The World Bank and Public Sector Management: Taking stock


This page in:

In the two weeks that the draft PSM Approach for 2010-2020 has been published on this blog for consultation, many experts and colleagues have taken the time and trouble to offer comments. These comments have enriched the debate and, plus or minus a few contradictions, offer some very clear ways forward. On behalf of the team working on the PSM approach, I would like to thank all contributors who have posted on this blog or sent their comments by email. While this is only the start of a debate that will continue to unfold, let me attempt to summarize some key messages that have emerged from the feedback received so far:

The treatment afforded to "politics" in the Approach is clearly seen as very important. There is some appreciation for the significant step that the Approach is taking towards integrating politics within its mainstream PSM work – but there is a way to go. The points raised here fall into four main groupings.

First, there is the lobby for realism in diagnostic work – a plea that we don't just make the now obligatory genuflection to the importance of politics, but that we state clearly and starkly the need to understand how power is distributed amongst the elite when considering support options (Stuti Khemani) and "how politics is played around here" (Christopher Pollitt, Richard Allen, Anthony Higgins, Mark Robinson). More broadly, the emphasis on a greater discipline in diagnostic work is welcomed by several commentators – but some pointed out that what the Approach has in mind could usefully be spelled out in more detail (Malcolm Green). Sanjay Vani and Alice Poole propose that we raise the bar in terms of the quality of diagnostic work, noting that our newish concern with political economy must be able to predict winners as well as providing analyses that seem to justify our failures.

Second, on politics, Richard Allen and Gord Evans also suggest that the Bank is often rather coy about reaching a workable conclusion from political diagnoses – avoiding a clear conclusion that political interests will make progress implausible in some settings. Gord Evans asks where and at what point the Bank holds the robust discussions amongst informed specialists that are really necessary to assess the likelihood that the political situation will support a proposed reform program. Phil Keefer notes that the Bank must be able to admit (at least to itself) that how some political principals want to use the public sector is inconsistent with any efficiency- or welfare-improving reforms – and that this is not amenable to a simple technocratic response.

In proposing ways of moving from political analysis to action, Willy McCourt notes that the results chain comes over as somewhat technocratic and apolitical – as if we are thinking that if all the dominoes are lined up then it is inevitable that they will all fall when the first is pushed.  Willy's and others' points can also be taken to suggest that more humility would be useful on the Bank side – and that one way of using a political perspective is to look at the way that things are moving because of large tectonic political pressures, and then make our somewhat modest technical value-added at the margins of these more inevitable changes.

Finally, on politics, the question of the Bank's willingness to take risks was highlighted by Richard Hogg. In PSM there are many uncertainties and if we are to remain in this business then we need to accept the risks of ineffectiveness that come with it.  Richard urges some discussion of the Bank's own willingness to tolerate risk and its appetite for taking the long haul.

Benjamin Santa Maria and others note the lack of a "theory of government", and this seems to highlight a point made implicitly or explicitly by many, that the draft is insufficiently clear about its "theory of change" – it does not take a position about what makes change possible in a highly political environmentDavid Booth makes this point in the context of the discussion on indicators – emphasizing that the design of indicators must be constructed on the basis of a theory of change, and not aimless data-mining. Nicola Smithers and Alice Poole point out that the draft is weak on change management and on how the available "change space" can be actively enlarged through working with stakeholders and others to motivate reform. Stephane Guimbert also argued for more detail on the underpinning theory of change, noting the dangers of ending up with a completely agnostic "whatever works" position.

David Booth also suggests that, in clarifying the underpinning assumptions about the theory of change, that the Approach could usefully learn from the work on Limited Access Orders and, at a more disaggregate level, that being undertaken in the Africa Power and Politics research, which offer some practical insights into how ruling elites manages major economic rents and the implications that this has for PSM.

The risk theme was welcomed as a corrective to the temptation to imply that all new projects have found a way to manage all the inherent uncertainties, but Grace Morgan points out that the framing of risk management and mitigation seems to counter the sense of experimentation or innovation that was intended. She suggests that the Approach balances out (fewer) references to risk with a parallel focus on returns. This point is also made very clearly by David Booth who points out the emphasis on managing risks and asks "Why not be more up-beat, saying more about not missing opportunities?" 

