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Public Sector and Governance

This Week in #SouthAsiaDev: February 6th, 2015

Mary Ongwen's picture

Myanmar sees early progress in its public procurement reform

Zhentu Liu's picture
 Markus Kostner / World Bank


Myanmar is embarking on a triple transition: from an authoritarian military system to democratic governance; from a centrally directed economy to market oriented reforms; and from several decades of conflict to peace.

Since 2011, leaving behind decades of isolation, fragility and conflict, a reformist government has steered unprecedented political and economic reforms intended to open Myanmar to the global economy, boost growth, and reduce poverty.
 
As part of its economic reforms, Myanmar seeks to establish a modern public procurement regime and has taken a series of actions including the issuance of two Presidential Instructions and two directives on Public Procurement to establish the basis for an open and competitive public procurement system.

Can Court Fee Waivers Open the Door for Justice in Serbia?

Georgia Harley's picture
The courts are open and justice is blind, or so they say. But if you’re poor, the courts may be beyond your reach. How can you protect your rights if you cannot afford to walk through the door of the courthouse?

In many countries, courts offer to waive their fees to anyone who can demonstrate that they cannot afford them.

Whilst it is true that fee waivers will not overcome profound barriers to access to justice, they do provide an important safety net for the poor to access essential services. And by helping the poor to pursue their rights, the courts can help to level that unequal playing field that is the courtroom.

In Serbia, providing court fee waivers are particularly pertinent.
 

Can Court Fee Waivers Open the Door for Justice in Serbia?

Georgia Harley's picture
The courts are open and justice is blind, or so they say. But if you’re poor, the courts may be beyond your reach. How can you protect your rights if you cannot afford to walk through the door of the courthouse?

In many countries, courts offer to waive their fees to anyone who can demonstrate that they cannot afford them.

Whilst it is true that fee waivers will not overcome profound barriers to access to justice, they do provide an important safety net for the poor to access essential services. And by helping the poor to pursue their rights, the courts can help to level that unequal playing field that is the courtroom.

In Serbia, providing court fee waivers are particularly pertinent.
 

Public financial management reforms: determined by conditions or resulting from the right approach?

Verena Fritz's picture



Reforms of public financial management (PFM) systems – pursued by many countries and supported by development partners -- have attracted quite a bit of debate and analysis in recent years. Significant variation in progress achieved and lack of broad-based and sustained improvements in metrics of PFM performance, as reflected in CPIA ratings and PEFA scores, suggest to many observers that outcomes have not matched reform efforts and expectations. 

This has led to a search for better solutions in two directions. First, grounding reform efforts in stronger problem analysis, and based on this, developing a better fit of reform approaches to specific country circumstances. Second, seeking a better understanding of non-technical aspects and, in particular, the role of political economy drivers in influencing which PFM reforms are pursued where and with what degree of success. ‘Doing things differently’ along these lines sounds promising – but reformers and development partners may well question whether we know enough to pursue such alternative approaches on a wider scale. 

'It’s the Trust, Stupid!' The Influence of Non-Quantifiable Factors on Policymaking

Steve Utterwulghe's picture



Should trust be something that policymakers need to worry about? I started reflecting on this question after I came across the 2015 Edelman Trust Barometer. It suggests that 80% of the people surveyed in 27 markets distrust governments, business or both (see figure 1).

A staggering number, to say the least. The year 2014 did not spare us from economic, geopolitical and environment turmoil. Nonetheless, the trend over the last few years has been a growing distrust in our leadership, despite the fact that progress has been made in the three main pillars of trust: integrity, transparency and engagement. More needs to be done, it seems.

Figure1. Trust in business and government, 2015



As Ralph Waldo Emerson, the American essayist and poet, wrote: “Our distrust is very expensive.” The lack of trust in our government affects policies and reforms, and thus damages the overall economic environment. Investors will lack confidence and shy away. Growth will stagnate, sustainable jobs won’t be created, and trust in government will erode even further. A vicious circle is being created.

Professor Dennis A. Rondinelli, lately of Duke University, argues: “What are called 'market failures' are really policy failures. The problems result from either the unwillingness or inability of governments to enact and implement policies that foster and support effective market systems.” Distrust thus influences policymakers in multiple ways: They will either adopt bad policies, or overregulate. A study published in The Quarterly Journal of Economics shows that “government regulation is strongly negatively correlated with measures of trust.”  “Distrust creates public demand for regulation, whereas regulation in turn discourages formation of trust. . . . Individuals in low-trust countries want more government intervention even though they know the government is corrupt” (see figure 2).

Figure 2. Distrust and regulation of entry. Regulation is measured by the (ln)-number of procedures to open a firm.
Sources: World Values Survey and Djankov et al. (2002).




The evaporation of trust in government institutions requires that governments and development agencies rebuild trusted institutions. However, it also behooves all of “society’s stakeholders” to rebuild trust among themselves and “engage.”

