n Journal of Public Administration - Public service delivery and local economic development in South Africa's impoverished communities

Special issue 1
  • ISSN : 0036-0767



Public services are a prerequisite to the establishment of an enabling local development environment. Within such an environment, local people are able to make productive use of the opportunities for business partnerships, employment creation, income generation, economic output and tradable market economies, as well as gaining the capacity to resist threats. The lack of public services or their poor delivery, therefore, imposes severe limitations on the local development environment, thereby derailing the potential for local economic development (LED). This article argues that poor or inadequate service delivery for South Africa's impoverished communities makes it virtually impossible for communities to take control of their own development. A limiting local development environment implies that the local people would be unable to make use of the limited productive opportunities available and that they would not gain the capacity to resist threats such as hunger, crime, vulnerability and disease. In this sense, public services determine people's attainment of the state of 'being developed', especially within impoverished communities, by influencing the prospects for LED in the local development environment. The article demonstrates that South Africa's poor communities are trapped in a cycle of the absence of public services and frustrated LED, which breeds the ongoing demand for heavy dependence on the state welfare system. The incapacity to generate local business partnerships and employment, income, economic and market opportunities, and to resist the threats, renders the local people highly vulnerable to poverty and dependence, in the absence of public services. The article concludes that to break out of this cycle, poor communities require sustained delivery of public services as pure, rather than impure, public goods wherein there is equal access in terms of quality and quantity for all.

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