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Governance

Achieving Shared Prosperity in the Middle East and North Africa

Elena Ianchovichina's picture

In terms of the World Bank’s twin goals of eliminating extreme poverty and boosting shared prosperity, the Middle East and North Africa Region was making steady progress. The percentage of people living on less than $1.25 a day was 2.4% and declining.  And the incomes of the bottom 40% have been growing at higher rates than average incomes in almost all MENA countries for which we have information.

Yet, there were revolutions in several countries and widespread discontent. Why?

 

The Dictator’s Dilemma

Sina Odugbemi's picture

In an influential article in Foreign Affairs entitled ‘The Political Power of Social Media’, published in January 2011, Clay Shirky described the dictator’s dilemma, also called the conservative dilemma, as follows:
 

The dilemma is created by new media that increase public access to speech or assembly; with the spread of such media, whether photocopiers or Web browsers, a state accustomed to having a monopoly of public speech finds itself called to account for anomalies between its view of events and the public’s. The two responses to the conservative dilemma are censorship and propaganda. But neither of these is as effective as the enforced silence of citizens. The state will censor critics or produce propaganda as it needs to, but both of those actions have higher costs than simply not having any critics to silence or reply to in the first place. But if a government were to shut down Internet access or ban cellphones, it would risk radicalizing otherwise pro-regime citizens or harming the economy.

Many dictatorial or authoritarian regimes are sitting right on the butt-hurting horns of that dilemma right now. What is driving it is, of course, the explosive growth in mobile technology worldwide, what Michael Saylor, in a book of that title, calls The Mobile Wave. Cell phones, smart phones and internet access are driving into more and more corners of the world. For a current run-down of the mind-boggling statistics please see this Pew Research Report: ‘Emerging Nations Embrace Internet, Mobile Technology’. And for current reporting on how the dictator’s dilemma is playing out in some contexts please see ‘How Emerging Markets’ Internet Policies Are Undermining Their Economic Recovery’ from Forbes.

Area C: An Untapped Resource that Could Turnaround the Palestinian Economy

Orhan Niksic's picture
 Arne Hoel

The Palestinian economy is stalling. Growth dropped sharply in 2013, unemployment is on the rise, and tax revenues for the Palestinian authority are falling significantly short of what is needed to finance even recurrent expenditures. That’s the bad news that many are well aware of. There is however a potential source of good news that currently lies dormant, but if tapped could both stimulate growth and transform the Palestinian economy.

‘Switching on the Lights’: Access to Information as a Path to Better Schools

Simon Thacker's picture
Students on their school lunch break

There had never been a problem with attendance at the Indian High School in Dubai, the largest school in the city with over 10,000 students. But when a new metro station opened right outside the school in 2009 things changed. Students were suddenly tempted to skip school and head to the largest mall in the world, now just a short hop away. 

How to Build Accountability in Fragile States? Some Lessons (and 2 New Jobs) from an Innovative Governance Programme

Duncan Green's picture

One of my favourite Oxfam programmes is called (rather arcanely) ‘Within and Without the State’(WWS). It is trying to build civil society and good governance in some pretty unpromising environments – Yemen, South Sudan, Afghanistan and OPTI (Occupied Palestinian Territory and Israel).

It’s currently advertising two new jobs (one on learning and communications, the other a programme coordinator), if you’re interested.

WWS recently published some crisply-written initial findings on governance and fragility. They echo the work of Matt Andrews and others on how institutional change happens.

Here’s a few highlights:

Weekly Wire:the Global Forum

Roxanne Bauer's picture
These are some of the views and reports relevant to our readers that caught our attention this week.
 

