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The politics of public financial management in Ghana: what can a political settlements approach offer?


There is growing consensus among academics and development practitioners about the need to do development di erently, one that emphasizes the importance of know- ing the context in which reform policies and institutions are to be introduced and implemented. Designing appropriate public sector reforms, it is increasingly recog- nised, should not be based merely on what external actors deem desirable, but more on what is likely to be feasible within particular political and historical contexts. Yet, there remain important challenges in the ability of donors to move beyond merely thinking politically to actually designing and implementing reforms in ways that put politics at the centre, not least because development practitioners have little in the way of operational guidance on how ‘best-fit’ solutions are to be identified. Drawing insights from public financial management reforms in Ghana, this article argues that thinking of countries in terms of their political settlements dynamics can enable development practitioners to distinguish meaningfully between di erent country contexts by identifying potential priority areas, programming approaches, and potential partners with whom they are likely to have traction. The article con- cludes by highlighting how the Ghanaian experience can help us think and work di erently in reforming public agencies from a political settlements approach.