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Public Sector and Governance

Wax, gold and accountability in Ethiopia

Shanta Devarajan's picture

The exchange between Helen Epstein and my colleague Ken Ohashi about the role of aid donors in “subsidizing” what Epstein calls a politically repressive regime highlights the difficulty in linking politics at the top with poverty alleviation on the ground. 

Even politically open regimes, such as India, have difficulty delivering basic services to poor people—the absence rate for teachers in Indian public primary schools is 25 percent; the rate for doctors in public primary clinics is 40 percent.   Conversely, as Epstein points out in her reply to Ken’s letter, “poverty and disease have fallen sharply in some repressive societies, from Cuba to China…”

Africa as a BRIC

Shanta Devarajan's picture

My colleague and good friend, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, gave an inspiring speech at Harvard where she described Africa as the next BRIC (Brazil, Russia, India and China).  Everything she says in the speech is music to my ears (confession—I provided some background materials to her staff)—that Africa’s growth prospects are strong, that reforms seem to have taken hold—and her idea of African Development Bonds is innovative and worthy of discussion.
 
My only concern is the labeling of Africa as the next BRIC.  First, Africa is not a country, whereas each of the BRICs is.  Africa is 47 countries, some of which are quite small (20 countries have populations less than 5 million).  The distinguishing feature of the BRICs is that they are both middle-income and large.  So it’s not clear how any individual African country can aspire to being a BRIC. Countries such as Malaysia or Chile may be more appropriate models for most African countries.

Varieties of African successes

Shanta Devarajan's picture

Tolstoy notwithstanding, the 20 African success stories described in the booklet “Yes, Africa Can” show that success comes in many different forms.  Broadly speaking, the cases fall into three categories:

- Success from removing an existing, major distortion.  The best example is Ghana’s cocoa sector, which was destroyed by the hyperinflation and overvalued exchange rate in the early 1980s.  When the exchange rate regime was liberalized and the economy stabilized, cocoa exports boomed (and continue to grow).  Similar examples include Rwanda’s coffee sector and Kenya’s fertilizer use.  Africa’s mobile phone revolution, too, is an example of the government’s stepping out of the way—in this case by deregulating the telecommunications sector—and letting the private sector jump in. 

Raising the Volume on 'Quiet Corruption'

Shanta Devarajan's picture

 
Photo: Arne Hoel

In Uganda, teachers in public primary schools are absent 27 percent of the time. In Chad, less than one percent of the non-wage recurrent expenditures reaches primary health clinics.  In West Africa, about half the fertilizer is diluted before it reaches the farmer. 

China’s Miracle Demystified

Justin Yifu Lin's picture

Since beginning its transition 30 years ago, China’s economic development has been miraculous.

The average annual growth rate of GDP reached 9.8 percent, far exceeding the expectations of most people in the 1980s or even early 1990s, including Deng Xiaoping who initiated the reforms. Deng’s goal was to quadruple China’s economy in twenty years, implying an average annual growth rate of 7.2 percent per year.

In 1979, China was inward-looking and its trade as a percentage GDP was only 9.5 percent. Now China is the world’s largest exporter and the third largest importer, with trade contributing around 70 percent of GDP. Over 30 years, more than 600 million people got out of poverty.

China’s miracle raises the following five questions.

  1. What was behind China’s extraordinary performance?
  2. Why Did China Fail before the Transition in 1979?
  3. Why Didn’t Other Transition Economies Perform Equally Well?
  4. What Costs Did China Pay for Its Success?
  5. Can Other Developing Countries Replicate the Miracle?

Public sector reform—changing behavior with cars and computers?

Anand Rajaram's picture

During a discussion on public service management reform (PSM) in Zambia, a senior official with strong experience in this field, explained: “in order to implement PSM, I had been asked to provide cars to reforms teams, we did it; then, we were asked to provide computers, we did that too; then, we were asked to provide them formal training overseas, we did that as well; they came back and what happened?... Nothing! There was no greater capacity to reform despite these investments. Why is it so? Because reforming public sector requires a change in behavior and mindsets of people; cars, computers and formal training do not help in most cases”.  

L’UEMOA à Quinze Ans

Shanta Devarajan's picture

Mon ami, l’économiste togolais Kako Nubukpo, avec qui j’ai eu l’occasion de débattre lors d’un de mes voyages à Lomé, a fait part de son analyse sur le bilan des quinze années d’existence de l’Union économique et monétaire ouest-africaine (UEMOA) lors d’un entretien pour le site Ouestaf.com.

D’après lui, même si l’Union est parvenue à gérer l’équilibre macroéconomique et budgétaire entre les États membres, la combinaison d’une monnaie forte (du fait de la parité fixe entre le franc CFA et l’euro) avec ce qu’il appelle « la gouvernance macroéconomique » restreint la compétitivité et donc la diversification et la croissance économique des pays membres.

Ces commentaires émanant d’un économiste qui est actuellement consultant auprès de l’UEMOA relanceront peut-être le débat sur les performances et les options économiques des pays d’Afrique francophone.

Are African women having too many babies?

Shanta Devarajan's picture

Twenty-five of the 28 high-fertility (more than 5 children per woman) countries are in Africa. This and related facts have revived the concern that Africa will miss out on the “demographic dividend” –the rapid economic growth rates associated with declining fertility, as experienced by many countries in Asia. But Africa is also the continent with the slowest economic growth in the past. And, as The Economist (and others) pointed out, economic growth is probably the best contraceptive. 

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