Within current poverty reduction programmes, focus on the social-welfare millennium development goals is widening to embrace a concern with infrastructural investment, particularly for remote areas. The previously popular assumption that rural disadvantage can be remedied by road-building is resurfacing. Using survey data from Ethiopia, Zambia and Vietnam, this article explores how effective such investment is in addressing mobility and social-service accessibility in rural areas. The findings indicate that, in extremely remote areas, road improvements may catalyse the expansion of social-service provision, as evidenced in Ethiopia. However, given the poor's relative lack of motor vehicles and ability to pay for public transport, they are, by no means, a sufficient condition for enhancing the mobility of the rural poor.
Development Policy Review (2008) 26 (4) 459-482 [doi: 10.1111/j.1467-7679.2008.00418.x]