whose job it will be to eventually carry out such policies. That process must include ways to decentralise the process of decision making and public servants and other technocrats must be made to feel a sense of ownership of the plans, policies and programs of administration that they are called upon to discharge on behalf of their respective societies.

The political support must also be forthcoming from the political directorates and there should be structures in place that will treat with de politicising programmes of development so that they do not become the exclusive domain of any one political grouping. Tighter mechanisms of control and accountability need to be implemented to curb the tendency to corruption that so often beset programs of development. Perhaps Walker sums it up best when she noted that “Development Administration is not dead.

It may have had an un-expectant past, and it certainly has had a handicapped 19 present, but is maturity and future is to be found in a dynamic process of theory building around recurring themes pning from Fred Riggs to the World Bank”.


  1. Khan, Jamal. The Eastern Caribbean Experience. Leiden, Netherlands: Dept. of Caribbean Studies, Royal Institute of Linguistics an Anthropology; The Hague: Smits, 1982 (P. 3, 4, 5)
  2. Kempe, Hope. The Dynamics of Development and Development Administration. London: Greenwood Press, 1987 (p. 7, 68, 69)
  3. Wilson, Woodrow. The Study of Administration
  4. Nigro, F. A and Nigro, L. A. Modern Public Administration
  5. Nicholas, Henry. Public Administration and Public Affairs. USA: Pearson Prentice Hall, 2004
  6. Gant, George, F. Development Administration, Concepts, Goals Methods: University of Wisconsin Press, 1979
  7. Bissessar, Ann Marie. The Forgotten Factor. Trinidad: School of Continuing Studies, 2002 (p. 5, 6)
  8. Walker, Judith. Development Administration into the 21st Century. USA: Mc Millan Press, 2000 (p. 211 and 212).

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