An expatriate Indian physics professor, when traveling back home to India, found himself harassed by endless extortion demands. As a way to fight corruption by shaming the officials who ask for bribes, the professor created a fake currency bill: the zero-rupee note.
The notes are identical to Indian banknotes, but carry the slogan, and the pledge, .
Vijay Anand, president of the non-governmental organization 5th Pillar, thought the idea could work on a larger scale. Initially, the NGO printed 25,000 zero-rupee notes and distributed them to students in the southern state of Tamil Nadu. Since 2007, the NGO has distributed more than one million bills in five languages, covering 600-plus institutions. Volunteers hand them out near places where officials often solicit bribes, such as railway stations and government hospitals.
Vote buying has shaped much of Philippine politics throughout history. For many politicians, distributing private goods and cultivating patronage to individual supporters is one of the most effective electoral strategies.
While the line between public and private is traditionally blurry, people who are used to this relationship with those who hold positions in government tend to measure politicians’ performance in terms of how much they provide private goods as opposed to broad public goods.
But though it may have been prevalent, vote buying has been a serious constraint in the country. Research has shown that practices such as vote buying and political dynasties undermine public service delivery and poverty reduction. How can these practices, which are so deeply embedded in Filipinos’ political way of life, begin to change?
With the call for action issued last month in Dakar, the commitment was clear: Francophone countries in Africa will seek to improve the well-being of their citizens by accelerating the transformation of public financial management systems. They will take this initiative through strong partnership between governments and the accountancy profession with the support of the development partners.
The call was made by 200 high-level delegates from 20 countries: decision-makers and practitioners from both the public sector and professional accounting organizations, and representatives from multilateral development organizations and civil society.
“The effective implementation of these reforms will improve the use of public resources to enhance delivery of services, transparency, accountability, and citizens’ trust in our governments,” said the Honorable Ansoumane Condé, Minister for Budget of the Republic of Guinea, after reading the call on October 29.
But taxes are fundamental to governing a country.
Without taxes there would be no law and order, no security, no pensions and no social safety net.
Collecting a sufficient amount of tax revenue to finance public services without distorting the economy or discouraging people from working is a challenge everywhere. In Romania, the challenge is especially difficult as the culture of voluntary compliance has yet to take hold: Romania ranks among the lowest countries in the EU in terms of the tax gap and the amount of revenue raised as a percentage of GDP.
The economy is growing quickly, which has an unfortunate side effect: more opportunities for tax evasion.
In today’s world, international aid is fickle, financial flows unstable, and many donor countries are facing domestic economic crises themselves, driving them to apply resources inward. In this environment, developing countries need inner strength. They need inner stability. And they deserve the right to chart their own futures.
This is within their grasp, and last week the launch of an unassuming-but-powerful tool marked an important step forward in this quiet independence movement. It’s called the TADAT, or Tax Administration Diagnostic Assessment Tool. At first glance, this tool may look inscrutable, technical, and disconnected from development. But listen.
Last month we blogged about public financial management, four ways governments are making girls’ lives better and much more.
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Sustainable development was once thought of as primarily a concern for the poorer, so-called “developing” countries. Today, with industrial civilization spreading across the entire world, devouring ever more resources and emitting more greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, economists believe wealthy countries too are in a sense still “developing” ones. Life on Earth will not survive in its current form if lifestyle of the northern countries remains as it is and extends across the planet.
That is the spirit behind the Bertelsmann Foundation’s latest report on wealthy country’s progress on fulfilling Sustainable Development Goals. Recent developments have often not been pretty. Many countries have stuck to energy-intensive economic models, and inequality has been rising almost everywhere, with economic elites getting an ever-larger part of the pie, while working and middle classes decline.
Crises in access to water are making headlines around the world. Among difficult policy pathways to respond, convincing people to change their behavior and reduce their consumption can be one of the hardest.
This post gives us a promising picture from Belén, a small town in Costa Rica. Of Belén’s 21,633 inhabitants, 99.3% have access to water service, but shortages are anticipated by 2030. Our recent study demonstrated that the government could cheaply encourage citizens to save water by enabling them to compare their consumption with that of their peers.
This is a timely lesson, as the United Nations estimates that more than two-thirds of the world’s population will live in water-stressed regions by 2025. Demographic and economic pressures make water management an increasingly urgent policy priority even in water rich areas like Latin America, home to nearly 31% of the world's freshwater resources.
While Costa Rica is relatively well-endowed with water resources, current demand virtually matches production capacity Risks of water deficits and existing shortages are heightened by overdevelopment of areas with limited water supply. To help address these challenges, we partnered with local authorities in the small municipality of Belén to conduct a randomized control trial, capturing an innovative approach that can help conserve water across the country, and in similar contexts around the world.
The project built on insights from the growing field of behavioral economics, which challenges the underlying, intentionally simplified assumption of standard models: that people make rational decisions based on a self-interested cost-benefit analysis. Behavioral economics borrows from other sciences to consider the full scope of social and psychological influences on human decision-making.
With the ink barely dry on the Sustainable Development Goals, naturally the just-completed Open Government Partnership annual summit focused on how greater openness can accelerate progress toward the goals.
The open government agenda is most closely linked to the ambitious Goal 16 on Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions, which among other targets includes the objective of ensuring “responsive, inclusive, participatory and representative decision-making at all levels.” Though progress in this area is maddeningly difficult to quantify, evidence increasingly shows that participation, the next transparency frontier, matters to development outcomes. Making the target explicit, it is hoped, will galvanize efforts in the right direction.
There are many issues one could propose to tackle with citizen engagement strategies, but to narrow the topic of discussion, let’s consider just one: enabling smart growth in the world’s exploding cities and megacities.
Also available in: French
This week, officials from finance ministries and leaders of the accounting profession from across Francophone Africa will gather in Dakar, Senegal from Oct 28 to 30 to chart a path forward in their countries’ development. They will focus on an area that is often ignored, but is vital to national success and prosperity: public financial management. They will focus on financial reporting, which is also known as “the way governments keep track of your money.”
This topic is important to you, citizens of the world, of the African continent. How governments manage their taxes, their borrowing, their spending, and the ways they account for these forms of transactions – income, borrowing and expenditure – are essential to economic growth, to poverty-reduction, and to ensuring that the region’s poorest can improve their lives.
In many parts of Francophone Africa, accounting practices have a lot of room to improve. In particular, financial reporting and auditing need reforms, according to ongoing research by the World Bank and others. Policy-makers do not always have accurate information about the money available to provide vital and quality public services, such as school-teachers or the construction of health clinics or roads.