In May 2015, I was a panel speaker at the 2nd World Bank – International Ombudsman Institute Roundtable on the role of ombudsman institutions (OIs) in promoting citizen-centric governance and inclusive institutions. This was a great opportunity to share the experience of my office, the Ombudsman Republic of Indonesia (ORI) in promoting greater government accountability and also learn from other countries’ experiences presented by the other panelists.
The OIs come in various shapes and sizes, thus encompassing different roles depending upon their national mandates. While OIs are mostly known to deal with complaints regarding maladministration issues not addressed at the agency level, our panel discussed how OIs could contribute to service delivery improvements, while also promoting citizen engagement in demanding accountability.
As fellow Ombudsman Peter Tyndall from Ireland noted, OIs are capable of not only looking into individual complaints regarding poor service delivery often caused by one-off incidences, but also investigate and uncover roots of more systemic problems within public institutions.
China has experienced substantial economic growth over three decades, with sustained annual GDP growth rates of 8%-10%. In order to maintain the growth, the government seeks to accelerate the process of industrialization and urbanization started in the 12th Five Year Plan (2011-2015).
China has made investment in transport infrastructure a centerpiece of its strategy, with investment in the rail sector specifically increasing, in recognition of lower cost, higher energy efficiency, and lower carbon emission of rail transport compared with road and air transport.
, which includes 16,000 kilometers of rail connecting 160 cities on the mainland. China’s Mid- and Long-term Railway Network Plan (2004-2020), adopted in 2004 and updated in 2008, contains an ambitious program of railway network development, with an aim of increasing the public railway network from 75,000 km to 120,000 km, among which 25,000 route-km will be fast passenger railway routes.
Procurement of high-speed railway projects in China is complex and transaction heavy. The technology is constantly changing due to innovation by designers and manufacturers, and the inclusion of multiple agencies and officials can increase the complexity.
Measuring good governance can be tricky, but 'orderly traffic' can be used as an indicator since it offers insights beyond its limited definition.
As hard as it is to define ‘governance’, we have plenty of indicators to measure its quality: quality of key public services, extent of corruption, ease of doing business, etc. One of the challenges with these indicators is the distance between the process and outcomes, in particular, the assumptions involved in the translation of certain process into tangible outcomes. It follows that by mixing up indicators for processes and outcomes, we risk, well, measuring what doesn’t matter, and not measuring what does matter.
So as the title of this post suggests, could ‘orderly traffic’ be a good measure?
A familiar context: I live in Nairobi (and prior to that, in Delhi) and spend a considerable time waiting in traffic. What often makes traffic a problem is a complete lack of coordination amongst motorists on the road. However, I don’t think the onus of coordination at an intersection should rest on motorists – there are traffic lights or traffic police whose job it is to enforce discipline to ensure orderliness on the road. In many cities though, this is plain theory. In reality, traffic lights may not exist, or be broken; the traffic police may be absent, or just be incompetent. Motorists joust with each other every day and often end up creating gird-locks that hold everyone up. Please note that I am not talking about slow traffic caused purely due to long stops at intersections waiting for the lights to change. I am specifically concerned with the ‘orderliness’ of the flow. People waste time, fuel and a lot of their good humour (unless you are in a zen state) when they are in these gird-locks. It is usually more than evident to everyone whose fault it is and what the solution should be – and that usually only serves to raise tempers on the road. On days when the traffic flows smoothly, everyone seems happier. Zipping home after work is often the high point of the day.
Wasting billions of dollars, time and time again, to stage self-indulgent sports spectacles is no way for any society to build shared prosperity for the long term. But just try explaining that common-sense economic logic to the sports-crazed cities that keep lining up to purchase a moment of fleeting fame – and that end up squandering vast sums, by building use-once-throw-away “white elephants” for one-off events like the Olympic Games or the World Cup soccer tournament.
