Taking politics seriously
The idea political incentives play a powerful role in development—creating opportunities for change in some contexts, frustrating efforts in others—is not a new one. For many years now, academics and aid agencies have acknowledged that the uptake and impact of best practice reforms depends, in part, on the incentives of leaders and citizens, on formal and informal institutional arrangements, on historical legacies and structural drivers. And as a result, many aid agencies have made efforts to “take politics seriously.”
Public Sector and Governance
Taking politics seriously
The post-conflict literature amongst practitioners (including the Bank’s WDR 2011 and the OECD’s INCAF) has increasingly focussed on the role of ‘inclusive enough’ political settlements as a precondition for political stability and economic growth. What does this mean? Can an understanding of political settlements help mould the Bank’s responses to moments of crisis in our client countries or inform our “business as usual” operations in countries where the seeds of future violence are apparent or looming? How do we recognize tenuous settlements, where grievances are likely to lead to an outbreak of, or return to, widespread conflict?
The WDR 2004 report certainly puts politics centre stage. Ten years on, the picture remains the same: where there’s any form of accountability relationship, there is some form of politics. A key insight of the WDR 2004 report was the trio of accountability relationships for service delivery and demand for improvement involving citizens, service providers and the government.
Some 1.5 billion people live in fragile states, “a group of countries at the bottom that are falling behind, and often falling apart” (The Bottom Billion, Collier, 2007). These states are marked by repeated cycles of violence, and weak institutional capacity and an inability to deliver basic services to their citizens.
We are curating a new monthly series on Digital Gov in developing countries seeking fresh perspectives and insights into the policy, institutional, and technical dimensions of using technology and public management to make services work for businesses and citizens.
Over a cup of tea, on a January afternoon of freezing rain, Emily, who works on Digital for the US Government, and I met to exchange perspectives on what it takes for governments to get digital right. Although our contexts are vastly different, we agreed that there remain similar pain points in the developed and developing world. In the first edition of the Digital Gov. blog, we consider factors common to good digital service delivery.
The World Bank is in the middle of restructuring itself into fourteen 'global professional practices.' One of them will be governance. At the moment, its orientation and its priorities are still in the melting pot.
This summer, I made a project visit to a government clinic in northern Sierra Leone. It is a clinic pretty much in name only, being constructed as 1-bedroom living quarters for a teacher and subsequently converted into a health facility. The nurse took me on a tour, pointing out the problems: a broken scale to weigh infants, no waiting room for early stages of labor, animals grazing and
I have been somewhat skeptical about the application of impact evaluations to justice reform activities but I’m coming around to their utility for a limited – yet important – set of questions. The basic method behind impact evaluations – establishing a counterfactual in order to attribute net impact – is fairly new to justice so I thought I’d set out some ideas that might be worth considering in developing this nascent field.
Governance issues are prominent on the development agenda - as exemplified by the recent G8 focus on transparency or in discussions of the post 2015 agenda. However, at least among most donors, the governance aspects are dealt with separately from discussions of social or environmental (or even economic) aspects. Is this a useful distinction? Or are we missing a trick from the financial and private sectors in not developing integrated environmental, social and governance (ESG) approaches?
The discussions on budget transparency and open data have been gaining momentum over recent years. Not only is it important that governments publish budget data on web sites, but also that they disclose meaningful data and full picture of financial activities to the public. The question is, how much of the disclosed information and documents are reliable? What is the scope of disclosed information? Is there any reliable information about other important aspects of fiscal discipline and transparency?
A number of fiscal transparency instruments and guidelines have been developed by civil society groups and international organizations to evaluate the existence, regularity, and contents of certain key budget documents published in the public domain and whether the information comply with international standards. However, current instruments do not concentrate on the source and reliability of published information, as well as the integrity of underlying systems and databases from which governments extract data.