This week I had the honor of presenting with the Chinese scholar and economist, Chai Ying. Chai is a visiting scholar to ASU’s Center for the Study of Institutional Diversity from Guangdong University of Finance and Economics. We presented her research on 20 small-scale irrigation systems under China’s decentralized irrigation management program. Drawing on theories of the commons and previous irrigation research in China, Chai identified 5 variables linked to improved efficiency of government involvement in irrigation. Her study first measured efficiency of government spending across four key outputs – the increase in the area under irrigation, the amount of irrigation infrastructure that was improved, increase in food capacity, and reductions in the water used. She used linear programming to assess the efficiency of providing these outputs for a given amount of government spending.
Next, we used Qualitative Comparative Analysis (QCA) to look at how different causal clusters of institutional arrangements combined to lead to efficient outputs. Again, the causal variables were chosen based on past theoretical studies. The causal variables examined were: market-based pricing of water, routine (regular) fiscal investment, administrative coordination by the local-level of government, self-organized management of the irrigation system, and the hiring of a water monitor/guard.
The results combined in 3 configurations:
- Having routine fiscal investment and administrative coordination – what we term governance by the government
- Having either market-based pricing, self-organization, and administrative coordination or market-based pricing, self-organization, routine fiscal investment and a water guard - what we view as a form of mixed governance with elements of formal government and self-governance combined
- Having a self-organized system of governance
The analysis is still in the preliminary phases, and based on the Q&A after the talk, we have both a number of interesting insights and a number of areas that need more work. We hope to finalize the manuscript and submit over the next few months!
Here is a photo from Chai of one of the irrigation canals: