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The World Region

What can governments do to bridge the gap between producers and users of budget information

Paolo de Renzio's picture
Entering data. Photo: World Bank

In the fiscal transparency arena, people often hear two conflicting claims. First, governments complain that few people take advantage of fiscal information that they make publicly available. Many countries - including fragile and low-income countries such as Togo and Haiti – have been opening up their budgets to public scrutiny by making fiscal data available, often through web portals.
 
Increasing the supply of fiscal information, however, often does not translate to the adequate demand and usage required to bring some of the intended benefits of transparency such as increased citizen engagement, and accountability. Providing a comprehensive budget dataset to the public does not guarantee that citizens, Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) and the media will start digging through the numbers.

What type of bureaucrat are you?

Daniel Rogger's picture
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.
 
Bureaucracy Board Game Playing Cards, Avalon Hill


In the world of public sector bureaucracy, what type of bureaucrat are you? 
 
In the board game 'Bureaucracy', you must assume the role of the ‘Lifer’, the ‘Over Achiever’, the ‘Empire Builder’, or the ‘Hustler’.  Each character must use different tactics associated with their personality to rise up the ranks of the bureaucracy to achieve the position of director.  For example, by amassing contacts, the Hustler can attempt a 'power play' on players above her in the hierarchy. 

Public Private Partnerships Transparency and Accountability: Where is my data?

Abdoulaye Fabregas's picture



Most development stakeholders agree on the need to foster more open and transparent Public Private Partnerships (PPPs) to ensure that PPP projects provide quality public goods and services to citizens, and that they effectively contribute to pro-poor development outcomes.

That sounds great in theory, but in practice, it’s not that easy. PPPs involve a trove of data and documents. On top of that, the information made available publicly is generally difficult to interrogate, when it’s not completely lost in lengthy PDF files.

Let’s face it: searching for relevant PPP data and information can oftentimes feel like looking for a needle in a haystack.

Boosting revenues, driving development: Join us to discuss!

Julia Oliver's picture


In a live-streamed event from 1 pm to 2 pm EST on Friday, April 21, the World Bank will host a discussion of a critical development issue: Taxes. The event, Boosting Revenues, Driving Development: Why Taxes are Critical for Growth, will include an illustrious list of panelists, representing many different perspectives:

How can Social Accountability address fragility and help societies rebuild?

Jeff Thindwa's picture
Students in a war torn classroom. Photo: Alex Baluyut / World Bank

By 2030, almost half of the world’s poor will be concentrated in countries affected by fragility, conflict and violence.  It’s easy to associate these problems with only poorer countries, but in fact they affect a broader range of countries, and yes, middle income countries too. And, increasingly, they cross borders. Beyond the threats of terrorism, conflict and violence, poor public services and economic livelihoods have led to mass migration and forced displacement, trapping growing numbers of innocent people in vicious cycles of deprivation.

Consider how the Syrian refugee situation has spilled over beyond the Middle East, and the current famine in South Sudan, which is impacting approximately 100,000 people, with millions of lives at risk in the region if we do not act quickly and decisively.

E-bureaucracy: Can digital technologies spur public administration reform?

Zahid Hasnain's picture

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.

Photo: Arne Hoel / World Bank


“By introducing an automated customer management system we took a noose and put it around our own necks. We are now accountable!”

This reflection from a manager in the Nairobi Public Water and Sewerage utility succinctly captures the impact of MajiVoice, a digital system that logs customer complaints, enables managers to assign the issue to a specific worker, track its resolution, and report back to the customer via an SMS. As a result, complaint resolution rates have doubled, and the time taken to resolve complaints has dropped by 90 percent.

MajiVoice shows that digital technologies can dramatically improve public sector capacity and accountability in otherwise weak governance environments. But is this example replicable? Can the increasingly cheap and ubiquitous digital technologies—there are now 4.7 billion mobile phone users in the world—move the needle on governance and make bureaucrats more accountable?

Toward next-generation performance budgeting

Donald Moynihan's picture
 Photo © Dominic Chavez/World Bank


Performance budgeting (PB) has a deep and enduring appeal. What government would not want to allocate resources in a way that fosters efficiency, effectiveness, transparency, and accountability? However, such aspirations have proven poor predictors of how performance data are actually used.

The potential benefits of identifying and tracking the goals of public spending are undeniable, but have often justified a default adoption of overly complex systems of questionable use. Faith in PB is sustained by a willingness to forget past negative experiences and assume that this time it will be different. Without a significant re-evaluation, PB’s history of disappointment seems likely also to be its future.

How to manage revenues from extractives? There’s a book for that!

Rolando Ossowski's picture
 
Offshore oil and rig platform. Photo: © curraheeshutter / Shutterstock.


Countries with large nonrenewable resources can benefit significantly from them, but reliance on revenues from these sources poses major challenges for policy makers. If you are a senior ministry of finance official in a resource-rich country, what are the challenges that you would face and how can you strengthen the fiscal management of your country’s oil and mineral revenues? Consider some of the issues that you would likely encounter:

For many resource abundant countries, large and unpredictable fluctuations in fiscal revenues are a fact of life. Resource revenues are highly volatile and subject to uncertainty. Fiscal policies will need to be framed to support macroeconomic stability and sustainable growth, while sensibly managing fiscal risks. Also, there is a question of how to decouple public spending (which should be relatively stable) from the short-run volatility of resource prices.

A little handbook that could help bring big results – in revenues and investor certainty

Jan Loeprick's picture
Graphic: Boris Balabanov

In today’s globalized world, a corporation might have a retail store in one country, a factory in another, and financial services provider in yet a third.

Corporate interconnectedness has brought investment and growth, to be sure, but it has also added complexity to the work of tax authorities. Increasingly, developing-economy governments come face-to-face with corporations that employ sophisticated strategies with the aim of paying fewer taxes. With our recently published handbook, "Transfer Pricing and Developing Economies: A Handbook for Policy Makers and Practitioners,” we hope to support efforts to protect countries’ corporate tax bases.

Understanding bureaucracy

Zahid Hasnain's picture

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.

Photo: © Gennadiy Ratushenko / World Bank

State capacity is clearly fundamental to development, and the motivation and productivity of the personnel working in the state is clearly fundamental to state capacity.

Government bureaucracies typically employ 15 to 30 percent of all workers, and 50 to 60 percent of formal sector or salaried workers in developing countries. This fact alone warrants a detailed understanding of the functioning of public sector labor markets and their influence on the broader labor market, particularly as the characteristics of public sector workers—their gender, age, and skills profiles, for instance—can be quite different from their private sector counterparts.

But more importantly, the motivation of government workers and thereby the productivity of government bureaucracies impacts almost everything else in an economy, from business regulations, to infrastructure provision, to the delivery of services.

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