Democratic Developmental State of Ethiopia The State of Embedded Autonomy in View of National Planning Commission

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Abiot Desta
Girma Defere


This paper explores the state of Embedded Autonomy in Ethiopia‟s experimentation with “democratic developmental state” (DDS). It examines a new institutional frontier- national planning commission (NPC) - a technocratic institution created as a pilot agency for professionalizing development planning. The research employed qualitative approach and utilized interview data supplemented by document analysis. Findings highlight prospects, in essence, by the purposes imbued in the creation of the Commission, which concretizes “political will” – an intangible resource but a key precondition for state-led development. Yet, the objective organizational condition of the Commission which exhibits a premature institutional capacity tends to undermine policy autonomy. In connection, a set of interrelated challenges such as overlapping jurisdictions, the complexity of institutional coordination, young non-state actors, a slow state to reward developmental actors and punish rent-seekers, and a mutually suspicious state of discord that sustains a culturally exploitative relation among networks of the elite, all tend to conflate, thereby hindering developmental partnership and rendering the DDS political economy a feature of “predatory state”. We conclude that the basics of DDS institutional platforms are in the creation without removing bottlenecks. This renders the system a generally low level of Embedded Autonomy, which impedes taking on board the envisaged development and postpones the juxtaposed ideals of DDS. It suggests, first and foremost, the NPC should find transformative means of managing human resources for emerging a fully technocratic institution; and while acculturating a developmental mindset, the government should invest in institutional renovation and craft workable mechanisms of institutional coordination and policy networking.

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Desta, A., & Defere, G. (2020). Democratic Developmental State of Ethiopia. The Ethiopian Journal of Social Sciences and Language Studies (EJSSLS), 7(1), 21-48. Retrieved from