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January 2018

How can we bridge the gap between citizens and state? Previewing the Open Budget Survey 2017

Vivek Ramkumar's picture

 Photo © Dominic Chavez/World Bank
Photo © Dominic Chavez/World Bank

On 30 January 2018 the International Budget Partnership (IBP) will release the Open Budget Survey 2017 – the latest round of the world’s only independent and comparable assessment of budget transparency, citizen participation, and independent oversight institutions in the budgeting process.

The OBS 2017 findings on the systems and practices that countries have in place to inform and engage citizens — or not — in decisions about how to raise and spend public resources, and on the institutions that are responsible for holding government to account, come at a critical juncture. Around the world, there has been a decline in public trust in government, in part due to instances of corruption but also because of dramatic increases in inequality. In a number of countries, leaders who have disguised their intolerant and reactionary agendas with populist rhetoric have been swept into power by those who’ve been left behind. These political shifts have driven out many government champions of transparency and accountability — especially those from countries in the global south.  More broadly across countries, there has been shrinking of civic space, rollbacks of media freedoms, and a crackdown on those who seek to hold government to account, including individual activists, civil society organizations, and journalists.

How does anthropology help us understand bureaucracy?

Daniel Rogger's picture

Editor's note: This blog post is part of a series for the 'Bureaucracy Lab', a World Bank initiative to better understand the world's public officials.

A session of parliament
Photo: © Gennadiy Ratushenko / World Bank

Bureaucratic structures are complex. A given country’s norms and values can be difficult to comprehend for outsiders trying to engage in governance reform there. How can anthropologists help us understand the dynamics of a bureaucracy or government organization?
 
In rural Tanzania, more than seven million citizens lack reliable access to clean water. At any given time, 46 percent of rural water points need repair. An all too easy way to rationalize government shortcomings would be to label officials as lazy or corrupt. However, this statement oversimplifies the issue at hand and fails to dive deeper into the underlying bureaucratic structures that hinder successful service delivery.