Projections 7: Institutional Innovations for Development

Projections is the peer-reviewed MIT Journal of Planning that focuses on the most innovative and cutting-edge ideas and practices in planning. Each issue is devoted to a specific area of interest to planning scholars and professionals. It aims at publishing high quality research papers, reflective studies, and case studies on the specific theme of each issue.

Volume 7 Editors: Rajendra Kumar, Anjali Mahendra, and Georgeta Vidican

In Projections Volume 7, we highlight institutional innovations that have played an important role in economic and social development in developing countries. The volume focuses on empirical studies as well as theoretical discourse regarding institutional changes and how they might facilitate development in developing and transition countries, relating to three broad tracks:

1. Role of Technological Innovations in Development 

Technological innovations have assumed great importance in development discourse as the new technologies, especially the information and communications technologies (ICTs), hold great promise for developing countries in ushering in a new era of economic growth and prosperity. They have assumed great prominence as the primary tools in the fight against poverty and in bringing the benefits of economic development to the poor and underserved communities. It is believed that ICTs can bring these benefits due to their potential to increase factor productivities across industries and their capacity to overcome time and distance barriers in reaching remote locations and communities, thus improving the provision and delivery of basic goods and services. They are believed to be especially useful for developing countries in "leapfrogging" to the "information age" of development. This track will focus on the role of technological innovations in development and the institutional and policy dimensions of how the new technologies can play an effective role in economic and social development. Some of the specific issues we seek to address are: How strong is the theoretical and empirical evidence for the new technologies as the new mantra of economic and social development? How can the new technologies serve as enabling tools for providing new and more efficient means of production, improving governance and access to information, and improving provision and delivery of basic goods and services? What are the institutional changes and policy interventions required to harness the potential of these technologies for development?

2.  Role of Land Markets in Development and Poverty Alleviation 

Land reform and the creation of optimal land institutions have attracted renewed attention from scholars and practitioners in the past decades. Broad-based processes of institutional change in developing and transitional countries such as China , Vietnam , South Africa , and more recently Central and Eastern Europe , created a fascinating environment to study the mechanisms by which markets affect economic and social development. Within this context land markets received much attention as instruments for enhancing efficiency and reducing poverty. The interplay of markets and other institutions, such as households, local communities, and capitalist firms, and the state, has traditionally occupied a central role in development planning. Empirical evidence shows that the absence of competitive land markets prevented many necessary adjustments from taking place in developing countries, such as labor mobility, adjustments in farm size, incentives to invest or increase labor productivity, and moving land to better uses. This track will focus on the role of land markets in promoting economic development and alleviating poverty in developing countries. We are interested in exploring the following aspects: What are the preconditions (institutional, political, and economic) by which policy interventions have proved effective in developing land markets? What are the regulatory pillars necessary for smoothly and formally operating land markets in developing countries? How does policy making at the national level interact with local socio-economic conditions in shaping the development of land markets through increased participation? Why in certain countries or regions land markets are able to transfer land to more productive uses without distorting income distribution?

3. Role of Infrastructure and Trade Facilitation in Economic Development 
The provision of physical infrastructure and services is believed to facilitate primary, secondary, and tertiary productive activities that in turn promote economic and social development. With developing countries assuming a rapidly growing share of global trade, there is a need to understand the institutional mechanisms and policies that will allow this growth to remain sustainable. There is also the potential for underdeveloped economies to participate in the growth of global trade by developing infrastructure and restructuring institutions. Infrastructure improvements are considered vital for industrial productivity, trade facilitation, and economic development, but the empirical evidence for this link is not considered conclusive, especially by academics. Practitioners, however, consider poor infrastructure to be a key obstacle to industrial and economic development. In this track, in addition to macro-level studies, we are interested in local stories of infrastructure development, related policy reform, growth of small and medium enterprises, or employment generation. The role played by the relevant institutions and actors would be the primary focus. Some questions we seek to answer are: by what institutional mechanisms do improvements in physical infrastructure and services provide social and economic returns? Under what political and economic conditions are these returns effectively distributed for regional economic development? What institutional and policy challenges preclude the trickling down of the returns from infrastructure provisions to the lowest strata of society? What categories of infrastructure investment are most conducive to economic development in developing countries and why? How can the trade-offs between infrastructure development and environmental or social concerns be dealt with?