Last week, I had the honor of receiving one of the World Bank's FY15 Big Data Innovation Challenge awards for a proposal developed with a team of researchers from within and outside of the Bank. To give you a snapshot of the project, let me recount a familiar story which you may not have thought about for a while. On December 17th, 2010, a Tunisian fruit vendor named Mohammed Bouazizi took a can of gasoline and set himself on fire in front of the local governor's office. Bouazizi’s actions resulted from having his fruit cart confiscated by local police and his frustration at not obtaining an audience with the local governor; his death sparked what we now know as the "Arab Spring." With no other means of voicing discontent and lack of trust, citizens can embrace extreme forms of protest against institutions and governments that quickly escalate.
The World Region
At the recent “New Directions in Governance” meeting it was suggested that future meetings should bring governance advisors together with sector-specific colleagues. The different language we use in our respective disciplines is a serious barrier to taking forward an agenda of real importance and hence this message seemed particularly pertinent. I came to the meeting with a number of thoughts on how public finance management (PFM) rules often hinder health system performance, some of which I outline below.
Over the past three decades a major focus in low- and middle-income countries has been to seek new revenue sources for health services to overcome strict controls over the use of budget funds which were seen as inefficient but difficult to address. Community-based health insurance schemes have been widely introduced, as were patient user charges and payroll tax-funded social health insurance schemes. These various developments reflected a belief that governments were unlikely to increase funding to health, or to introduce the flexibility in budget funds required to incentivize improvements in service delivery.
In his recent presentation (video) at the World Bank, Minister Idris Jala - Chief Executive Officer of the Malaysian Prime Minister’s Performance Management and Delivery Unit (PEMANDU) - shared his “six secrets of transformational leadership,” reflecting on five years of leading Malaysia on a journey to deliver on its economic and social promises.
Malaysia’s PEMANDU was established in September 2009 with the objective to oversee the implementation, assess the progress and facilitate the delivery of the Government Transformation Programme (GTP) and the Economic Transformation Programme (ETP), both of which are central to its plan of transforming Malaysia into a high-income nation by 2020.
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On a hot dry day in June, a woman in her early 40s is getting ready for journey to a nearby town. She is excited even though she will walk more than three hours on foot—she is going to meet with a government loan officer to try to get the money she needs to buy fertilizer and other supplies for her farm. She needs to grow and sell enough crops to pay for her son to continue school for the next year.
She gets a mug of water from a bucket to put out the open wood fire that she uses to cook meals for her family. Then she pulls her slippers from the thatched roof and leaves her hut.
As she walks, she feels hopeful. She believes this loan will change her family’s future. For the past 6 months, she has made numerous trips to this office because the government official had told her that before her application could be considered, the paperwork must be accurate and complete.
I joined Facebook in 2007. For years, I would boast that I got all my news from Facebook and the Daily Show, an American satirical television program, which delivers fake news reports. I should be embarrassed to admit this, but perhaps it was inevitable. I certainly didn't feel connected to news sources, or government press services, so Facebook and fake news somehow felt more authentic and trustworthy than the traditional means of accessing information.
Strong and effective financial reporting rarely grabs headlines, but the vulnerabilities created by weak or ineffective systems of financial reporting certainly do – a number of well-publicised accounting scandals come quickly to mind.
At the Governance Global Practice , with appropriate accountability frameworks that are effectively enforced.
Key to driving change in this area is the global accountancy profession and I am looking forward to meeting with leaders from many developing countries at the upcoming Accountancy Development for Results global event in Rome on November 10. This will take place on the occasion of the World Congress of Accountants.
The last 10 years have seen turbulent economic times. The global economic crises was rooted, in part, in standards for guiding private sector behavior and setting economic policy that failed to meet emerging challenges and risks. One of the lower profile, but important, consequences has been to reexamine the fiscal standards that have guided fiscal policy and management practices.
On October 6, 2014 the International Monetary Fund, at a joint event with the World Bank, launched its new Fiscal Transparency Code (FTC) and Evaluation following two years of intensive analysis and consultation. I congratulate the IMF on creating a set of standards that capture the quality of fiscal reports and data, are graduated to reflect different levels of country capacity, and more comprehensively covers fiscal risks.
From August 2002, just months after Timor-Leste gained independence, to April 2006, I was the World Bank’s Country Manager for Timor-Leste and thus eyewitness to an unfolding state-building process. The experience affected me profoundly as a development professional. In the short time I lived in Timor-Leste, and notwithstanding daunting circumstances, I saw some agencies, in particular the Ministry of Health and the Central Bank, grow into institutions that delivered results and broadly gained the trust of the population. When community violence erupted in 2006, the Ministry of Health responded effectively, and the Ministry of Social Solidarity repurposed itself around the drawn out displacement process that followed.
My observation of this process is what inspired Institutions Taking Root, a new report that illustrates how institutions can become effective even in the most fragile of circumstances. The report looks at some public institutions that do manage to deliver results, earn legitimacy among citizens, and forge resilience. While the specific experiences of these agencies vary from country to country, learning more about the practices and policies that contribute to their success can reveal important clues about how institutions grow stronger and take root in fragile contexts.
One trillion dollars. That’s a big number. It’s hard to ignore.
One trillion dollars, according to estimates by Global Financial Integrity, is the amount lost every year by developing countries through illicit financial outflows connected to trade mispricing, bribery, theft, kick-backs, tax evasion, organized crime, and trafficking of drugs, weapons, and humans. This means that for every one US dollar developing countries receive in external assistance, ten US dollars are lost to illicit financial flows (IFFS). These estimates should be treated with caution—it is difficult to measure what is designed to remain hidden. But even if we accept that these estimates are uncertain, no one doubts that IFFs are huge.
IFFs drain hard currency reserves, heighten inflation, reduce tax collection, discourage investment, and weaken free trade. These practices stifle poverty alleviation efforts, undermine the integrity of government, and damage the foundations of society.
Recently, the lack of economic and social opportunities in many urban areas have triggered that the urban poor express a greater demand for a voice in local decision-making that affect their lives. An increasing number of city governments are realizing that open and responsive public institutions are imperative to achieving better and more sustained development results.
Important questions however remain: What are some examples of where the emerging Open Government approach has made a difference in the lives of the urban poor?