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Submitted by Former Sector Manager Turned Academic on
The PSM Approach paper signals a welcome shift in the direction of the Bank's public sector work. It's good to see the Bank start to explicitly upgrade PSM services to adjust to changes in the country "market" and to try to align upstream improvements and downstream results. Several points could be more forcefully emphasized in the paper. One is the need for data collection and assembly on public pay and employment. This is a very important knowledge and monitoring gap that the Bank needs to fill. The second is the need to actually understand the causal link between "upstream" efforts and "downstream" effects in the sectors. Without this, there is a risk that the system-wide efforts will be abandoned in favor of exclusively sectoral interventions. This would be an unfortunate overcorrection. This is an important part of the applied research agenda -- one that cannot be fully addressed by the "randomista" approach. As a major part of the applied research agenda, it would also be good to see more emphasis given to much more systematic analysis of the successes, where country institutions have moved from A to M, as in Brazil (all over LAC and Asia, of course.) How has the steady acceleration and refinement of demand for improved services over a period of years interacted with more capable government to produce better results. It would be a major leap to move beyond faddish "boxes" in reports that advertise success before it's actually been documented and understood properly. The global practice approach as applied to public management could be further fleshed out, particularly with regard to a framework for a more explicit mentoring and training strategy that could raise the bar for all PSM staff across the institution. This global practice would benefit from a systematic process to glean generalizable lessons from this global practice, once it's launched. Some parts of the paper could be strengthened. The paper calls for cohesion and coherence while simultaneously implying that there's still a relative dearth of consensual wisdom. This discussion doesn't square neatly with the rejection of "best practice." The paper over-sells the panacea of diagnostics. While diagnosing a problem before supplying the solution is of course sensible, diagnostic frameworks seem sometimes to be offered up when we don't have anything else to propose. They should be seen as a means to an end. The strategy seems insular; It would be more modern to see the bank hooked up globally not just to other donors but to global practice (countries and consultancies) and research (think tanks, academia.) Finally, the paper may be over-pushing indicators as a panacea. We know they don't work for everything and they sometimes feel like the intervention of last resort: when you don't know what to do, measure it. Having said this, the effort to integrate PSM with the broader Bank's move to an outcome-, results-based approach is clearly very welcome. In all, though, nicely done; a fresh and sensible approach.