By Emma Lucas
Kohli describes a developmental state, or a cohesive capitalist state, as “characterized by cohesive politics, that is, by centralized and purposive authority structures that often penetrate deep into the society.” In this blogpost I will try to apply the concept of a developmental state to Colombia.
After thirty years of Washington consensus and drug related violence, Colombia and specifically Medellin tried to improve their situation. This happened under the leadership of their Mayor Luis Perez in the late nineties and between 2003-2007 under the leadership of Sergio Fajardo . Medellin started to look like a developmental state, however, this was not organized via the state, but via the city itself. One problem in South-America is that the state has very low-tax rates, which means the state is often “undercapacitated and inactive”, especially on the sub-national levels. However Medellin solved this by working closely together with Empresas Publicas de Medellín (EPM), which has to pay 30% of their profit into the city administration’s budget.(http://www.odi.org/publications)
This budget was spend on building a new civic culture, where rich and poor were motivated to care about the city and each other. Moreover, the city invested in publicly-funded business support centres to attract investment in the poorest neighborhoods and help set up new businesses. Moreover, the city funded micro-loans with very low interest-rates.
This is an interesting case, because it takes a different organizational level than the states that are the focus on Kohli’s argument. Since one could argue that when Medellin started to behave like a developmental state, Colombia itself would not have been able to do this on the state-level. This could be a small-scale example for other developing nations that do not have the “centralized and purposive authority structures” in their states.