Integrity and transparency are two of the pillars of trust that have received a lot of attention during the past decade. Indeed, tackling corruption and ensuring transparency have been at the top of the institutional and corporate development agenda. The third pillar, engagement, has been more rhetorical or grossly underestimated.

A prerequisite for inclusive and responsive policymaking is that citizens use their voice and engage constructively with government institutions. As we have seen, increasing social and political trust helps market economies function more effectively. In turn, sound economic policies foster social and political trust. In recent years, the practice of structured public-private dialogue (PPD) has helped the private sector and other stakeholders engage in an inclusive and transparent way with governments. PPD mechanisms have resulted in better identification, design and implementation of good regulations and policy reforms intended to create an improved investment climate and increase economic growth. As a result, this process has built mutual trust between institutions and business.

Confidence-building has been most critical in post-conflict and conflict-affected states where deep mistrust among stakeholders is prevalent. That topic will be discussed in greater depth at our 2015 Fragility Forum’s session on public-private and multi-stakeholder dialogue, coming up on February 13. Foreshadowing the Fragility Forum, a panel discussion in Preston Auditorium on Monday, February 2 – featuring, among others, Sarah Chayes of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, who is the author of  “Thieves of State: Why Corruption Threatens Global Security” – will focus on "Corruption: A Driver of Conflict."
 
In an age of distrust, this type of policy reform – through multi-stakeholder engagement – is not an obvious exercise. The economist Albert Hirschman claims that “moving from public to private involvements is very easy because any single individual can do it alone. Moving from private to public involvements is far harder because we first have to mobilize a lot of people to construct the public sphere.” But the increase of PPD platforms across the world  the WBG Trade & Competitiveness’ Global PPD Team currently supports 47 PPD projects worldwide  suggests that there is an appetite for engagement among citizens, business and governments alike.

Trust can be slowly restored by, among other things, designing adequate interventions such as PPD mechanisms. By their inherent iterative process of discovery, collaborative identification of issues and joint problem-solving, PPDs can activate favorable mental models of stakeholders. According to the 2015 World Development Report on "Mind, Society and Behavior," these “mental models can make people better off.” I would argue that these mental models drawn from their societies and shared histories can help build trust as well.
 
Trust matters for policymakers. Ultimately, it matters for all citizens. Designing interventions and offering a safe space where stakeholders can engage with governments in an inclusive and transparent fashion will go a long way toward restoring that valuable trust.
 

Innovation in procurement: why and how

Enzo de Laurentiis's picture
Photo: © Arne Hoel/The World Bank

For governments to carry out their day-to-day functions, procurement -- or their ability to purchase goods and services -- is critical. It is both a service function and a strategic policy tool which can help achieve a broad range of social and economic welfare objectives. It cuts across all areas of public administration and builds on cooperation among multiple public and private stakeholders.

For procurement to better contribute to institutional effectiveness, then, it needs to innovate. Promoting innovation in procurement means processes that are transparent and efficient, and that facilitate equal access and open competition. Innovative solutions to public service needs are instrumental to delivering better services with long-term value for money.

Of Reforms and a New Government in Moldova

Alex Kremer's picture
People on the main street of Chisinau, capital of the Republic of Moldova
People on the streets of Chisinau, capital of the Republic of Moldova. Photo: Elena Prodan / World Bank

After several months of campaigning and negotiations, Moldova’s new Government is about to take shape. The World Bank is looking forward to hearing the new Government’s plans for reform.

Networking climate actions for stronger, international carbon markets

Vikram Widge's picture
 
Map of existing and emerging carbon markets and taxes, from State and Trends of Carbon Pricing



Around the world, countries are developing ways to put a price on carbon to fight climate change. They are choosing different approaches depending on their national circumstances. China has pilot emissions trading systems (ETS) in seven provinces and cities and is planning a national ETS in 2016. Chile recently approved a carbon tax to start in 2018. Mexico and Colombia are implementing sector-wide crediting mechanisms that reward low emission programs with carbon credits, for example in the transport sector by substituting conventional vehicles with electric cars. Many countries have renewable energy portfolio standards and feed-in tariffs.

These domestic initiatives are crucial to lowering greenhouse gas emissions. Each is being designed individually, though, creating a patchwork of regulations and missing the economy of scale that a connected system could bring.

The World Bank Group has been working on ways to network these initiatives and facilitate an integrated international carbon market.

Apply for SAFE Trust Fund grants

Soukeyna Kane's picture



The SAFE Trust Fund application (Word document) is now open until 27 February 2015.
 
What is SAFE?
 
SAFE means Strengthening Accountability and the Fiduciary Environment. It is a Trust Fund group administered by the World Bank and established by the Swiss State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (SECO) and the European Commission with the aim of improving public financial management in the Europe and Central Asia region. This Trust Fund group provides support for activities to assess public financial management (PFM) performance, identify and implement actions to achieve improvements and share knowledge and good practices across countries in the region.


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