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The biology of budgeting: to strengthen accountability, think ecosystems

Paolo de Renzio's picture

There are few better ways to reveal whether a government’s rhetoric matches reality than examining how it raises and spends public money. Are funds being spent on the things it said they would be? Are these investments achieving the outcomes that were intended? In short, are government budgets accountable?   

The traditional model for how accountability functions is rather simple. "Horizontal accountability" describes the oversight exerted over the executive arm of government by independent state bodies such as parliaments and supreme audit institutions. "Vertical accountability" describes the influence citizens hold through the ballot box. 

Between elections and outside of formal institutions, however, opportunities for influencing how governments manage public resources are limited. As a consequence, this simple vertical/horizontal model has proved increasingly inadequate for capturing how budget accountability works (or doesn’t) in the real world; this is especially true in developing countries, where democratic processes and formal oversight institutions can be somewhat fragile and ineffective. 

How is the conditional cash transfers program changing the politics of service delivery in Philippines?

Motoky Hayakawa's picture
Photo: Kenneth Pornillos / World Bank

Vote buying has shaped much of Philippine politics throughout history. For many politicians, distributing private goods and cultivating patronage to individual supporters is one of the most effective electoral strategies.

While the line between public and private is traditionally blurry, people who are used to this relationship with those who hold positions in government tend to measure politicians’ performance in terms of how much they provide private goods as opposed to broad public goods.
But though it may have been prevalent, vote buying has been a serious constraint in the country. Research has shown that practices such as vote buying and political dynasties undermine public service delivery and poverty reduction. How can these practices, which are so deeply embedded in Filipinos’ political way of life, begin to change?

Philippines: Traffic woes and the road ahead

louielimkin's picture
Traffic congestion results in an estimated productivity loss of around PHP2.4 billion ($54 million) a day or more than PHP800 billion ($18 billion) a year.

From my house in northern Quezon City, I drive more than two hours every day to get to the office in Bonifacio Global City, which is about three cities away where I come from, and two cities away from the capital Manila. It’s a journey that should only take around half an hour under light traffic. That is a total of four hours on the road a day, if there is no road accident or bad weather. It takes me an hour longer whenever I use the public transport system. Along with hundreds of thousands of Metro Rail Transit (MRT) commuters, I have to contend with extremely long lines, slow trains, and frequent delays due to malfunctions. This has been my experience for several years. Many of us might be wondering: why have these problems persisted?

How Open Data can Make Good Governance Last in the Philippines

Gabriel Baleos's picture

(The author works for the Department of Budget and Management and is the Co-Lead Coordinator for the Open Data Philippines Task Force in the Philippines that organized the open data program of the government.)

The Philippines has risen from being a laggard in Asia to an emerging economy fueling growth in the region. The government’s program of transparency and anti-corruption, the bedrock of President Benigno Aquino’s leadership, has served as the nation’s springboard for reforms.

Weekly Wire: the Global Forum

Kalliope Kokolis's picture

These are some of the views and reports relevant to our readers that caught our attention this week.

Young People Are Not as Digitally Native as You Think
NYT Bits

“Everyone knows young people these days are born with smartphones in hand and will stay glued to the Internet from that time onward. Right?

Well, not quite. Actually, fewer than one-third of young people around the world are “digital natives,” according to a report published Monday and billed as the first comprehensive global look at the phenomenon.

The study, conducted by the Georgia Institute of Technology and the International Telecommunication Union, shows that only 30 percent of people ages 15 to 24 have spent at least five years actively using the Internet, the criterion used to define digital nativism.” READ MORE

Solar Bottle Lights: Transforming Plastic Bottle Waste to Light Bulbs

Myra Valenzuela's picture

Source of photo:’s surprising how simple the design of a solar bottle light is – take an empty plastic bottle, fill it with mineral water and a few drops of bleach, and cement it halfway through a small metal roof sheet (the kind used as roofs in Manila’s slum areas). Then cut out a small piece of the actual roof, place the sheet with the bottle on top of the hole, cement any cracks, and voilà! Let there be light.

This initiative, a project designed and developed by students from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and implemented by MyShelter Foundation, is already transforming lives of low-income people in the Philippines.