If you want a passport in Pakistan, you wait in line – possibly for hours. You might get to the passport office at the crack of dawn to avoid the queue. The process might be unclear, and there might be people – “agents” – waiting outside the office, offering to help: “For a few hundred rupees, I can fast-track your application.”
The government of Pakistan is trying to fix these problems, including the requests for bribes, rude treatment, and inefficient processing. Their approach is simple and creative and made possible because there are an estimated 123 million mobile phone users in the South Asian nation – about 64 percent of the population, according to the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority.
Beginning this fall, staff at each of the passport office’s 95 locations began collecting the cell phone numbers of all passport applicants. Shortly after each visit, the central headquarters sends the applicant a text message: “Did you face any problem or did someone ask you for money?”
Public Sector and Governance
Visiting a technical institution (one that is focused on science and engineering) in India can be a mixed experience. I have been to campuses that have state-of-the-art lab equipment with dedicated staff, and I have also been to others that barely have enough textbooks in their libraries and lab equipment from the 1960s.
Regardless of the type of institution, one thing is certain – even if the buildings are brand new and WiFi abundant, without good governance practices technical institutions in India would be less able to provide good higher education services to students.
To provide some more practical advice on how to embody good governance in the higher education sector, I visited seven institutions in two different states (Maharashtra and Karnataka) to explore best practices, which are summarized below:
A neighborhood road a minute walk away from my house in the southern plains of Nepal used to be paved. When I was a kid, it was usable during all seasons. Not anymore.
A few years ago, I’m told, residents worked with the municipal officials to get drinking water to their houses. Officials broke the road so they can connect drinking water pipes from the nearby main highway to neighborhood homes.
That road has yet to be repaired. When I asked my parents and neighbors why it has taken so long for the road to be repaired, they responded by saying the municipality officials have ignored it.
The town’s municipal officials said locals haven’t contacted them yet about that road and there are other projects the municipality is working on. The broken road in my neighborhood isn’t one of those projects. To put it gently, public services in my hometown remain in dire condition.
Would things have been different if residents of my hometown engaged more with their local government? Maybe.
Over the last couple of years a small team of us have worked on an initiative to incorporate the regular, systematic feedback of citizens into the design and execution of World Bank programs. I would like to share some of our experiences working together with governments, civil society organizations and citizens in Latin America, Asia, the Middle East and Africa on this citizen engagement initiative.
First, citizen engagement is not new. For instance, the early work by Robert Chambers, “The Origins and Practice of Participatory Rural Appraisal and Michael Cernea’s “Putting People First” date from 1980s and early 90s and were quite inspirational for many of us who have worked issues of gathering and acting on citizen feedback.
At the same time, something important has changed. There has been an increasing demand by civil society and citizens to have a greater say in public decision-making, and a desire among many governments to be more inclusive and responsive to citizens’ needs. Also, the rise of innovations in technology has provided citizens with new and unprecedented opportunities to directly engage policy makers and demonstrated the potential to facilitate “Closing the Feedback Loop” between citizen and governments.
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.
The Tunisian revolution has spawned a butterfly effect, very specific to its context. On the ground, events have continued to evolve, contributing to a revolution within the Tunisian administration. As a result, the foundation has now been laid for an open, transparent, and inclusive government.
Let me explain why the World Bank is optimistic for Moldova.
Reason for optimism number 1. On the edge of the largest market in the world - the European Union - and with labour costs a tiny fraction of the EU average, Moldova could be a magnet for investment for the European consumer. Moldova's Free Economic Zones show how attractive the country can be to foreign investors when businesses are protected from corruption and hassles. The day that Moldovans get a clean economy, therefore, they will see explosive growth in such areas as light manufacturing, for example, and with that will come higher demand for labour and better wages. And faster economic growth will mean more money to pay for decent education, health care and pensions.
Reason for optimism number 2. Moldova has already weathered the worst of the economic shock caused by Russia's economic downturn and the 2015 drought. After a 2 percent decline in 2015, we predict that GDP growth will resume slowly in 2016 to 0.5 percent and accelerate to 4 percent in 2017.