The sports-industrial complex continues to beguile the gullible and the grandiose, even though scholars have long warned of the futility of sports-event-driven spending. Beijing spent about $40 billion to host the 2008 Summer Games, and Sochi spent upwards of $50 billion to stage the 2014 Winter Games – while Brazil spent $20 billion to host (and heartbreakingly lose) the final rounds of 2014 World Cup soccer. Not to be outdone for extravagance and excess, Qatar reportedly plans to spend as much as $200 billion for the 2022 festivities.
Like the deluded leaders of declining Rome – who distracted their once-industrious city into passivity by pacifying the populace with what the poet Juvenal derided as panem et circenses: "bread and circuses" – modern-day civic leaders are allowing their obsession with media-moment athletic fame to trample economic logic. The scale of their civic hubris – and the malign self-interest of the construction firms, financiers, flacks and fixers who goad credulous Olympic-wannabe cities into wanton overspending – is insightfully dissected in a valuable new book, “Circus Maximus: The Economic Gamble Behind Hosting the Olympics and the World Cup,” by Andrew Zimbalist, a professor of economics at Smith College.
In recent remarks at the World Bank, Zimbalist deplored the reckless rush that stampedes many cities into bleeding their civic coffers in the quest for Olympic notoriety. The saddest example may be the city of Montreal, whose debt from the 1976 Summer Games burdened the sorry city for 30 years.
Yet the suckers keep taking the bait. Boston, said Zimbalist, recently put forth an extravagant multibillion-dollar bid for the 2024 Summer Games – and only later, after the initial headlines and hoopla had abated, did more complete statistics reveal the likely scale of Boston’s folly. And, of course, the Olympic organizers would again stick the long-suffering taxpayers with the bill for any revenue shortfall.
Zimbalist’s logic is a wake-up call for those who somehow imagine that “this time is different” – that one-shot wonders might somehow produce long-term economic benefits. Some occasional exceptions suggest how very rare it is that optimists are rewarded: London, for example, may have gained a much-needed morale boost after its successful 2012 Summer Games, and two (but only two) Olympic festivals actually turned a profit – both of them in Los Angeles, which shrewdly re-used some of its 1936 Olympic facilities when it again played host to the Summer Games in 1984. But for most cities – Montreal in 1976, Sarajevo in 1984, Athens in 2004 and many more – the money spent on soon-to-crumble stadia, ski jumps and swimming pools was a diversion from urgent human needs and productive investment.
Zimbalist makes a compelling case – yet beyond the diagnosis of the malady, one seeks a prescription to cure it. Can such Olympic megalomania be tamed? Are there other ways to build, and pay for, worthy sports facilities that honor the spirit of the Olympic Games while avoiding the overspending that bleeds their hosts dry?
A potential solution arose amid Zimbalist’s recent World Bank discussion. Rather than build one-shot Olympic facilities that are destined to be discarded as soon as each extravaganza is finished, why not build just one enduring set of permanent Olympic facilities that can be refurbished and re-used, year after year? Build it right, and build it only once: That way, the cost of building and maintaining an Olympic complex could be spread over generations.
Pursuing that solution seems especially timely right now, and here's why. Where is the historically logical place to locate such a permanent Olympic site? Why, in Greece, of course, where the Olympics originated in 776 B.C. and continued until 393 A.D. There could be no more authentic place to have today’s marathoners run than in Marathon itself – no more meaningful place to have skiers schuss than on Mount Olympus, or to have boaters ply the very waters that warmed Odysseus’ odyssey.
Drones for Development
Unmanned aerial vehicles have populated both the imagination and nightmares of people around the world in recent years. In April, the United States Navy announced an experimental program called LOCUST (Low-Cost UAV Swarming Technology), which officials promise will “autonomously overwhelm an adversary” and thus “provide Sailors and Marines a decisive tactical advantage.” With a name and a mission like that – and given the spotty ethical track record of drone warfare – it is little wonder that many are queasy about the continued proliferation of flying robots. But the industrial use of the lower sky is here to stay. More than three million humans are in the air daily. Every large human settlement on our planet is connected to another by air transport.
