After a year of intensive consultation among development partners and with technical experts within the World Bank, I am pleased to announce that the World Bank Approach to Public Sector Management (2011-2020) has been agreed by the Public Sector Governance Board (the internal body that maintains professional standards on PSM and governance work within the Bank).
The Approach focuses on Public Sector Management (PSM) as a vehicle to overcome development challenges from budgeting to service delivery, reflecting both research findings and practitioner experiences. It is far-reaching–in its focus on the range of development outcomes that hinge on Public Sector Management–and pragmatic–in its emphasis on fitting reforms to country contexts. It also orients the Bank towards understanding PSM as a problem-solving endeavor, not a goal in its own right. The Approach charts a course for PSM work that combines the experience of public management experts with sound empirics and detailed diagnostics of the immediate context–including political economy realities–to find the most promising and sustainable method for easing binding constraints to improved public sector performance. It sets a learning agenda to systematically import lessons from research, while simultaneously laying a stronger empirical foundation for the discipline in the future. The Approach offers some clear directions for the Bank's operational work, its approach to research, and its staffing and structures. Importantly, it commits the Bank to reviewing progress annually.
Our agreement on this Approach does not mean an end to the debate. As we note, PSM is a challenging reform area in which to offer assistance. Sustainable institutional change often requires that thousands of public agents alter their behavior, and political incentives may be aligned against improving public sector performance. 'What works' in PSM reform is highly context-dependent and explicit evidence remains limited. We will continue to seek guidance and to encourage an open debate as we gain more experience in implementing this Approach.