Others pushed back at what they saw as a little too much agnosticism. Ray Shostak pointed out that in some areas there were, at least, "good" if not "best" practices – a point that was picked up by Christopher Pollitt in his observation that task-specificity is important: some conclusions could be reached about the differences between refuse collection and health care management. Zsuzsanna Lonti, Colin Talbot and Philipp Krause make similar points. 

Bringing some of the research and data collection gathering down to the ground was the theme of some remarks. The need for a basic set of comparative pay and employment data was emphasized (anonymous and "former sector management turned academic" – FSMTA). FSMTA also noted that the field, and the draft, would benefit from some longer term perspectives on how successful reforms evolved and were supported, counterbalancing the rush to declare victory in very recent reforms that tends to be the hallmark of donors. Zahid Hasnain's post on performance pay and the need for a greater degree of empiricism in approaching this question, also argues for better data collection on current practices. Zsuzsanna Lonti supports this – but notes that the move towards collecting data concerning behavioral (de facto) rather than formal (de jure) change increases the costs of data collection. 

Others pointed out a degree of introspection in the draft. In the discussion about the challenge of getting a large and multi-layered entity such as the World Bank to collaborate internally, we could be looking more closely at how this challenge is met in other large organizations (Talib Esmail).  Others noted that the possibility of collaborating more closely with other actors in the field, consulting practices as well as other donors, is under-emphasized (FSMTA and Lanre Rotimi). Mark Robinson also pointed out that the assumption behind strengthening professional communities of practice seemed to be that these would be located entirely within the Bank.

Several commentators identified some areas that risk being sidelined. A couple of commentators noted that work on public sector management at the subnational level could be emphasized more – not least because donors such as the Bank are likely to have more traction there (Warren Master and John Gonzalez). Marcus Manuel points out that public sector pay reform is sufficiently significant in itself to merit some distinctive treatment.  Another comment expressed a concern that the apparent attraction of the downstream work might squeeze out the center of government work upstream (FSMTA). Consistent with that point, Gord Evans noted that policy management, while mentioned, was not explored in any systematic way. Paul Zahra, Anupama Dokeniya and Svetlana Proskurovska raise points about leadership, values and morale – highlighting that these are key questions that are somewhat under-discussed in the draft. The recognition in the Approach that the domain in which the public sector "performs" is not just service delivery is clearly welcomed.  However, a couple of commentators found the references to regulatory quality a little perfunctory and under-developed (William Kandel and Jana Malinska). Ian Briggs points out that there is always a risk that the dominant assumption that the public sector is the provider rather than the commissioner of services will predominate.

Two major omissions were noted. Some commentators noted the surprising absence of any references to technology (Malcolm Green and Benjamin Welby), and others highlighted that the distinctive case of fragile states needs some specific attention (Mark Robinson). Lyn Squire noted that nothing was said about the costs of reform, pointing out that without this consideration then the tradeoff between costs and benefits could of course not be ascertained.

There were also some words of guidance concerning the tone of the ApproachNicola Smithers underscores that the Bank's successful experience with PEFA was built on some very careful relationship management with partners (other agencies and governments). She warns that the tone in relation to the diagnostic protocol, while technically correct, could be softened somewhat. On the consultative approach, Nicola Smithers urged that country level consultations be given a more prominent place, and an anonymous commentator pointed out that hosting the dialogue in English was, of itself, rather restrictive.

On the Bank's internal organization, Marcus Manuel also argues for further decentralization – placing staff nearer to the client (although this would require some considerable discussion about the degree to which this has already happened in some regions). Mark Ahern highlights that the more continuous dialogue urged comes with resource implications.

Bill Dorotinsky notes that the report's recommendations should be linked more strongly to the analysis in the draft.

Finally, Carlos Santiso puts his finger on a key dilemma – although does not say that the draft has got the balance wrong. Carlos highlights that in positioning PSM as a problem-solving approach rather than as a distinct discipline, we have to ensure that we mitigate the risk that we will dilute it out of existence.



