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South Asia

Getting the basics right: How to manage civil servants in developing countries

Jan-Hinrik Meyer-Sahling's picture
Graphic: World Bank

Editor's note: This blog post is part of a series for the 'Bureaucracy Lab', a World Bank initiative to better understand the world's public officials.

Governments can only be effective if the people in government – that is its civil servants – are motivated and able to implement policy and services well. In many developing countries, this remains a remote aspiration. Corruption, lack of staff motivation and poor performance are both popular stereotypes and real-world facts. For many decades, international aid programmes have invested in civil service reform to change this reality. The track record of these reform programs has unfortunately been poor.

How a silent revolution in rural Bihar is empowering women to be agents of change

Farah Zahir's picture


Women in Bihar, India
Women are agents of change in Bihar, India. Photo: World Bank 

Empowering women in a society is essentially a process of uplifting the economic, social and political status of women and the underprivileged. It involves building a society wherein women can breathe without the fear of oppression, exploitation, apprehension, discrimination, and a general feeling of ill-treatment that symbolized a woman in a traditional male-dominated society like the one in India.

With the implementation of gender quotas since India’s 73rd and 74th Constitutional Amendment Acts, the percentage of women in political activities at the local level has risen from 4-5% to about 35-40%. Reserving one-third of seats for women in the elected bodies of rural local governments in India has unleashed a silent revolution.

For the first time, rural women began to participate in local governance to improve their status and acquire a decisive say in matters crucial to their livelihoods. This decision to ensure the participation of women in local government is perhaps the best innovation in a grassroots democracy, contributing to improving the well-being of rural women.

Control over local government resources and the collective power of women have helped women discover their own self-respect and confidence. In the recent discourse on women empowerment in the 62nd session of the Commission on Status of Women, the government of India has said gender equality and emancipation of rural women is a key driver of inclusive growth.

10 Gov4Dev blog posts from 2017 you don't want to miss!

Ravi Kumar's picture
It’s that time of the year when we look at the blogs we have published over the last 12 months and curate some of the most insightful pieces for you to read.

We also want to thank you for reading, contributing and engaging on what it will take to help governments build capable, efficient, open, inclusive and accountable institutions.

One-stop shops and the human face of public services

Jana Kunicova's picture
Graphic: Nicholas Nam/World Bank

Delivering pension or disability services may sound mundane, but if you have seen the recent award-winning movie, I, Daniel Blake, it is anything but. As the film poignantly demonstrates, treating citizens with respect and approaching them as humans rather than case numbers is not just good practice -- it can mean life or death. In the film, Mr. Blake, an elderly tradesman with a heart condition, attempts to apply for a disability pension. In the process, he navigates a Kafkaesque maze of dozens of office visits, automated phone calls, and dysfunctional online forms. All of this is confusing and often dehumanizing.

Procurement Observatories continue to deliver in India

Shanker Lal's picture
Public meeting in India.
Photo: Simone D. McCourtie / World Bank

As I have blogged earlier, the World Bank is supporting Procurement Observatories in India. Procurement Observatories are civil society organizations, whose goal is to collect, analyze and present public procurement policies and data to the public in a more understandable way. These initiatives, inspired by similar approaches in Nigeria, allow for greater transparency of procurement practices.

While the aim of these observatories is to become self-sustaining and independent from World Bank support, recent progress from three such observatories in India show that these Procurement Observatories are on the right path.

Bank supports launch of certificate course on contractual dispute resolution in India

Shanker Lal's picture
Powerlines in Mumbai. Photo: Simone D. McCourtie / World Bank


India is the fastest-growing major economy in the world with significant Government investments in infrastructure. According to estimates by WTO and OECD, as quoted in a report from the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, India: Probity in Public Procurement, the estimated public procurement in India is between 20 and 30 percent of GDP. 

This translates to Indian government agencies issuing contracts worth an estimated US$ 419 billion to US$ 628 billion each year for various aspects of infrastructure projects. Ideally, in contractual agreements no disputes would arise and both sides would benefit from the outcome. However, unexpected events occur and many contracts end in dispute. Contractual legal disputes devoid project benefits to the public as time and resources are spent in expensive arbitration and litigation. As a result, India’s development goals are impacted.

Successful procurement is not just a set of activities, it is a strategy

Elmas Arisoy's picture
 Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. Photo: Tran Viet Duc / World Bank


Many Bank-financed projects, especially those implementing large and complex contracts continually face high risk of implementation delays, and procurement is the most frequently used scapegoat.

What has gone wrong in those cases?

At the onset, borrowers are requested to prepare a detailed procurement plan for the first 18 months of project implementation, which is carefully reviewed and approved by the Bank before loan negotiations and the projects are then declared "good to go."
But the reality is almost never that rosy.

Using country procurement systems in China and Vietnam to improve efficiency, transparency and competition

Ba Liu Nguyen's picture
Chongqing, China. Photo: Li Wenyong / World Bank

Procurement is an essential aspect of World Bank operations and international development projects worldwide. The World Bank’s policy on procurement encourages the use of country systems in procurement implementation process while ensuring the consistency with the Bank’s regulations . 

Making procurement information publicly available promotes openness and transparency and creates a level playing field for bidders. This, in turn, fosters competition and potentially decreases corruption risks. 

With this in mind, World Bank teams in East Asia and the Pacific successfully collaborated with government procurement agencies to increase and improve the publication of procurement information and to pilot e-procurement portals for Bank-funded operations. 

The following story shares our experiences and successes in both China and Vietnam. 

Empowering farming communities to manage biodiversity in Nepal

M. Ann Tutwiler's picture
 Also available in Spanish
Surya and Saraswati Adhikari on their biodiverse farm, Nepal.
Photo credit: Bioversity International/J. Zucker
The Himalayan mountain village of Begnas sits in a valley rich in agricultural biodiversity. Altitudes range from 600 to 1,400 metres above sea level, with the landscape home to a combination of wetlands, forests, rice terraces and grazing areas. There are two freshwater lakes, Lake Rupa and Lake Begnas, which provide irrigation, important habitats for wildlife and support small-scale fish-farming activities.


I recently visited one of Bioversity International’s project sites in Begnas, where I met farming couple, Surya and Saraswati Adhikari. They proudly showed me around their biodiverse farm, pointing out some of the 150 plant species they grow and explaining that each one has a specific use. They showed me the vegetables, rice, gourds and legumes they grow to eat and sell; the trees that provide fruits, fodder and fuel, and the many herbs for medicinal and cultural purposes.

Innovative procurement practices help dairy sector in India

Shanker Lal's picture
Milk collection center - India. Photo: National Dairy Development Board


India is the world’s largest producer as well as consumer of milk and milk products. India nevertheless faces a shortage of milk and milk products due to increasing demand from the fast growing middle class in the country.

The National Dairy Plan Phase I (NDP-I), a Central Sector Scheme of the Government of India, which is supported by National Dairy Support Project (NDSP), aim to increase milk productivity and market access for milk producers, which are both necessary to meet the growing demand for milk. NDP-I is being implemented with a total investment of about US$350 Million, out of which the Bank has extended a Credit of US$219 Million through the NDSP.

The National Dairy Development Board (NDDB) is the main implementing agency for the NDP-I. At the decentralized level, NDP-I is being implemented by about 150 end‐implementing agencies (EIAs) scattered over the country. 

The Project involves some innovative procurement practices and improvements in upstream milk supply chain, which are described below:

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