Syndicate content

Latin America & Caribbean

To promote peace and development, let’s talk about government spending on security and criminal justice

Ede Ijjasz-Vasquez's picture
Governments spend a lot of money to contain violence. In 2015, some $1.7 trillion was spent on defense by governments worldwide . While the primary responsibility for the provision of security and justice services lies with governments, those functions may carry a heavy fiscal burden as they often make up significant portions of national budgets. Yet little work has been undertaken on the composition of security sector budgets, or on the processes by which they are planned and managed.

In an effort to address this issue, the World Bank Group and the United Nations embarked on a three-year partnership that led to the publication of a new report titled Securing Development: Public Finance and the Security Sector. It is a sourcebook providing guidance to governments and development practitioners on how to use a tool called “Public Expenditure Review (PER)” adapted to examine the financing of security and criminal justice institutions.


 

Making procurement smarter: Lessons from the Amazon

Laura De Castro Zoratto's picture
 In the Amazon region of Brazil, near Manaus. Brazil. Photo: © Julio Pantoja / World Bank

When the word “Amazonas” is mentioned, what do you think of? Mythical rainforests and winding rivers?  The “lungs of the world”? A center of procurement excellence in the Brazilian federation?

It’s time to boost public financial management in the Caribbean

Samia Msadek's picture
School children in Kingston, Jamaica. Strong public financial management affects all facets of government spending, including education. Photo credit: UN Photo/Milton Grant 

Finance ministers, auditors-general, and leaders of professional accounting organizations are meeting Tuesday in Nassau to discuss a topic that is often hidden from view, but is critical to quality of life in the Caribbean: Capacity and standards in public financial management.

How governments manage taxes, borrowing and spending is essential to economic growth, to poverty-reduction, and to ensuring that the region’s poorest can improve their lives. It is a core function of accountability in government. Improvements in this area could increase the health of small and medium-sized enterprises, create jobs, and bring in additional government revenues to spend on essential public services. Residents of Caribbean nations: this strategic dialogue will be about how the government manages your money.

Enhancing government accountability can improve service delivery in Buenos Aires

Daniel Nogueira-Budny's picture

Also available in: Español

Young students in rural areas of Argentina. Photo: Nahuel Berger / World Bank


Public schools in the Province of Buenos Aires generally provide school books and other learning materials to students free of charge. This is important, as the poorest 40 percent of Argentina’s population relies disproportionately upon public services such as education. But, what happens when schools cannot purchase books for students?
 
Fixed expenditures, including personnel costs, generally leave limited space for other quality-enhancing education expenditures, such as school books and training materials. Faced with an unexpected pressure on such fixed expenditures in 2013, some schools were suddenly forced to cut down significantly on teacher training materials and other educational resources generally provided free of charge. As a result, a number of parents were suddenly forced to decide between purchasing learning materials for their children’s education, or paying bills.

Uruguay’s award-winning innovations for social protection

Till Johannes Hartmann's picture
Photo credit: Jimmy Baikovicius

Uruguay stands out in Latin America and the Caribbean for the significant and early progress it achieved in terms of social protection.

Now gaining global attention, Uruguay is pioneering an award-winning information system to reduce poverty and vulnerability. The system addresses challenges faced by many governments in targeting and coordinating social assistance and, with reduced costs from license-free software, it could soon be replicated in other countries.

Uruguay spends more on social programs than any government in the region (about 25% of its GDP, and over 80% of total public spending). While these resources have enabled great advances, the wide array of institutions responsible for deploying them creates coordination challenges.

Building alliances, gaining public trust: Chile’s financial management reforms

Dmitri Gourfinkel's picture

Also available in: Español

Santiago de Chile. Photo: alobos Life via Flickr (under CC license) 


Note from the editors: The following is an interview with Patricia Arriagada, former acting Comptroller General of Chile, and Patricio Barra Aeloiza, Head of Accounting Analysis Division of the Comptroller General Office, who have been instrumental in recent reforms of public financial management systems in Chile.

Starting in 2010, Chile embarked on a journey to improve public sector accounting by converging to an international standard of financial reporting by 2016. The country expects to produce its first fully compliant financial statements in 2019. One main objective of this reform is to ensure that financial information generated by the government accounting system is comprehensive, reliable, and useful for decision-making. Another is to increase the levels of fiscal and financial transparency and accountability in the public sector.
 

Patricia Arriagada,
former acting Comptroller General
of Chile

These reforms were driven by the Comptroller General office, is what is known as a “Supreme Audit Institution,” and is responsible for monitoring revenues and expenditures in all parts of the government – in particular, ensuring the quality and credibility of financial management and financial reporting.