Nick Manning

Retired Head, Governance & Public Sector Management group World Bank and former Head of the Public Sector Management and Performance Division at the OECD

Join the Conversation

Rosa Alonso
May 17, 2011

Thanks for the summary. I think this is a very good approach to “reforming public sector management reform”. It is also clearly and succinctly laid out. I hope the Bank will move forward to implement it because it would substantially enhance our likelihood of supporting effective PSM reform and put the Bank in the driver’s seat of research and innovation in the area.
Some reservations
However, first, let me note four reservations. First, whether the Bank/PREM has the resources to implement it in a flat-budget environment (money for project preparation and supervision is already tight). Second, I am concerned that, due to the political economy of indicators, we may end up supporting easy and measurable reforms backed up by a large one-size-fits-all set of indicators.
Third, whether the political economy of the P4R instrument will allow the Bank to use it (due to high upfront investment costs on diagnostics and preparing the ground). The instrument may also find some political economy obstacles in countries in which governments may not be as interested in working with the Bank on potential reforms without resources attached to the negotiation from the beginning. Finally, the Bank would need to change the way it assesses staff (which would be very good), changing the culture of delivering “projects” to one of delivering “reforms” and development outcomes. Fourth, the approach does not mention planning. Planning is a key Government function and one that our clients are rightly very interested in. The role of the Bank in supporting the development of national plans/poverty reduction strategies and sector strategies, and the links of those to budgets (both medium term and annual) should be referenced and included as a key area of Bank involvement.
Areas of strong agreement
Because the areas I strongly agree with are the core of the approach document and I support them, I will simply mention them:
• Focus on improved diagnostics/research agenda (both on the empirical impact on service delivery of various PSM reforms and political economy case studies on what works/how to carry out reforms, e.g. tax administration reform; the Bank does have the potential to be a leader in this area again, but there is the resourcing question…)
• Bringing discipline into projects by identifying binding constraints and designing project interventions to address them
• Supporting the development of key state functions rather than specific state forms—this is key and many mistakes are made by trying to duplicate certain state forms in the wrong context instead of thinking through how a particular state function should be delivered in that context;
• Better monitoring and evaluation of development results—I support producing, tracking and using better indicators, but also have concerns on how this is carried out (see below)
• The need for a P4R instrument –investment loans are often just not appropriate
• Reviving thematic groups and communities of practice—the tax administration and the political economy groups are examples of new/revived, highly responsive, extremely useful thematic groups.
Areas of disagreement
The implication that we can manage within the same budget envelope. We should reduce the number of tasks, prioritize them and resource them well. In my experience, much AAA (though not all!) could be consolidated and is over-resourced whereas projects are constantly under-funded.
Need for more integrator skills for Bank staff in leading positions. Success in PSM (and much else) critically depends on having staff with strong integrative skills play leading roles. Technicians without such capacity (whether public sector specialists, lawyers, political scientists, engineers or economists) simply do not have the vital political economy skills or the creativity to judge whether an intervention has sufficient chances of success or the capacity to adapt project design or policy recommendations to country context. This has been at the root of much PSM failure in the past.
Moving to a greater specialization in PSM and creation of Global Practices. I only support this approach in areas in which there are very few specialists (e.g. tax administration).
Relying more on fee-based services, co-terminous positions and trust funds. This would lead us to do less in the countries that need it most (low income countries) and distort our priorities to donors’ priorities. Our priorities should reflect our professional judgment as to where our resources are best used and the judgment of our executive board as a whole and not the priorities of those donors who decide to provide us with trust funds for specific countries. However, because resources are tight and trust funds can be very useful, we could exercise greater leadership and discipline in how we manage trust funds. For example, the Bank could act like our client countries with strong leadership and credibility—lay out the areas in which we want Trust Funds and let interested donors provide them while not accepting “unsolicited” trust funds in other areas. Co-terminous positions are also unlikely to attract high caliber staff. The Bank should move away from this practice except for very specific cases (sadly, opposite to current HR rule).
Business can inform investment priorities. Paragraph 98 mentions under public investment management reforms that “business can inform investment priorities.” The approach document should clarify what is meant by this or, even better, just drop the sentence. If what is meant by this is that the private sector should be consulted in the elaboration of Government’s PIM, then it is an acceptable –though still dangerous—proposition.
Potential pitfalls
Focusing on what is easy and measurable. Paragraph 49 frankly acknowledges this potential problem. Avoiding this problem will require: a) sufficient flexibility on a case-by-case basis on what indicators are included; b) sufficient attention to qualitative indicators and quantitative indicators that may be relevant in some contexts but not others and hence may not necessarily be on the “standard menu;” c) TTLs, supervisors and managers with the capacity to tailor to context and the strength to defend doing so (this is not at all a given); d) an overall two-track approach to including indicators on short-term improvements impacting on service delivery and some PSM outcomes with longer-term indicators on capacity-building, data production and transparency.
Distorting and over-stretching government capacity. Having a menu set of indicators for all countries carries the risk of, at best, not providing sufficient guidance to TTLs and, at worst, of leading to indicator uniformity, over-load and absence of focus. This can distort a project in a low income country and create large inefficiencies even in a middle income country.
Instead, it would be extremely useful to produce different sets of indicators for different levels of development including core sets of indicators. I would suggest three: a) conflict/new state (former LICUS); b) low-income; and c) middle income. The names one would call each heading though can be different as income level may not be the best indicator (we could instead label them by level of capacity and at the end of the day it should be up to the client government and the TTL and management to determine which set is most relevant). I am convinced that, in this manner, thinking on what indicators are critical would be much more focused. Even with these smaller lists of indicators, there should still be flexibility.
However, it could be feasible to develop a “core set” that, in principle, should be produced by all countries. This would create a manageable, focused set of core indicators that we could routinely track. On the contrary, if the lists are very large and untargeted by level of development/capacity, either countries would not be able to produce them or they would waste an enormous amount of time producing them (and often not using them), diffusing precious scarce capacity from reform implementation.

