This will be my last post on Africa Can. Having recently started a new adventure as Chief Economist of the World Bank’s Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region, I will be blogging on that region’s issues in the MENA blog as well as starting a more general blog (tentatively titled “Economics to end poverty”) with some of my fellow bloggers. It has been a privilege to moderate Africa Can, and I want to thank our readers for the stimulating, lively and frank discussions, as well as for having made this the most popular blog at the Bank.
Law and Regulation
Or, à Madagascar, seule 1/5 de la population déclare faire entièrement confiance à la Présidence et les taux sont encore plus faibles pour des institutions comme l’Assemblée nationale (6%) et les Tribunaux (4%).Comment s’attendre à ce que le Gouvernement puisse être performant, à travers sa politique budgétaire, si la vaste majorité des Malgaches ne font confiance ni à leurs institutions, ni à leurs dirigeants ?
Kenya is in the midst of a quiet revolution—but many people, even in Kenya, seem to be unaware of it, or the enormous governance improvements that it is likely to bring.
We saw a new Kenya emerging last Friday when President Kibaki presided over an historic event that was hard to imagine in the old Kenya: the launch of a government website, www.opendata.go.ke , that makes enormous volumes of government data available to the public in user-friendly formats.
For the first time in Kenya’s history, core government data on population, the budget, education, health care and other public services are available to policy-makers, researchers, ICT developers, and citizens in an easily-accessible format. This portal is one of the first and largest government portals with reusable data in sub-Saharan Africa, making Kenya one of the world’s leading exemplars of open data (see Time magazine's "Silicon Savanna").
But many observers of Kenya are unimpressed. Why is that?
“Shanta, are you against human rights?” a colleague asked when she saw that I was arguing for the negative in a debate on “Is a concern for human rights needed to achieve human development outcomes?”
Needless to say, my debate partner, Varun Gauri and I are not against human rights (Varun has written extensively on the subject), but we did argue—based on the evidence—that a concern for human rights was neither necessary nor sufficient to achieve health and education outcomes.
On October 26, we learned that Kenya’s rank in Transparency Interational's Corruption Perceptions Index dropped seven places since 2009. Kenya now ranks 154 out of 178 countries—well below most of its EAC neighbors. But how bad is it, in fact? Will the new Constitution do anything to make the situation better?
In Kenya, no one seriously doubts that corruption is a key constraint to greater growth and prosperity.
Corruption comes in two forms. Petty corruption occurs when citizens are asked for kitu kidogo (“a little something”): to get a document stamped, a service provided, or an infraction overlooked. The amounts are small, but hardly petty to the many victims living on less than $1 a day. Kenya also has large-scale corruption—public purchases made at inflated prices; public benefits handed out to people who are not entitled; fictitious companies being paid for contracts that they never executed.
Last month’s post on the exchange between Helen Epstein and Ken Ohashi on Ethiopia generated a large number of comments (and rejoinders), a response from Helen herself, and references in the Addis press.
One set of comments were about the facts. Many commentators questioned whether human development indicators were actually improving in Ethiopia, while others questioned whether the political situation was as repressive as described by Helen in her original piece in the New York Review of Books. Some asked whether the facts coming out of Ethiopia (on agricultural productivity for example) were reliable. Since these are questions of fact, they can and should be verified.
Another group of comments questioned my interpretation of the facts,
This week, the World Bank launched its second Kenya Economic Update. We have been positively surprised to see such a strong uptake of our previous report and were pleased to have a full house at the launch and informal briefings we have in the run-up of the launch. These Economic Updates aim to replicate a model of shorter, crisper and more frequent country economic reports, which have become a trademark of the World Bank’s analytical presence in other countries, in particular China and Russia.