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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?

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.

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.

Sharing is scaring: Can shared corporate services save costs in the public sector?

Arturo Herrera Gutierrez's picture
Photo: Simone D. McCourtie / World Bank

In late June, we sent two of our bravest colleagues, Marta and Marcelo, on a daring mission into the Tundra, close to the Arctic Circle. Even though the temperature was in the mid-80s (mid-20s Celsius), you could feel the glacial breezes. Since our unit focuses on Latin America and the Caribbean, you might wonder what brought them so far north.

The team had arrived in Toronto, Ontario with a mission: to learn more about shared corporate services (SCS) and their potential application to save costs and improve government efficiency in other parts of the world.   

In the late 90s, reeling from a financial crisis, the provincial government of Ontario was faced with a daunting task: to cut a third of its administrative budget in one year. In other words, they had to do more with less. Over the next decade the government managed to save C$43 million in direct costs and C$227 million through efficiency gains. Their secret was an innovative solution borrowed from the private sector.

4 key challenges for reforming state-owned enterprises: Lessons from Latin America

Fanny Weiner's picture
Man fixing railroad tracks. Mexico. Photo - Curt Carnemark / World Bank

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. Across Latin America, SOEs still represent a significant portion of GDPs, national expenditures, employment, and government revenues. Many SOEs provide essential public goods and services like water, electricity, and transportation.