Motoky Hayakawa
May 20, 2011

If there was one important aspect still missing in the draft PSM approach, that would be a perspective on organizations and management. Some argue that the field of organizations and management is central to public administration/public management. Concerned about internal management and change - people, systems, processes, structures, cultures, and communications within organizations, the field offers a wealth of knowledge about how public organizations ought to be managed and changed, and how individuals behave in public organizations in the context of PSM reform. However, it seems that discussions in the draft PSM approach (e.g. upstream and downstream linkages, results chain) are largely blind to internal organizations and management issues at macro and micro levels.

To be fair it should be mentioned that this is a problem not only with the draft PSM approach but also with many of the Bank financed PSM projects in the past. Despite the potential values, we tend to pay very little attention to internal management and organizational change issues in PSM reform. Perhaps, this is partly because we don’t have many Bank staff with strong organizations and management background. So when we think of the Bank’s new PSM strategy, staffing, and partnerships and collaboration with research institutions and others, it would be important to ensure knowledge and practice in organizations and management will not be left out.

Regarding risk identification and mitigation (pages 21-24), it would be useful to point out that the Bank’s Philippines Country Team has created an extra step called pre-concept stage before the concept note review stage in the project cycle. Since 2009, task teams have been required to prepare a pre-identification note (PIN) through which they make a business case for new project ideas, systematically assess governance and political economy risks and political feasibility, and lay out possible mitigation measures. This is because we would like to screen new project ideas at a very early stage and make an informed decision on whether or not to go forward from a governance and risk perspective. (For more information please see Box 5 “Governance Filters”, page 30: Of course, governance filters or PIN are not a new concept or a magic bullet but it would be good to note that there is a practice which has been working fairly well so far.

Finally, it’s important to clarify what the goal and purpose of the PSM approach are. The goal and purpose in the results framework (page 35) seem to come out of the blue in the document without any substantial discussion in advance. Perhaps, the approach can have a section on the goal and purpose before the section on strategic directions. Otherwise, it would send a wrong message that the PSM approach is driven by means, not an end.

Lanre Rotimi
May 30, 2011

Nick, thank you for your post presenting progress report on PSM Discussions highlights of which are:-
1. WBG commitment to continuing PSM Discussion / Dialogue / Debate as integral part of New PSM Vision.
2. WBG acceptance of correct diagnosis as major pillar of New PSM Vision
3. Summary of Phase 1 PSM Discussion which include WBG recognition of Central Role for Internal and External Consultants in the work towards achieving New PSM Vision Ambition.

