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It’s time to boost public financial management in the Caribbean

Samia Msadek's picture
School children in Kingston, Jamaica. Strong public financial management affects all facets of government spending, including education. Photo credit: UN Photo/Milton Grant 

Finance ministers, auditors-general, and leaders of professional accounting organizations are meeting Tuesday in Nassau to discuss a topic that is often hidden from view, but is critical to quality of life in the Caribbean: Capacity and standards in public financial management.

How governments manage taxes, borrowing and spending is essential to economic growth, to poverty-reduction, and to ensuring that the region’s poorest can improve their lives. It is a core function of accountability in government. Improvements in this area could increase the health of small and medium-sized enterprises, create jobs, and bring in additional government revenues to spend on essential public services. Residents of Caribbean nations: this strategic dialogue will be about how the government manages your money.

Expect no lines in front of the digital counters

Gina Martinez's picture
See high resolution here.

While countries around the world reap the benefits of an expanding digital environment, development challenges persist, adversely impacting low-income countries from achieving that same rate of growth.
 
The 2016 World Development Report (PDF) recently highlighted these findings in addition to three factors that contribute to a government’s responsiveness towards these digital changes.
 
According to the report, public services tend to be more amenable to improvements through digital technologies if the proposed system allows for fluid feedback, a replicable development process, and an outcome that can be easily measured and identified.
 
Here are five public services improved through digital technologies in five countries:

It’s all about inclusion, but how?

Alina Rocha Menocal's picture



Inclusion
is the new buzzword in international development. From promoting citizen empowerment to fostering pathways out of fragility, it is all about political processes that are more inclusive and representative‎.

The newly adopted Sustainable Development Goals are perhaps the most ambitious articulation of this consensus, with Goal 16 in particular calling for building more “effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels”.

And there are good reasons for this call-out. Two findings from research that I undertook for a paper I wrote recently on Political Settlements and the Politics of Inclusion are particularly striking in highlighting the centrality of inclusion:

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.

How capacity building and market analysis achieved speedy implementation in China

Jianjun Guo's picture
Photo credit: Jianjun Guo

Is it possible to complete advanced contracting for the construction of Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) lines within two or three months and have the lines in operation within six months?

The simple answer is, yes.

The China Urumqi Urban Transport Project II, a US$537 million project, achieved just this as it looked to improve mobility in selected transport corridors in the city of Urumqi, the capital of the Xinjiang Province in West China.

Farmers on the frontline: Change and transformation in Ethiopia’s watersheds

Alan Nicol's picture
Two women in Sidama Zone, Ethiopia. Photo credit: Alan Nicol

Selilah stares out over a landscape she has inhabited for 70 years. In the valley below, deep gullies scar the slopes where rains have carried away the soil. Living with three of her four sons, she is struggling to make ends meet in this part of Sidama Zone, Ethiopia, where, she says, there used to be a forest more than 40 years ago.

Now most trees have been felled and water is scarce. Selilah spends two hours a day collecting her two jerrycans (50 liters) from a neighboring kebele (neighborhood), but when that source fails she has to buy water from a vendor at ETB 6 (30 US Cents) per a jerrycan, a huge cut into her income.
 
In the last 10 years, she says, the rains have changed – they are lighter than before and more infrequent. As a result, production from her meager plot – just 0.25 ha – is declining. After her husband died more than a decade ago, she now only makes ends meet through the daily wage-labor income of her sons. Like many others, Selilah is on the frontline of climate change in a landscape under increasing pressure.

Reforming the Centre of Government? It’s the basics, silly

Zubair Bhatti's picture
Riding the Lahore Rapid Transit -   photo: Asian Development Bank

Successful leaders —presidents of countries, chief executives of corporations, or middle managers of counties — focus on a few priorities by deploying the right resources, reviewing progress, and unblocking constraints.  
 
Shahbaz Sharif, the chief minister of the Pakistani province of Punjab (population 100 million) and a tireless, hard driving manager, built a 27 km mass transit system in Lahore in less than a year in 2012-13.  This visible show of results, according to many observers, helped his landslide victory in the 2013 election.
 
Did a specialized unit deliver for the chief minister? No. Just a group of well-chosen, motivated civil servants and, of course, the impending election deadline. 
 
What is therefore fundamentally new or useful about the current ferment in the “science of delivery”? The “delivery unit” approach can work wonders, according to Sir Michael Barber, who headed the Delivery Unit in the United Kingdom from 2001 to 20015 and has distilled his advice into 57 rules in a recent book.  

Increasing data literacy to improve policy-making in Sudan

Sandra Moscoso's picture
Participants of data literacy program in Sudan. Photo: Sandra Moscoso

What do you do when facing a tough decision, like buying a home or selecting the right location for your new business? What about decisions that affect entire communities, or countries? How are those decisions made?
 
If you’re like most people, you rely on facts and advice from experts. You might look for data in studies, reports, or seek the advice of people you trust. You may also conduct a bit of critical analysis of the data you collect and the advice you receive. Ideally, policy-makers responsible for making decisions which impact our communities and our lives are collecting reliable data and conducting critical analysis, as well.

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.

Open decision-making: better governance through deliberative transparency

Jim Brumby's picture
YouTube: not just a source of endless entertainment.


YouTube is a source of endless entertainment. It also has more meaningful content, such as video recordings of meetings between then deputy governor of Jakarta Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, city council, and local government agencies.

The objective, according to Purnama—who is now governor—is for citizens to be able to understand exactly why certain decisions were made or not made. Indeed, one video in particular of Ahok, as he is commonly known, meeting with the City Department of Public Works generated much press. In it, he uncovered an appraisal that should have only been Rp 30 million (approximately US 2,300) was marked as Rp 1 billion (US 75 thousand), prompting someone in the meeting to dramatically call out, “we’ve been discovered!”

Through the proactive disclosure of relevant, accessible, timely, and accurate information, transparency is increasingly seen as critical for the World Bank’s twin goals of ending extreme poverty and boosting shared prosperity. Transparency helps ensure that governments are efficient and effective by opening up information to public scrutiny and thus making public officials answerable for their actions and decisions. Limited resources go farther when decisions about their allocation and use are well informed, publically scrutinized, and accountable.

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