Public Sector and Governance
A significant share of the population in the Kyrgyz Republic – 37 percent – lived below the poverty line in 2011, according to the latest available data. And despite a relatively modest population of about 5.5 million, poverty rates across oblasts (provinces) span a striking range -- from 18 percent to 50 percent.
Why? Well, that is a surprisingly difficult question to answer.
"No single national score can accurately reflect contrasts in the types of corruption found in a country." Michael Johnston, 2001
Corruption comes in various forms - administrative corruption being one example, state capture (a.k.a. “grand corruption”) being another. Although administrative corruption is not necessarily the most damaging form for economic growth and private sector development in Russia, and while its occurrence appears to be declining in Russia, perceptions of “state capture” are worsening.
Co-authored with Luc Christiaensen and Aly Sanoh
For a decade and a half now, Africa has been growing robustly, and the region’s economic prospects remain good. In per capita terms, GDP has expanded at 2.4 percent per year, good for an average increase in GDP per capita of 50 percent since 1996.
But the averages also hide a substantial degree of variation. For example, GDP per capita in resource-rich countries grew 2.2 times faster during 1996-2011 than in resource-poor countries (Figure 1). Though not the only factor explaining improved performance—fast growth has also been recorded in a number of resource-poor countries such as Rwanda, Ethiopia and Mozambique (before its resource discoveries)—buoyant commodity prices and the expansion of mineral resource exploitation have undoubtedly played an important role in spurring growth in several of Africa’s countries. Even more, with only an expected 4 or 5 countries on the African continent without mineral exploitation by 2020, they will continue to do so in the future. Yet, despite the better growth performance, poverty declined substantially less in resource-rich countries.
If user fees for health have been so vilified (including in comments on this blog), why are we bringing the subject up again? Because new evidence calls into question the prevailing view, namely that removing user fees leads to: (i) increased use of health services and hence to (ii) improved health outcomes. Confirming (i), the recent literature shows that (ii) does not always follow.
Raising the price of a good or service has two effects: it reduces demand and increases supply. In the case of user fees for health, it was thought that paying for a service also makes people use it more appropriately (you don’t go to the doctor for minor ailments) and value it more than if they obtained it for free.
Speaking about the often unruly behavior of his talented young players, Arsene Wenger, the famous Arsenal coach, said: "Some are wrong because they are not strong enough to fight temptation and some are wrong because they don't know."
Kerala is a beautiful state in South India, home to about 34 million people, many of whom share my pride as a Keralite. Of all the states in India, Kerala scores the highest on the human development index, has one of the highest literacy rates in India (around 95%), a low Infant Mortality Rate, gender ratio in favor of the female population, stunning landscapes (highlands, mid-lands, low-lands), and a booming tourism industry. It is God’s own country, as the promoters of tourism industry has named it.
Open defecation – going outside without using a toilet or latrine – is one of the most important threats to child health and human capital, period; ending it must be a policy priority.
BEYOND PAY AS MOTIVATOR
Pay reform has been a mainstay of our public sector practice over many years. We have encouraged governments to ‘decompress’ pay, paying more to senior staff whose relative contribution to the public service, we have argued, is not reflected in their pay packets. We have sponsored job evaluation exercises, so that pay is aligned more closely with duties. We have tried to link pay to some measure of performance.
That was the first question up for debate at the Citizen Voices Conference on March 18. And the communal answer was a clear and resounding "yes."
The next question up posed more of a challenge – How do we build our public and private institutions so citizens can access information and influence decisions impacting their own lives? The answer to this was pulled apart for eight hours by technology innovators, development specialists, government officials, academics, civil society representatives, and members of the private sector at this interactive and multilingual conference.
Remember the old saying "the customer is always right"? The motto used by a number of prominent retailers (like Marshall Field) was all about placing value on customer satisfaction. In essence it was about listening to the customer – the final point person at the end of the retail line.
Today we are seeing business build far more sophisticated means of using modern technology to get feedback from their customers. It begs the question – if business can do that, why can't we try and do the same in the business of development - with the benefit of modern technology?
I've seen the evidence that we can do it. Last October at the World Bank, we applauded the work of teams in Bangladesh, Brazil, Cambodia and India, who've been using the mix of modern technology and development to boost results.
Read this post in: Español
Calls for increased citizen empowerment are heard from across the spectrum, ranging from governments and donors to CSOs and multilateral efforts such as the Open Government Partnership.
The World Bank Group, in partnership with CIVICUS, the Government of Finland and InterAction will host a conference on citizen engagement on March 18, 2013 to highlight the value of engaging with citizens for effective development.
The Citizen Voices conference will focus on citizen engagement and feedback systems that strengthen the quality of policy making and service delivery, where the impact on the poor is most direct. The conference aims to explore how citizen engagement is essential for effective development, move from knowledge to action, and establish concrete partnerships for scaling up at global and national levels.
But while the claims for citizen engagement abound, less discussion is dedicated to how to design and implement participatory processes that deliver their expected benefits, such as increased accountability and better delivery of policies and services. As part of this problem, not enough attention is paid to the various outcomes that participatory processes may engender and what they mean for policy and development.
Spare a thought for the economist.
While in the past, people might have resorted to reading tea leaves to figure out what their future has in store for them, these days, at least on economic matters, people turn to the next available economist. But while economists are great at analyzing the past, predicting the future is still a complicated task.
In order to come up with projections, economists look at data. Now, it turns out that economists are often making long-term assessments based on the latest news. Take a look at these growth projections for ten years ahead for Russia, based on polls of economists conducted by Consensus Economics, along with actual growth in the year of the projections (Figure 1). Clearly, while long-term projections are less volatile, the two are correlated – the better the present the better the future, and vice versa. In particular, long-term projections have noticeably nudged down since the crisis.
Figure 1: Actual Growth and 10-Years Ahead Growth
Projections for Russia (percent), 2004 to 2012
Browsing through a large departmental store in Yerevan, I selected a tie, pair of trousers and a shirt to make up for having arrived in the city before my suitcases did. The store manager pointed me to three different cash counters for the three items I had purchased. “But isn’t this all one store,” I asked in my inadequate Russian, that never fails to amuse native speakers. “Perhaps,” she smiled. “But never mind; these are different otdels (units).”
While governments around the world try to use simplified regimes to decrease the compliance burden of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), it also opens the door wide open for larger businesses to abuse these regimes either by hiding as a small business, or splitting a larger business into smaller units. This is particularly true when there are few checks on firms entering the simplified regime. Think aforementioned department store!