It is good this progress report inform participants that WBG is committed to continuing PSM Discussion. It would have been better had the progress report gone further to suggest direction and priorities for Phase 2 PSM Discussion.

Our view is that without adequate Structure and Organization of Continuing PSM Discussion, the probability is high that potential of PSM Discussion Outcomes to make much more contribution towards improving Development Impact / Development Effectiveness of National / International Cooperation Initiatives in general and its PSM Component in particular, would be substantially untapped. The possible loss can and should be avoided by WBG.

Phase 1 PSM Discussion largely addressed fundamental issues relating to PSM What and Why questions. Many good ideas and pertinent suggestions were generated, which WBG acknowledge to have “offered some very clear ways forward”.

The summary of Phase 1 PSM Discussion is welcome. However, it is not an alter native to Phase 1 Discussion Report setting out all harvested good ideas and pertinent suggestions and providing detailed information on WBG identified clear ways forward.

Your Post kick start Phase 2 PSM Discussion. Traffic is sluggish? Why is this the case? WBG needs to ensure that continuing PSM Discussion proceeds in ways that sustain and improve on PSM Phase 1 levels of enthusiasm and excitement.

We observe from the 3 Comments by 2 Participants received at the time of this Post, that contributions thus far suggest Participants are still in Phase 1 – continuing to address issues relating to PSM What and Why questions. We are not discouraging such contribution. We are simply pointing out that at this Stage of PSM Discussions – Phase 2 needs to largely address issues relating to PSM How and Doing questions, that is ways and means of overcoming PSM Implementation Challenges and Barriers. To achieve this we suggest PSM Discussion Moving Forward focus on:-
1. PSM Inclusive Master Assessment Framework, PSM-MAF for Planning Side: Researchers, Planners and Statisticians; Implementations Side: Implementers and Evaluation Side: Monitors, Evaluators and Assessors.
2. PSM-MSF Testing
3. PSM Competencies Assessment / Competencies Testing, PSM – CA/CT

We have singled out PSM-MAF, PSM-MAF Testing and PSM-CA/CT from PSM-SAIF (PSM Single Agenda Implementation Framework) which contains:-
1. Master Assessment Framework, PSM-MAF
2. Master Budget Framework, PSM-MBF
3. Master Competencies Framework, PSM-MCF
4. Measures of Success Framework, PSM-MSF
5. Quality of Service Framework, PSM-QSF

Because should all concerned Stakeholders get PSM-MAF; PSM-MAF Testing and PSM-CA/CT Right, the probability is high that they will get all remaining Frameworks Right and should they get PSM-MAF; PSM-MAF Testing and PSM-CA/CT Wrong, they would get all remaining Frameworks wrong. The complete set of Frameworks ensure that all relevant issues on Planning Side, Implementation Side, Evaluation Side and Quality Assurance sides are effectively addressed.

The New PSM Vision should promote and protect Good Corporate Governance Practice; Good Management for Development Results Practice; Good Communication for Sustainable Development Practice; Good Research, Planning and Statistics Practice; Good Implementation for development Impact Practice and Good Monitoring, Evaluation and Assessment Practice. This way each Professional on Service Provider and Service User sides not only think about today, but also about tomorrow, day after tomorrow, about 1 year, 10 years, 20 years, 50 years hence.

If each Professional on Service User and Service Provider sides in the work towards achieving New PSM Vision Ambition know that his / her decisions would be subject to short term review – 1 year, 3 years, 5 years and 10 years and long term review – 15 years, 20 years, 25 years and 30 years, with reward or sanction based on fair assessment outcomes; this would be strong incentive to acquire the Hard Competencies – Learning and Skills and Soft Competencies – Character, Courage and Mindset – without which achieving New PSM Vision Ambition would be uphill task.