World Press Freedom Index 2014
Reporters Without Borders
The 2014 World Press Freedom Index spotlights the negative impact of conflicts on freedom of information and its protagonists. The ranking of some countries has also been affected by a tendency to interpret national security needs in an overly broad and abusive manner to the detriment of the right to inform and be informed. This trend constitutes a growing threat worldwide and is even endangering freedom of information in countries regarded as democracies. Finland tops the index for the fourth year running, closely followed by Netherlands and Norway, like last year. At the other end of the index, the last three positions are again held by Turkmenistan, North Korea and Eritrea, three countries where freedom of information is non-existent. READ MORE

Throwing the transparency baby out with the development bathwater
Global Integrity
In recent weeks, a number of leading voices within the international development movement – including the billionaire philanthropist Bill Gates as well as development economist Chris Blattman and tech-for-development expert Charles Kenny - have come out arguing that corruption and governance efforts in developing countries should be de-prioritized relative to other challenges in health, education, or infrastructure. Their basic argument is that while yes, corruption is ugly, it’s simply another tax in an economic sense and while annoying and inefficient, can be tolerated while we work to improve service delivery to the poor. The reality is more complicated and the policy implications precisely the opposite: corruption’s “long tail” in fact undermines the very same development objectives that Gates, Blattman, and Kenny are advocating for. READ MORE

Improving Service Delivery in Pakistan, One Text Message at a Time

Mabruk Kabir's picture

After visiting a government office, residents in Punjab may be surprised to find a familiar voice on the phone – their Chief Minister. “You have recently registered property,” the voice of Shahbaz Sharif booms, “Did you face any difficulties? Did you have to pay a bribe?” (Hear the robo-call here!)
 
It is an uncomfortable question – but one that tackles a stubborn social issue in Pakistan. In a country of 180 million, a culture of bribery and pretty corruption plagues public service delivery.
 
When visiting a land services official, a staggering 75 percent of households reported paying a bribe, according to Transparency International. Over half of households said they bribed the public utilities or a police officer in the last year. Endemic corruption is not just a drag on economic activity and poverty reduction efforts – it erodes trust between citizens and the state. 

January 25th: A Date to Remember in the Arab World

Wael Zakout's picture
January 25th
Photo: "January 25th is the best and most honorable day in the history of Egypt"

In the World Bank office in Cairo, there is a beautiful poster that proclaims January 25th as the best day in history. I do not know its origin, but it looks like a drawing made in the heart of Cairo’s Tahrir Square during the January 25th revolution. Three years later, January 25th has a deep meaning in modern Arab history. 

What are the Sources of Corruption?

Augusto Lopez-Claros's picture

In a previous blog we discussed the factors that have pushed issues of corruption to the centre of policy debates about sound economic management. A related question deals with the sources of corruption: where does it come from, what are the factors that have nourished it and turned it into such a powerful impediment to sustainable economic development? Economists seem to agree that an important source of corruption stems from the distributional attributes of the state. For better or for worse, the role of the state in the economy has expanded in a major way over the past century. In 1913 the 13 largest economies in the world, accounting for the bulk of global economic output, had an average expenditure ratio in relation to GDP of around 12%. This ratio had risen to 43% by 1990, with many countries’ ratios well in excess of 50%.  This rise was associated with the proliferation of benefits under state control and also in the various ways in which the state imposes costs on society. While a larger state need not necessarily be associated with higher levels of corruption—the Nordic countries illustrate this—it is the case that the larger the number of interactions between officials and private citizens, the larger the number of opportunities in which the latter may wish to illegally pay for benefits to which they are not entitled, or avoid responsibilities or costs for which they bear an obligation.

How Fair is “Fair Compensation” Under India’s New Land Acquisition Act?

I.U.B Reddy's picture

The much anticipated Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act, 2013 (“the Act”) has just come into force in India on January 1st, 2014. Unlike the replaced 1894 legislation, this act addresses the rehabilitation and resettlement of those who depend on land, in addition to land owners. As emphasized in its title the new act places a greater emphasis on transparent processes at various stages: for example, through its mandatory social impact assessments, public hearings, and dispute resolution mechanisms.  
 
The other key emphasis in the act’s title refers to a new compensatory mechanism. The new act now provides for up to two times market value, against one time in the previous act and this figure is then doubled by applying a one hundred percent “solatium” against 30% in the previous act (additional compensation). Though people get more compensation under new  act, an increase in multiplier does not address the fundamental question of determining “market value”  in a country where registered values under-represent land purchase price to evade high stamp duties.  The challenge is exacerbated in rural areas where there are fewer land transfers, and therefore fewer registered sales deeds to use as reference points. In such situations, a valuation that is perceived to be more “fair” can be found only through consultations and dialogue, as demonstrated by two case studies from World Bank financed projects in India:


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