Yes, of course one should not be delusional. 2015 was a tough year for the economy. There is no other word to describe a recession, a drought and a massive bank fraud for which generations of Moldovans will bear the burden. The bank fraud takes part of the blame for the fall of the leu, high interest rates and rising prices. World Bank employees are supposed to be guided by economics, not by emotions, but I cannot help feeling outrage that the ordinary Ion or Ioana will have to pay for the authorities' tolerance of fraud in the three banks.
But prosperity is within Moldova's reach. So, for 2016 let’s do the following...
This was the first local election in 10 years in most places of the country. Voters elected council members of three tiers of local governments: district, urban councils, and union council/ward.
How will these elections impact the lives of average citizens?
International experiences have shown that the main benefit of elected local bodies is their closeness to citizens, which allows them to be much more responsive – although with sustained hard work -- to improving local services such as waste, water, sewerage and transportation.
In a report about managing spatial transformation in South Asia launched at the 3rd Pakistan Urban Forum, we highlighted that (see chapter 3 of the report).
To that end, we identified three closely related "deficits" -- empowerment, resource, and accountability -- which, if tackled properly, could lead to improved local urban governance.
The recent local elections in Pakistan are important steps toward reducing these three deficits. The new local government laws, which were enacted in most provinces in 2013, started to re-empower local governments after the expiration of the earlier 2001 Local Government Act.
“I wish that I had had this [report] when I started. . . . It has some great things that we found out over a long period time – in many cases, through trial and error. And so, when I read it, I said, 'Wow, we are doing these things, but it did take us awhile to buy into these things.' It is going to be very informative to cities around the worlld.”
– Tracey A. Nichols, Director of Economic Development, City of Cleveland
The World Bank Group launched the Competitive Cities report on December 10 – “Competitive Cities for Jobs and Growth: What, Who and How,” which represents almost two years of research and analysis to put together a reliable, comprehensive and unified body of work. It is aimed primarily to help cities formulate and implement economic development strategies, and it is intended to be used by city leaders themselves.
The report was launched jointly by the senior directors of two Global Practices at the Bank Group: the Trade and Competitiveness and the Social, Urban, Rural and Resilience practices. The roundtable discussion included academics, policymakers, senior World Bank advisors, and representatives from the private sector. The Bank Group's stately Old Board Room was filled to overflowing, and the audience was particularly appreciative of the video animation summarizing the central ideas within the Competitive Cities report. The twitter feed associated with the event (#competitivecities) was inundated with live tweets. Supportive analyses in the news media – for instance, in the Huffington Post by Marcelo Giugale and at CityLab by Richard Florida – focused supportive news coverage on the event.
The launch of the report is much more than a flash in the pan. The report itself is only the start: What follows is the rollout, the active dissemination to regional task teams and city leaders, and the setting-in-motion of the findings of the report, which focuses on sub-national growth and job creation. These are some of the events we have planned:
- Events in the various World Bank Group regions, to share the general framework and also to customize the findings of relevance to each specific region. So far, we are considering events in Singapore, Sydney, Dar Es Salaam and potentially cities in the Middle East, North and West Africa, and in the Caribbean. If your city is interested in hosting a regional event, we would be pleased to hear from you.
- A three-day interactive executive training course on competitive cities, which is aimed at city mayors and economic development advisors to cities.
- An operational guide to help configure competitive cities into World Bank lending projects and advisory services, including deep dives for regional and country task teams. Let us know if you’re particularly interested in hosting such a training session in your region.
- urban development
- Urban Clustering
- urban competitiveness
- Competitiveness Policy
- urban policy
- competitive cities
- Competitive Sectors
- Competitive Industries
- Financial Sector
- Law and Regulation
- Social Development
- Public Sector and Governance
- Private Sector Development
- Urban Development
- Sustainable Communities
We wanted to curate to some of the best blog posts from 2015 in hope to help stimulate debate on how governments can help end poverty and boost shared prosperity.