Resource rich developing countries face challenges in ensuring that revenues from Extractive Industries (EI) are used to foster economic development, reduce poverty and promote shared prosperity.
Effective governance of extractive revenue is a precondition for ensuring that the ‘development dividend’ that is meant to flow from the decision to extract becomes a reality. Good governance of the sector requires sufficient participation, transparency, and accountability across the entire EI value chain.
A wide range of stakeholders can contribute to these governance objectives, whether they be government agencies, private sector, civil society, and formal accountability institutions, such as parliaments.
Parliaments are coming to the fore as key stakeholders in ensuring that extractive revenues are equitably shared. That means making sure that extractive revenues are accurately captured in budget forecasts and estimates, appropriations are focused on delivering services to affected communities, and effective oversight of governments’ management of the sector is provided.
I participated in the recent 2015 Helsinki Parliamentary Seminar, hosted by the Parliament of Finland as part of the World Bank-Finnish Parliamentary Partnership, which brought together parliamentary delegations from Ghana, Iraq, Kenya, Mongolia, Somalia, South Sudan, Tanzania, Timor Leste, and Zambia to explore how parliaments could better contribute to the governance of revenues from extractive industries.
“Save, you may not see Parliament again”, one two-term Member liked to tell us. In many cases non-performers with deep pockets are preferred than stingy doers. “As much as possible, avoid your constituents in the first three years and show up only towards the last half of your term, with plenty of money!”
In response, a Member of Parliament (MP) from one of the countries where Mwananchi works said, “You need to put premium on leadership”. In other words, we should not expect leaders to deliver the change we want if society encourages them to pursue perverse incentives to attain and remain in office, and to achieve solutions to collective action problems.
Looking at the backgrounds of MPs in many countries in Africa, you find that some MPs have been activists in civil society, respected civil servants or faith leaders, often suggesting that things would be very different if it was them that were in office. This is a clear case of a common African saying ‘one finger forwards, four fingers backwards,’ reminding us how easy it is to criticise without examining ourselves. This is why it should not be surprising that again and again we find that when the ‘self-imagined’ leaders get into public office they are equally caught up in the quagmire of perverse incentives as their predecessors.
I recently spoke at the World e-Parliament 2009 Conference held in Washington at the US House of Representatives. The conference attracted representatives from all Parliaments and was attended by more than 300 Members of Parliament, Clerks or Secretary -Generals of Parliaments, their deputies and other people working on e-Parliaments. With a global centre in Rome partially funded by the UN Department of Social and Economic Affairs, the group tries to coordinate and develop ICT systems for Parliaments. They strongly believe that ICT can be a tool for greater transparency and accountability of Parliaments and a larger platform for public consultation and interaction with citizens. They are looking at ways to harness new technologies for this purpose.
Governments and development agencies have devoted many years and hundreds of millions of dollars developing democratic governance in countries around the world. The idea of creating democracies is still the primary driver of many governance improvement agendas. Clearly, democratic systems often bring with them improvements in governance and economic development, but simply putting a democracy into place is not enough.
Last week, this blog featured a quote by Elinor Ostrom, which contains an interesting sentence: “Yet I worry that the need for continuous civic engagement, intellectual struggle, and vigilance is not well understood in some of our mature democracies and is not transmitted to citizens and officials in new democracies….We have to avoid slipping into a naïve sense that democracy – once established – will continue on its own momentum."