"Yet journalism is a critical point. Political journalism in particular must cope with a fragmenting political sphere, the rise of fleet-footed competition from blogs and websites and the decline of an audience. Journalism and politics have, for two centuries, depended on, fought with, supported and tried to destroy each other. Now they sigh for the good old days when they were both certain enough of their respective institutions to engage in combat." -- John Lloyd, Power and the press, Financial Times, February 20 2010
"A vast change has happened in politics in the past half-century. The media have become crucial to the business of governing. Though they do not rule the country, the media sometimes rule the rulers, forcing them to spend long hours wooing, refuting, dodging and complaining."
The presidential election in Sri Lanka this January resulted in an easy win for the incumbent Mahinda Rajapakse. The end of the long lasting civil conflict with Tamil separatists, strong remittances and an IMF agreement boosted investors’ confidence. Foreign exchange reserves recovered from about one month of imports in the first half of 2009 to six months of imports by January 2010.
Now that the war is over and the global economy recovering, the government needs to grasp the opportunity to do the right things and avoid hurting confidence in the country’s stability, which is key to the rise in foreign investment and tourism.
The bad news is that the withdrawal of GSP Plus by the European Union countries can hurt industrial exports. The EU decision is worrisome. Thanks to the increase in manufacture exports from 6 percent of total exports in 1975 to 60 percent in 2005, firms began to lead Sri Lanka‘s connectivity with the rest of the world.
One of the reasons why schoolchildren in low-income countries, despite being in school most of the time, seem to be learning very little is that the teacher is often not there. In Uganda, for instance, the teacher absence rate in public primary schools was estimated at 27 percent.
Will public opinion kill health care reform in the US? Naturally, I don't know the answer to that question. What is interesting is how a reform process that appeared close to conclusion can wobble mightily upon the apparent signaling of public displeasure. If reinforces once again the centrality of politics - and of public opinion- to processes of reform. What matters now, as the leaders of US government grapple with how to conclude or abandon the reform effort, is to reflect on some of the lessons coming out of the process at this point that might be applicable to reform processes generally. The following seem fairly clear:
I don’t know if any of you heard about the public protests that took place on September 4th in diverse cities in Colombia, Venezuela and even in Spain, Belgium, Canada, Argentina and Honduras, among other countries. I personally didn’t participate in them but I had the opportunity to witness them and they revived memories of the manifestations that I’ve seen in the last years in Colombia and Venezuela.
My last post on this blog discussed public deliberation as a political ideal and what happens when that ideal is tested in an actual decision-making space. In a paper about municipal health councils in Brazil, Andrea Cornwall gives a blow-by-blow description of what happens when deliberative spaces stop being polite and start getting real.
Health councils were established in Brazil’s 1988 ‘Citizens’ Constitution’ and empowered citizens with the right to review and approve executive-level budgets, accounts and spending plans on health programs. Although overshadowed by the participatory budgeting process, Brazilian health councils can also provide some important lessons on how to deepen citizen engagement and decision-making. Through the example of these health councils, Cornwall argues that three elements in particular are often “under-theorized” by deliberative democratic theorists. First, understanding political culture is important. Second, how do party politics infiltrate and impact these spaces? And last, how is power challenged in these spaces? (She describes discussions in this deliberative space more as confrontational rather than reasonable.)
Public deliberation as a political ideal represents the next frontier in democracy building. Public deliberation calls for dramatic changes in how political decisions are made. Through deliberative processes, citizens and not elected representatives, make decisions on how to manage their own resources. These decisions are reached according to the exchange of reasons and arguments that appeal to shared objectives or values. Decisions resulting from deliberation are more informed and rational. Under deliberative processes, political truths emerge not from competing ideas but through dialogue between citizens. Deliberative processes produce information as a by-product, not a precondition for participation.
Close to 30 government officials from seven Asian countries* recently participated in CommGAP’s workshop on communication and governance reform. Entitled People, Politics, and Change, the workshop was held in Manila, Philippines from April 20 to 23. The participant pool included a few high level officials, both cabinet ministers and national parliamentarians. Also in the group were governance specialists from the Asian Development Bank (ADB), Australian Agency for International Development (AusAID), and the World Bank’s newly established regional governance hub in Bangkok. Observers included representatives from the Asian Institute of Management and the University of the Philippines College of Mass Communication.