Confronting the Crisis of Global Governance
Commission on Global Security, Justice & Governance
Today’s global challenges, from mass violence in fragile states and runaway climate change to fears of devastating cross-border economic shocks and cyber attacks, require new kinds of tools, networks, and institutions if they are to be effectively managed. Climate change, economic shocks, and cyber attacks are likely to have lasting and far-reaching consequences, and the marked and visible increase in mass atrocities in one country after another has reversed the trend of declining political violence that began with the end of the Cold War. Dealing with each of these issues calls for policies and actions beyond the writ or capabilities of any state and threatens to escape the grasp of present international institutions.
Let’s say on a dark, cold day, electricity supply to your house is suddenly interrupted. With no heat and light, you furiously walk to the nearby government energy administration office to file a complaint.
As you file your complaint, an official also asks for your mobile number and tells you that within the next 24 hours, you will receive help. A day later, you get a text message or robocall asking you whether you have been helped and how the service was.
This process—when government proactively seeks feedback directly from citizens about the quality of its services and makes it mandatory for service providers to use smartphones and creates dashboards for citizens to view real-time information on service delivery—is called proactive governance.
Proactive governance was first introduced in 2011 in Punjab, the most populous province of Pakistan.
Albanian citizens who recently received treatment at a state-run hospital are likely to receive a text message that reads something like this: “Hi, I am Bledi Cuci, Minister of State responsible for anti-corruption. Our records indicate that you recently received care in a state hospital.
The SMS campaign, supported by The World Bank and implemented by the Ministry of State for Local Issues and Anti-Corruption, was launched on March 9, 2015.
As of early June, it has reached more than 33,500 citizens in a country of three million. About 20 percent have responded, reporting many service delivery problems.
“The doctors are always late and the corruption continues as always. Without giving away money, no one takes care of you,” read one response. Others complain of lack of cleanliness or the absence of medicines: “No, they didn't ask for bribe, but we had to buy the drugs outside of the hospital because they didn't have any.”
Vinay Bhargava, the chief technical adviser and a board member at Partnership for Transparency Fund, provides five takeaways on governance and development interactions from a recent panel discussion hosted by the 1818 Society.
On May 27, I had the pleasure of serving as a panelist at an event organized by the Governance Thematic Group of 1818 Society of the World Bank Group (WBG) Alumni.
The panelists were: Mr. Homi Kharas, Senior Fellow and Deputy Director for the Global Economy and Development program at the Brookings Institution; Ms. Heike Gramckow, Acting Practice Manager, Rule of Law and Access to Justice at the Governance Global Practice at the World Bank Group; Mr. Brian Levy, Professor of the Practice, School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS), Johns Hopkins University; Mr. Jerome Sauvage, Deputy head of UN Office in Washington DC. Mr. Fredrick Temple, currently Adviser at the Partnership for Transparency Fund, moderated the workshop.
The panel presentations and discussion were hugely informative and insightful. I am pleased to share with you my five takeaways that anyone interested in governance and development interactions ought to know.
Program Manager of STAR-Ghana, Ibrahim-Tanko Amidu presented with "Global Partnership
for Social Accountability Award” for the Africa Region by Sanjay Pradhan of the World Bank.
This was the first year I participated in this event in my role as senior director for the Governance Global Practice, and what immediately struck me was the strength and vibrancy of the GPSA network. In the room that day we listened and engaged with over 200 GPSA partners including key stakeholders from government, academia, business and civil society. Together they represented 75 countries all coming together to discuss a passion for one issue: social accountability.
in development. Let me explain why.
Bill Lyons / World Bank
A new World Bank report addressing the widespread dissatisfaction of citizens with the delivery of essential public services and calling for accountability in public service delivery in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region was released a few weeks ago.
The statistics in Trust, Voice, and Incentives: Learning from Local Success Stories in Service Delivery in the Middle East and North Africa are grim, as nearly three quarters of MENA students are scoring “low” or “below low” in international student performance tests and one third of the public health clinics in MENA countries lack essential medicines and staff.
The good news, however, is that the report also sheds light on local success stories in health and education where, to citizens. The examples from Jordan, Morocco, and the Palestinian Territories highlight the power of collaboration and mutual trust between citizens and public servants to produce better results.