I am writing from Seoul, where I participated in the Economic Development and Impact Evaluation conference organized by the Korea Development Institute. Korean officials at the conference had a consistent and forceful message: aid works.
Ambiguity and uncertainty about the exact scope of the term governance is useful, not least because it opens up broad areas of discussion with governments and policy-makers, allowing difficult topics to be broached or skirted pragmatically.
For a long time, public procurement was seen as (and was) the backwater of the public financial management agenda. Procurement, the means by which public budgets are translated into goods, works and services for provision of services, was considered a back-end function, narrowly associated with the purchasing transaction. However, over time, appreciation of the centrality of procurement to budget execution, provision of services and to the governance agenda has grown.
What does the demand for good governance mean to an ordinary citizen living in a remote village in the developing world? For a woman in Bangladesh, social accountability means she can state “when I open the tap every morning, water should flow from it.” Could a villager in Cameroon in similar circumstances demand such a service of the state?
When I first went to Nigeria, I had a picture in my mind of an oil country with a struggling non-oil economy. This picture came from two statistics I knew: 95 percent of Nigeria’s exports are oil and 85 percent of Government revenues come from oil. What I did not know was that oil is only the fourth largest sector in the economy, with the wholesale and retail sectors being larger.
Despite years of often fruitful innovation to implement projects through NGOs or community groups or markets, the road to development still passes through the public administration. And, as development professionals know, the stretch of road in that domain is often impassable and apparently impervious to repair. Why?
The fact that whatever else governance is, it is a discursive, public arena practice is often underappreciated. Governance is partly technical, naturally, but it is also an argument, a fight, a shouting match, a negotiation, and, if you are lucky, sometimes an agreement.
There is a lot of angst in the Bank at the moment over the role and functioning of the newish ‘cadre’ of governance specialists. This reflects the endless debate about just what governance is, what it seeks to achieve, and how it differs from ‘public sector management’.
I had heard (and read) about the community schools in Nepal for several years. Last February, I finally had a chance to visit them. Community-run schools are often seen as a potentially powerful way of improving accountability for results. While there are many variations across the world, the basic idea is actually quite simple: give parents and community members the authority to make key decisions (such as hiring teachers) and managing resources.
Much can be learned from Ghana in the area of Governance and Anti-Corruption. It is a society proud of its history and culture, wary of foreign advice, and conservative at heart, yet one able to renew itself regularly thanks to a culture of debate and questioning.