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Submitted by Anthony Higgins on
Picking up Richard Allen's and Willy Mccourt's discussion of the importance of the political dimension, my experience in implementing or evaluating PFM or PSR reform projects in Africa, Asia and the Pacific, is that political initiative and sustained political involvement in the reform program is strongly associated with any degree of success. Unfortunately donors tend to measure political involvement with attendance at inception workshops and signatures on loan agreements or MOUs. Civil service officials have finely tuned antennae when it comes to picking up on any real level of interest or commitment from their own ministers and from Cabinet. PFM and PSR projects require a sustained level of commitment over 5 years or more from Cabinet, the PM and the Finance Minister (and of course this implies some level of political stability and continuity is also helpful). Unless they are there when it counts to remove obstacles, deal with turf wars and inertia, deal with recalcitrant officials and consultants, their next point of involvement will be at a point of crisis when the IFMIS is about to fail, or the PSR project is be closed down by the donor because of lack of progress. How many times have I sat on steering committee meetings where the chair (Minister of Finance or the Finance Secretary) has apologised and been replaced by an innocent but politically powerless official? If the officials sense genuine political interest and consequences, they will engage more with the reform. PFM and PSR reforms by definition require the involvement and cooperation across several ministries. Where the lead ministry is faced with inertia or a lack of cooperation, it will often require Cabinet or its Ministers to demonstrate the importance of the reform, and to guarantee consequences. Could the Bank and its partners explore further the possibility using performance assessment frameworks for budget support and similar evaluation instruments to more genuinely link sustained political engagement to program support?