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Public Sector and Governance

Public access to information is critical to promoting peaceful and inclusive societies

Victoria L. Lemieux's picture

This is an important week: it marks both International Right to Know Week and the week of the United Nations’ summit for the adoption of the post-2015 development agenda.

At this meeting, The UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are expected to be adopted. Among these goals is Goal 16, Target 10 – to ensure public access to information and protect fundamental freedoms, in accordance with national legislation and international agreements.

Inclusion of this target recognizes that incredible progress has been made on the right to know--over one hundred countries worldwide already have made significant progress towards achieving this target and other countries are actively discussing the passage of access to information laws--and that there is still more work to be done.

Climate of hope, amid a season of summitry: Anticipation builds for vital summits on sustainability and climate change

Christopher Colford's picture
Speeding through a season of summitry, the world’s policymakers now have sustainability at the forefront of their autumn agenda – and the private sector, as well, must rise to the sustainability challenge. Anticipation is building for this month’s opening of the United Nations General Assembly, where the next-generation blueprint for global development – the long-awaited, painstakingly crafted Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)  – will enshrine sustainability as the central long-term international priority.
Sustainability writ large – in all its environmental, social and economic dimensions – has been the theme driving the global debate as the SDGs have taken shape. A comprehensive plan that prioritizes 17 objectives – with 169 indicators to measure their progress toward completion – the SDGs will frame the global agenda through 2030. The SDGs’ adoption – at a U.N. summit from September 25 to 27 – will be a pivotal checkpoint along this year’s complex pathway of diplomacy, which will culminate in Paris in December with a crucial conference on the greatest of all sustainability issues: climate change.

Optimism seems to be steadily increasing as diplomats continue to negotiate a global climate-change deal. The hope is for an ambitious agreement at the so-called COP 21 conference – the 21st gathering of the Conference of Parties in the climate-change negotiations. The question, however, is how ambitious that pact will be.

As Rachel Kyte – the World Bank Group Vice President and Special Envoy on Climate Change – pointed out in a start-of-September forum at the World Bank: “I think that everything is in place for a deal to be struck in Paris, a deal that is universal, that brings everybody in to the table. . . . So a universal deal, a universal framework . . . is possible. The question, I think, is how strong a deal it's going to be.”
Rachel Kyte on Climate Action

As the clock ticks down to the deadline for a deal in Paris, Kyte (in conversation with Kalee Kreider of the United Nations Foundation) offered a detailed analysis of the intricacies surrounding the final stages of the negotiations: “The question, really, now is the level of ambition, the strength of that deal. And that's politics, not science. That's politics, not economics.”

One question, eight experts, part eight: Thomas Maier

Thomas Maier's picture
Almaty, Kazakhstan. Photo: Wikimedia Commons

To gain a better understanding of how innovation in public-private partnerships (PPPs) builds on genuine learning, we reached out to PPP infrastructure experts around the world, posing the same question to each. Their honest answers redefine what works — and provide new insights into the PPP process. This is the question we posed: How can mistakes be absorbed into the learning process, and when can failure function as a step toward a PPP’s long-term success?

Our eighth and final response in this eight-part series comes from Thomas Maier, Managing Director, Infrastructure with the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD).

For countries new to PPPs, there is no doubt a steep learning curve. Fortunately, there is also a growing body of experience that such countries can learn from — the key is to understand the essence of the lessons and then incorporate these changes into the design of government support for PPPs.

Ultimately there is, of course, no substitute for good project preparation, local capacity and the development of solid legal frameworks and local capital markets — we all know these are the building blocks for the long-term success of any country’s PPP program.

Focusing on lessons learned from EBRD’s region, two current examples from Kazakhstan and Turkey come to mind.

Managing public opinion in the epic migration crisis

Sina Odugbemi's picture

Refugees line up at the UNHCR registration center in Tripoli, LebanonIn all the affected countries, the ongoing migration crisis centering on both the Middle East and Europe is many things. But it is also a public opinion management challenge of impressive girth and height. This is one of those instances where wise leaders will not make policy first and only thereafter ask communication advisers to go and ‘sell’ it. They will have their sharpest communication/political advisers in the room while making policy, especially as the situation evolves in ever more dramatic directions. And those advisers will, one hopes, be monitoring public opinion, consulting panels of voters, talking to deeply experienced players in the political system… all as vital inputs into the policy process.

Why is this a particularly ticklish public opinion management problem? Here is why: the fundamental emotional and values drivers of public opinion at work here are powerful ones, and they clash clangorously. The temptation in host communities is to keep outsiders out, especially people who look different, speak different tongues, worship different gods, and have all kinds of fundamental commitments that host communities might be wary of.  People often think that these primordial sentiments come into play only when transnational movements of people in large numbers happen. But for people like me who grew up in geographically plural, multinational societies (where different ethnic groups live in distinct parts of the country) we know that moving to another part of what is supposed to be your own country to live permanently can be an ego-shredding challenge. As we used to say in Nigeria, the ‘sons of the soil’ might not accept you.

​Developing municipal credit markets: Experience with pooled finance

Kirti Devi's picture

Urbanization is a defining trend of our time. In 1900, 13 percent of the world’s population was urban. Today more than half of the estimated population of 7.2 billion lives in cities. And this growth has happened in one century.
On the upside: Urbanization and economic development are correlated and there are other benefits of density and agglomeration economies. Production is concentrated in cities, which are also centers of demand and social convergence. No country has achieved high-income status without significant urbanization. However, increasing energy use, accelerating CO2 emissions and more environmental pressures will accompany GDP growth. Mismanaged urbanization will impose social and environmental costs that will be difficult to reverse.
In many countries, this urbanization trend is playing out within the context of increased decentralization and fiscal adjustment, and local governments are increasingly responsible for the provision and financing of public infrastructure for their constituencies. This has placed an increased strain on local financing resources and led to an emphasis on the development of local credit markets and resorting to public-private partnerships (PPPs).

