Among the findings in a recent report of the Independent Evaluation Group entitled ‘World Bank Group Engagement in Resource-Rich Developing Countries: The Cases of the Plurinationational State of Bolivia, Kazakhstan, Mongolia and Zambia’ was that: “The World Bank’s programs often lacked attention to the demand side of reforms, including building partnerships and maintaining communications with stakeholders beyond the executive branch of government.”
This finding caught my eye because, given my own experience with a number of particularly assertive governments, I know that the more important issue, and where the real accountability lies, is for governments themselves to pay attention to the demand side, in other words that they listen to their own citizens.
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Efficiency. Competitiveness. Innovation. Integrity.
Do these words come to mind when you think of State-Owned Enterprises (SOEs)?
From June 2-3, 2015 in Santiago, Chile, over 100 representatives of governments, SOEs, and academia from 13 countries came together to discuss how to advance these ideals, at the fourth Annual Meeting of the Latin American Network on Corporate Governance of State-Owned Enterprises, co-organized by the World Bank, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), and the Latin American Development Bank (CAF).
SOEs are commercial enterprises owned by governments, in full or in part. , national expenditures, employment, and government revenues.
These are exciting times for those of us who believe in the potential of greater budget accountability to help tackle some of the world’s most pressing problems. The upcoming release of the Open Budget Survey promises to shed some light on three pillars of accountable budgets: transparency, participation, and oversight.
The importance of budget transparency is now well established. Recent years, however, have seen growing recognition that, along with access to information, it is critical that the public is provided with formal opportunities to engage in how budgets are managed.
Photo: Daniel Kozak, World Bank
The first time I came to Bucharest in 2013 the Bank office offered to arrange a pick up from the airport. Being a seasoned traveler, I declined the offer. I reasoned that I had lived and worked in so many countries I could manage the transfer to the hotel without assistance. I was wrong.
I picked up my luggage to find a local cab outside the airport. A taxi driver offered me a ride. I didn’t negotiate the price upfront seeing that he had a meter in the car.
Twenty minutes later we reached the hotel. The meter read Lei 200 - at the that time about $60. That was over twice the going rate but there was little else I could do. I felt cheated as so many tourists do.
I learned from the experience, accepted offers of help from colleagues and paid more attention to rates going forward.
An electronic kiosk had been installed at the airport. Arriving visitors could now press a button to get an estimated wait time to hail a taxi. I took my ticket. It was a smooth ride.
What made the difference?
The new taxi ordering system is now available on mobile phones mirroring, in many ways, the service provided by Uber. Passengers can rate drivers and increase accountability.
Bucharest has gone from being a difficult place to find an honest cab driver to one of the most convenient.
The change has been driven by incentives and improved technology.
The World Bank Group sees the pillars of a more open and citizen centric government--transparency, citizen participation, and collaboration--as strategic priorities in its work on governance because they suggest concrete ways to promote shared prosperity. Having made significant strides to increasing openness in the Bank's own work, we seek to build on this progress to support client governments in their own efforts to make the development process more inclusive.
The World Bank’s “zero tolerance” policy on corruption makes clear how thieves and embezzlers will be dealt with, if they are discovered. But what about before corruption actually occurs—how should the Bank go about preventing fraud and corruption in the first place?
The divide between prevention and enforcement shapes the World Bank’s fight against corruption in ways both subtle and profound. Enforcement is easier to conceptualize; it is tangible. Someone commits fraud or corruption, by siphoning Bank funds away from their intended purpose. When the Office of Suspension and Debarment slams a company with a sanction, we can quantify the effect.
Prevention, on the other hand, is a slippery idea. It evades definition. Quantifying how much fraud a policy prevents relies on counterfactuals, making it far more difficult to pin down. This means, for better or for worse, innovations and efforts towards the prevention perspective may lag behind enforcement.
Last month I met with ministers and local officials in Addis Ababa to explore areas where we, at the World Bank, can help build institutional capability in Ethiopia. The trip was an enriching experience, both personally and professionally. It was gratifying to see first-hand the good work and commitment to development exhibited by our staff in the country.
We have had a decade-long engagement with Ethiopia with a successful track-record. and the partnership is strong, with a robust future.
During my visit, I gave a lecture at Addis Ababa University on Public Investment Management before an audience of faculty, students, civil society organizations and donors. I shared with them how much public infrastructure investment has done for the country. and three times the average for Sub Saharan Africa.
This effort has contributed to growth that has averaged 10.9 percent since 2004—a figure higher than that of their neighbors or low-income countries on average. Infrastructure investment has also been helpful in expanding access to services and in gaining competitiveness, being a large landlocked country.
World Bank President Jim Kim recently said “we will not reach our twin goals […] unless we address all forms of discrimination, including bias based on sexual orientation and gender identity.”
Sexual and gender minorities are particularly important for the Bank because they are (likely) overrepresented in the bottom 40% -- the target of the Bank’s goal to promote shared prosperity.
Why only “likely”? Because robust data on LGBTI development outcomes is rare, even in high income countries. With support from the World Bank’s Nordic Trust Fund, we are seeking to fill some of these data gaps, starting with research in the Western Balkans.
What we do know is that, across the board, barriers to education and employment contribute to greater chances of being poor – and this may be worse for LGBTI individuals.
Available data on Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) people shows that youth are more likely to face barriers in getting a good education. It’s also harder to find – and keep – a job, pushing LGBTI people further into poverty.
When trust in governments around the world is at a historic low, and a myriad of challenges continue to overwhelm leaders, it’s imperative for government agencies to revamp their strategic communications approach.
Whether it is during a natural disaster or a policy consultation process, citizens expect honest and useful communications from their government agencies. This expectation isn’t misplaced, as they now live in a world where mobile phones and the Internet are ubiquitous.
Governments often succeed or fail because of the way they communicate their vision, mission and policy objectives with the wider citizenry. in the way they communicate and engage with citizens.
The decreasing price of technology such as
Recently, when the devastating earthquake hit Nepal, Nepalis inside and outside the country wanted actionable information as soon as possible. Many of them were talking about the devastation even before the government’s initial statement. Twitter and Facebook are popular in Nepal and people were using the platforms to talk about damage and rescue.
As a Nepali citizen, I know my government has yet to be digitally savvy. Thankfully, the government launched a Twitter account to share the latest devastation numbers and information about rescue operation. It was a strategic use of the tool in a time of crisis.
When Shakespeare posed this question (or something like that) in 1603 he would not have guessed that the President of the World Bank would commit to the ‘science of delivery’ or that many countries we work with would be asking the same question. But they are.
In the technical note When Might the Introduction of a Delivery Unit Be the Right Intervention (pdf) we outlined some of the issues to consider in answering this question. Since then I’ve had the privilege to work with the World Bank colleagues, and others, mobilizing new Delivery Units and for me the tension between strategy/policy and implementation has come into sharper relief. So this piece is to explore a further question: when a country asks for help with delivery, do they (and we) really want assistance with strengthening their strategy and/or policy capacity?
In the technical note, we argued that the innovation of a Delivery Unit is fundamentally about changing the culture of a government to one that is focused on results and improving the way the government gets better results quicker. We also argued that the skills of working in a Delivery Unit are different than those of policy development.