Public procurement of services, works and supplies is estimated to account for 15-20% of GDP in developing countries, and up to 50% or more of total government expenditure. Efficient and effective procurement is vital to core government functions, including public service delivery and provision of infrastructure. Weaknesses in procurement systems can lead to large-scale waste of public funds, reduced quality of services, corruption, and loss of trust in government.
The development community has experienced various “revolutions” over the years – from microfinance to women’s rights, from the green revolution to sustainable development. Each of these awakenings has improved our understanding of the challenges we face; each has transformed the development landscape, mostly for the better.
We now see the beginnings of another, long-overdue, revolution: this one focused on the fundamental role of land in sustainable development. Land has often been at the root of revolutions, but the coming land revolution is not about overthrowing old orders. It is based on the basic fact that much of the world has never gotten around to legally documenting land rights. According to the World Bank, only 10% of land in rural Africa and 30% of land globally is documented. This gap is the cause of widespread chaos and dysfunction around the world.
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Land and property lie at the center of many of today’s pressing development challenges. Consider that at most 10% of land in rural Africa is reliably registered. At this week‘s annual Land and Poverty Conference here at the World Bank, we will hear how this vast gap in documentation of land gap blunts access to opportunities and key services for millions of the world’s poorest people, contributes to gender inequality, and undermines environmental sustainability.
As a political scientist specializing in the comparative politics of development, including particular attention to issues of governance and democracy, I have followed this year’s World Development Report with special interest. I have not been alone. WDRs usually attract attention, but this year’s report seems to have attracted more than most. Several constituencies have pushed for some time for a WDR on the topics addressed in this report, and there thus was a lot riding on it in terms of hopes and expectations for a strong statement on governance.
We’ve all had those hallway conversations or coffee meetings or been privy to overhearing those chats… the ones where we have quick exchanges on why so many ‘best practice’ polices – such as those designed to reduce teacher absenteeism-- continually fail on implementation. Or why policies such as energy subsidies are so difficult to get rid of when they are universally recognized as regressive and encouraging inefficient energy use.
That’s where today’s launch of the 2017 World Development Report (WDR) on Governance and the Law led comes into play. The new report, co-directed by Luis-Felipe Lopez-Calva and Yongmei Zhou, starts by acknowledging that all countries share a similar set of development goals: to minimize the threat of violence, to promote growth, and to improve equity. But too often, carefully designed, sensible policies to achieve these objectives are not adopted or implemented—and when they are, they too often fall short of achieving their goals. The report argues that the development community needs to move beyond asking “what is the right policy?” and instead ask “what makes policies effective in achieving desired outcomes?” As this WDR suggests, the answer has to do with governance—that is, the process through which state and non-state actors interact to adopt and implement those policies.
We chose to highlight this book for the World Development Report (WDR) 2017 Seminar Series as its focus on institutional functions rather than forms and on adaptation resonates strongly with the upcoming WDR 2017.
The first takeaway of the book, that a poor country can harness the institutions they have and get development going is a liberating message. Nations don’t have to be stuck in the “poor economies and weak institutions” trap. This provocative message challenges our prevailing practice of assessing a country’s institutions by their distance from the global best practice and ranking them on international league tables. Yuen Yuen’s work, in contrast, highlights the possibility of using existing institutions to generate inclusive growth and further impetus for institutional evolution.
When the Plantagenet kings ruled England (1154-1485), their primary means of securing wealth, prestige, and power was through territorial conquest. Fighting endless wars in France and dispatching armies as far as Jerusalem, the crown often had to finance foreign adventures through taxation -- sometimes crushing taxation – of subjects. The illegitimacy of such taxation only intensified the recurrent threat of domestic revolt. And through their demands for more accountable and inclusive governance, the English nobility succeeded, albeit with much blood shed over a span of centuries, to establish institutions and public policies conducive to economic development.
The IMF’s Regional Economic Outlook (REO – April 2016) notes that the region’s dependence on primary commodities has increased since the 1980s with nearly half of the countries in the region subject to commodity price fluctuations. These economies, which contribute 70 percent of the GDP of Sub-Saharan Africa are facing a sharp slowdown in real growth, with many also having to undertake large fiscal retrenchments and/or seek balance of payments support from the IMF.
We review the economic performance of Sub-Saharan Africa’s (henceforth Africa) non-renewable resource producers since the early 2000s, the start of the commodity price boom contrasting this with the economic performance of Africa’s non-commodity exporters over the same period. The negative economic impact of the current slump in commodity prices is indisputable, but it is worth asking whether Africa’s non-renewable resource producers realized any tangible benefits from the commodity price boom. Our conclusion is that they did not, at least in terms of real per capita growth. And here’s why.
Fear of openly confronting politics can come in the way of achieving economic development goals. To help address this problem, the Development Research Group of the World Bank prepared a report synthesizing the vanguard of economics research on the functioning of political markets to understand the implications. It yields insights for strengthening existing transparency and citizen engagement policies with potentially powerful consequences for economic development everywhere, in poor and rich countries alike.
“What good is the law if laws are ignored or never enforced?” a young civil society activist asked us as part of a group discussion recently. We began to explain that the law should provide a framework through which power can be constrained and policies implemented- but the conversation had already moved on to a loud and frustrated debate about the myriad ways that lawmakers abuse their positions, steal public money and undermine governance through the law itself.