Mission to Myanmar: Promoting the full development potential of an economy in transition

Cecile Fruman's picture
In Yangon, the urban modernization of Myanmar is well under way | Photo by Stephanie Liu

How do you help a burgeoning democracy like Myanmar with its transition to a market-based economy after 50 years of isolation, poor infrastructure and limited capacity for reform? You do it by  engaging closely with the government, the private sector and development partners, and by providing the full range of data, financing and knowledge available across all sectors of the economy.

As I conclude my first visit to Myanmar, a fragile and conflict-affected country where the World Bank Group started our development engagement just three years ago, I've witnessed first-hand how the WBG can best support such an economy in transition. As Myanmar looks forward to its first free and fair election in over two generations – an event coming up in November – the challenge will be to ensure continued reform momentum during a period of dramatic political change.
Seldom have we faced such dramatic circumstances in a country where our engagement is in such an early stage and where the development potential is so great. A country of 50 million people that went from once being the rice basket of Asia to today having the lowest life expectancy and the second-highest rate of infant and child mortality among ASEAN countries as well as vast untapped farmland, Myanmar provides a once-in-a-lifetime development opportunity. This situation offers a chance for the WBG’s Trade and Competitiveness Global Practice to contribute to the transformation of an economy and society by supporting regulatory reforms, improving trade policy and trade facilitation, helping generate investment and improving the ability of the country to compete in one of the world’s most dynamic regions.
I was privileged during my visit to meet with the Minister and Deputy Minister of Commerce and their senior staff, and to open the Third Session of the Trade Sector Working Group, which the WBG co-chairs with the European Union and the Ministry of Commerce. Surrounded by India, China, Bangladesh, Thailand and Lao PDR – countries that together have about 40 percent of the world’s population – Myanmar has markets at its doorstep that are ready to be tapped. The removal of investment and trade sanctions by the West has also opened significant new opportunities farther afield.

​Toward an effective PPP business model: An eight-point plan for closing the infrastructure gap

Thomas Maier's picture
Photo: Wikimedia Commons
The global need for infrastructure is significant, particularly in emerging markets. By consensus estimates from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) to the Boston Consulting Group and the World Bank Group, the estimated annual global infrastructure investment need is about US$3.7 trillion – of which only about $2.7 trillion is currently met on an annual basis. 

This much-discussed “infrastructure gap” is large and it is widening. Even if fiscal conditions in developed and emerging economies improve, the need introduced by the infrastructure financing gap is unlikely to be met from public sources alone. This generates an expectation that private capital and user charges must be mobilized to fill these gaps.

But this is an entirely predictable problem, and over many years the international community has made efforts to provide assistance in building public-private partnership (PPP) capacity in emerging markets. Finding ways to leverage private sector investment through sound, consistent and sustained public sector policies should be a focal point for governments around the world.  International financial institutions (IFIs), given their unique relationships with emerging market governments, can and do play an important role. The community of professionals in multilateral development banks (MDBs) is listening; MDBs are willing and able partners.

Of course, stating that idea is one thing; practicing it is another. Here are eight ways that together, we can move from the theoretical to the actual and reach our goals for infrastructure.

Deliberative Democracy – an approach to incorporating the demand side into public sector reforms?

Omowunmi Ladipo's picture
 Arne Hoel / World Bank
Photo: Arne Hoel / World Bank

​Among the findings in a recent report of the Independent Evaluation Group entitled ‘World Bank Group Engagement in Resource-Rich Developing Countries: The Cases of the Plurinationational State of Bolivia, Kazakhstan, Mongolia and Zambia’ was that: “The World Bank’s programs often lacked attention to the demand side of reforms, including building partnerships and maintaining communications with stakeholders beyond the executive branch of government.”
This finding caught my eye because, given my own experience with a number of particularly assertive governments, I know that the more important issue, and where the real accountability lies, is for governments themselves to pay attention to the demand side, in other words that they listen to their own citizens.

How digital public procurement has transformed Bangladesh

Zafrul Islam's picture
Digital Public Procurement Transforms Bangladesh

Each year, Bangladesh spends around $10 billion of its national budget on public procurement to build and maintain schools, roads, power plants and others. Public funds can be used effectively for the people only when the procurement system is transparent and efficient.  In the last few years, the country has shifted away from traditional procurement standards – paperwork and long processing time – and rolled e-GP, a new electronic government procurement system.

One question, eight experts, part seven: Robert Puentes

Robert Puentes's picture

To gain a better understanding of how innovation in public-private partnerships (PPPs) builds on genuine learning, we reached out to PPP infrastructure experts around the world, posing the same question to each. Their honest answers redefine what works — and provide new insights into the PPP process. This is the question we posed: How can mistakes be absorbed into the learning process, and when can failure function as a step toward a PPP’s long-term success?

Our seventh response in this eight-part series comes from Robert Puentes, Senior Fellow with the Brookings Institution's Metropolitan Policy Program

Virginia's Pocahontas Parkway.
Photo: Richmond Times-Dispatch

In the U.S., one of the best learning tools for places wishing to engage in PPPs for infrastructure has been past mistakes. From the parking meter deal in Chicago, to Virginia’s Pocahontas Parkway, and a handful of others, American cities and states pay close attention to one another and are loathe to repeat previous problems.

But going forward, institutionalizing such learnings requires a dedicated team. Indeed, assembling a group with the right mix of finance, legal, policy, and communications experience is critical to the success of any PPP project. Public sector agencies looking to procure a limited number of PPP projects or engaging in their first, often use outside advisors for most of these services. This can be a successful strategy as long as public sector decision makers remain in control of the process.