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South Korea

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. 

Want dramatic road safety results? Look to South Korea.

Nak Moon Sung's picture
When looking to improve road safety for children around the world, it is clear that the experience of South Korea has valuable lessons to offer.

To start, the numbers speak for themselves. In 1992, 1,566 kids (14 years old and under) were killed in road crashes in South Korea. By 2014, children deaths dramatically decreased to only 53, the equivalent of an almost 97 percent reduction over that period of time. No other country that we know of has experienced such a remarkable reduction in only 22 years.
Decreasing road fatalities in South Korea, 1990-2015

What made this achievement possible?

Although there isn't a single answer, the evidence shows that comprehensive policies played a crucial role in reducing children deaths due to road and traffic injuries.

We must be bold to improve learning in classrooms

Jim Yong Kim's picture
A young student in Côte d'Ivoire shows off his schoolwork. © Ami Vitale/Word Bank


Education is one of the surest means to end extreme poverty in our time. Yet, 121 million children today remain out of school. These young people are the hardest to reach—due to poverty, gender barriers, remoteness, and disability. We must make a new concerted push to bring all children into the classroom.

In addition to this challenge of improving attendance and access, we face an even tougher problem ahead: ensuring that children are learning while they’re in school. The sad truth is that most education systems are not serving the poorest children well. An estimated 250 million children cannot read or write, despite having attended school for years. This is a tragic failure of our educational aspirations for the world’s youth.

Prospects Weekly: Data releases suggests that capital good orders appear to be holding firm

Global Macroeconomics Team's picture
Recent data releases suggests  that capital good orders from developing countries  appear to be holding firm, despite heightened  uncertainty in the global economy. Sovereign bond spreads for emerging markets have narrowed recently, amid bolder attempts to address the eurozone debt crisis. While the decline in spreads is welcome, their sensitivity to events in Europe is worrisome.