Get a bird’s eye view: drones and satellites for improved sectoral governance

Michael Jarvis's picture
Building drones for rainforest monitoring in Puerto Luz, Amarakaeri Communal territory, Peru. Photo: Augusto Escribens, Hivos

Walk into your local Apple Store, and you can leave with a Parrot. A Parrot drone that is. The range of drones on the market is proliferating, so you can pick up a number of species: prefer fixed-wing or copter?
 
Media coverage conjures up daily images of drone use in warfare or spying: more predator than parrot. But could drones have a growing positive role for development if applied creatively and responsibly?
 
The real value of drone images for development will likely come in how they are applied in specific sectoral and institutional contexts. We highlight examples of how drones, operated by communities directly or by government authorities, are used to promote accountability and performance in a variety of applications. Can drones become a standard tool for good governance?
 
Companion blogs will feature drone use for transparency and accountability in local roads investment and natural disaster relief in the Philippines. This blog focuses on the use of drones for monitoring in the extractives sector as featured in the Air and Space Series organized by the Governance and Energy-Extractives Global Practices.

A wealth of opportunities: Public real estate management as a tool for good governance

Eguiar Lizundia's picture

Also available in Spanish

Public works in Sixth Avenue, zona 1, besides the National Palace, Guatemala City, Guatemala. Photo: Maria Fleischmann / World Bank


How much are the government buildings, lands and other publicly-owned real estate of your country worth?  According to recent publications, a lot. A 2013 IMF study estimated that non-financial assets are worth an average of 67 percent of the GDP of a selection of 32 countries.

More recently, a book by Dag Detter and Stefan Fölster underscored the incredible potential of improving public wealth management. According to their calculations, a one percent increase in returns to public assets worldwide (including real estate) would generate gains equal to roughly one percent of global GDP!  In the United States, a one percent increase in yields from federal assets would be equivalent to the revenue raised from a four percent tax increase. But why are governments sitting on so much unused wealth?  And what can they do to make better use of what they have?

Seeking to reap the fruits of smarter public real estate management, representatives from twenty countries from around the world met in Mexico last September. Participants discussed how to turn the management of public real estate assets into a tool for good governance, including strategies to optimize the use of government property and generate savings in maintenance. The conference was organized by The Workplace Network (TWN), an international public real estate management network, with participation of the World Bank and the Inter-American Development Bank.

Government could cheaply encourage citizens to save water by doing this

Laura De Castro Zoratto's picture
 Photo: Curt Carnemark / World Bank


Crises in access to water are making headlines around the world. Among difficult policy pathways to respond, convincing people to change their behavior and reduce their consumption can be one of the hardest.

This post gives us a promising picture from Belén, a small town in Costa Rica.  Of Belén’s 21,633 inhabitants, 99.3% have access to water service, but shortages are anticipated by 2030. Our recent study demonstrated that the government could cheaply encourage citizens to save water by enabling them to compare their consumption with that of their peers. 

This is a timely lesson, as the United Nations estimates that more than two-thirds of the world’s population will live in water-stressed regions by 2025.  Demographic and economic pressures make water management an increasingly urgent policy priority even in water rich areas like Latin America, home to nearly 31% of the world's freshwater resources. 

While Costa Rica is relatively well-endowed with water resources, current demand virtually matches production capacity  Risks of water deficits and existing shortages are heightened by overdevelopment of areas with limited water supply. To help address these challenges, we partnered with local authorities in the small municipality of Belén to conduct a randomized control trial, capturing an innovative approach that can help conserve water across the country, and in similar contexts around the world.

The project built on insights from the growing field of behavioral economics, which challenges the underlying, intentionally simplified assumption of standard models: that people make rational decisions based on a self-interested cost-benefit analysis. Behavioral economics borrows from other sciences to consider the full scope of social and psychological influences on human decision-making.

How Colombia is improving access to justice services

Jorge Luis Silva Mendez's picture
A female farmer near Santander, Colombia. Photo: © Charlotte Kesl / World Bank


Proposed Sustainable Development Goal 16: “Promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels.”

The UN General Assembly adopted this ambitious objective as one of the 17 new Sustainable Development Goals (“SDGs”) when they convened last week.  This is a landmark recognition of the importance of justice services for poverty eradication and sustainable, inclusive development. But how will it work in practice?

In the midst of ensuing debates around this question, Colombia offers valuable lessons. In a country torn by almost seven decades of civil war and conflict, access to justice is critical for the advancement of peace and development. Yet inefficiencies of the courts, and their concentration in select urban centers, raise the cost of access. Compounded by lack of information, these barriers have kept justice services out of reach for many citizens, particularly for the poor and most vulnerable.

Pages