About a month ago two colleagues (Greg Kisunko and Steve Knack) posted a blog on “The many faces of corruption in the Russian Federation”. Their post, based on the elegant analysis of the 2011/2012 Russian BEEPS, underscores a point that many practitioners and researchers are now beginning to appreciate because of the availability of new, disaggregated data: corruption is not a homogenous phenomenon, but rather a term that encompasses many diverse phenomena that can have profoundly different impact on the growth and the development of a country. If we delve deeper into this disaggregated data, we observe that within the same country can coexist significantly different sub-national realities when it comes to the phenomenon we label “corruption”.
What do discussions about aid modalities and institutional change have in common?
A lot, very little, would you expect them to? Clarifying these somewhat nebulous terms may be a first step to address this question.
An aid modality (or aid instrument), describes a way of delivering ODA. Different modalities are defined according to how funds are managed and disbursed: Is the funding ‘on budget’? Who signs off on the funding releases? The concept says nothing about the content of a given aid programme; it is purely concerned with the process used to transfer the funds. While budget support and project aid are the most common types of aid modality, the term also encompasses a host of other funding mechanisms, including funding for skills transfer.
Over the past two decades, citizen-led initiatives to hold power holders to account have taken the world by storm. The promise embedded in such efforts – that more enlightened and engaged citizens demanding greater accountability around issues that they care about can have a decisive impact in improving development effectiveness, the quality of (democratic) governance and the nature of state-society relations – has led to a mushrooming of transparency and accountability initiatives (TAIs). TAIs operating at the domestic, regional and/or international levels now cover a plethora of issues ranging from corruption, access to information, and budget processes, to natural resource management, service delivery, and aid.
With preparations for the G8 Summit in June in full swing, British Prime Minister David Cameron has made clear that transparency will be a key theme and within that a focus on transparency not just in the extractives sector but around land more broadly. This is in large part a response to concerns around the proliferation of large scale land acquisitions – the “land grab” phenomenon. Certainly that topic dominated discussion at the World Bank’s annual Land and Poverty conference this month.
BEYOND PAY AS MOTIVATOR
Pay reform has been a mainstay of our public sector practice over many years. We have encouraged governments to ‘decompress’ pay, paying more to senior staff whose relative contribution to the public service, we have argued, is not reflected in their pay packets. We have sponsored job evaluation exercises, so that pay is aligned more closely with duties. We have tried to link pay to some measure of performance.
Today marks the conclusion of the final meeting of the Global Thematic Consultation on Governance and the Post-2015 Development Framework, held in Johannesburg, South Africa.
There is no doubt that governance can be complicated. It has been subject to extensive analysis and explanation by a variety of experts, with a corresponding variety of definitions. Competing philosophies are based on not only assumptions about the intersection of economic and political management, but also the relevance of institutions to development outcomes. Measurement of such complex concept can be an awkward tool in the midst of such ambiguity.
Good institutions matter for development. Institutions enable societies to address challenges – from managing irrigation and schools systems, to raising and spending revenues. In the terms of Nobel Prize laureate Elinor Ostrom, the right institutions enable effective collective action, while poor or missing institutions hinder problem-solving.
A while back I was working for a small education foundation in Bangalore. Every day I took the bus to the office along a road that had so many pot holes it felt like the driver had decided to take a short cut across the surface of the moon. About a month before I left the whole stretch was covered by a smooth layer of gleaming tarmac and a series of huge posters appeared – announcing the hard work and successful lobbying conducted by our local city councillor.
Evidence-based policy has been the mantra for what seems like decades. Practitioners are aware of this, just as enlightened researchers are aware of the pressures acting on aid agency staff. But even with the best will in the world turning evidence into practice can be challenging. Let’s take the recent findings of ODI’s five year research program investigating the growth and development performance of patrimonial regimes in Africa.