To get PSM-MAF; PSM-MAF Testing and PSM-CA/CT Right, the How and Doing questions relating to Operationalizing in Practice / Demonstrating the Practicability of Implementation of all good ideas and pertinent suggestion harvested from Phase 1 PSM Discussions and WBG identified clear ways forward are Best answered in real life situations that could be found within PSM Pilot Programs for:-
1. PSM Policy, Program, Project Cycle Management Initiative
2. PSM Policy, Program, Project Cycle Management Training
3. PSM Policy, Program, Project Cycle Management All Staff (from most Junior to CEO / MD / DG) Competencies Assessment / Competencies Testing
in select Countries on both Developed and Developing Countries sides.

In organizing the PSM Pilot Programs to correctly answer these How and Doing Questions, the underlying issues are:-
1. PSM Service delivery – Right of Citizens, particularly the Poor in Beneficiary Countries to be Served Right – is the Object and Subject of PSM Reform.
2. PSM Competencies Assessment / Competencies Testing for all staff from the most junior to the most senior – CEO / MD / DG, present real and complex problems on the ground challenging relevant authorities. For example some agencies of the United Nations are currently responding to the requests for reform in their agencies within the UN context. As part of the reforms, one of the key areas the organizations are focusing on is the managerial competency of its managers and the development of managerial staff. In this context, it is important for the Agencies to understand the managerial strengths and areas for growth of individuals both for development as well as for organizational career-related decisions in processes related to selection, rotation and promotion. There is a need to extend this initiative to cover all remaining staff of these agencies and for all remaining UN entities to embark upon the enlarged initiative. Also each entity within WBG, other International Institutions that are major players in International Development Cooperation Initiatives; relevant entities on both Developing and Developed Countries Governments sides need to embark upon the enlarged competencies initiative, if New PSM Vision Ambitions are to be achieved.
3. Achieving increasing convergence between Original PSM Vision Intention and Reality greatly depends on the Quality of Reform Minds – Innovative and Creative Professionals that are selected as Internal Consultants and External Consultants in each PSM Assignment.
4. It is impossible to Optimize Outcome of Implementing harvested good ideas and pertinent suggestions if the Creator of each selected good idea / pertinent suggestion is meaningfully involved in the implementation; monitoring, evaluation and assessment of the implementation of such good idea / pertinent suggestion.

We note Rosa Alonso’s comments on the stocktaking, particularly “I hope the Bank will move forward to implement it because it would substantially enhance our likelihood of supporting effective PSM reform and put the Bank in the driver’s seat of research and innovation in the area” and her reservation “whether WBG has the resources to implement it in a flat-budget environment (money for project preparation and supervision is already tight)”.

Our Study Finding is that the PSM Implementation Challenge is a PSM Thinking Challenge. If WBG get PSM Thinking Right, there is much than enough Influence Resources and Technical Resources that would help attract more than adequate Funding Resources and other Resources. This PSM Discussion has rich pool of ideas WBG could draw upon to get PSM Thinking Challenge Right. If WBG get Thinking Challenge Wrong the problem would not be from PSM Discussion Participants side but from WBG side.

The fundamental issues at stake – promoting and protecting our common interest, common future, common prosperity and common security as Citizens of a Fragile Planet and Citizens of Rich and Poor Countries across our World, is too important to be left to WBG alone. WBG has demonstrated commitment in starting PSM Discussion and allowing Open, Transparent, Transforming Discussions. It is up to Participants to seize the Opportunity through contributing with increasing excitement and enthusiasm. This is a practical option for tackling Rosa’s reservation. It is not helpful to be pessimistic, cynical, complaining or to give up because of the magnitude and complexity of the work involved in Overcoming the Implementation Challenge.

To set the ball rolling in the work towards tackling the Implementation Challenge, we invite at least 5 Participants to join Lanre in a PSM Expert Group that would volunteer to develop PSM-MAF; PSM-MAF Testing and PSM-CA/CT Documents.

We submit that achieving sustainable success in the implementation of New PSM Vision greatly depends on producing 4 PSM Working Papers and getting all relevant PSM Vision Stakeholders meaningfully involved in the practical implementation of ACTIONS set out in each Working Paper. The 4 Papers are:-
1. PSM Working Paper – Issue 1 – Report on PSM Discussion Phase 1
Action: PSM Team WB to prepare Draft for Circulation to PSM Discussion Participants to make their comments. There may be need to prepare and comment upon 2nd and 3rd Draft before Final Draft is produced and disseminated.
2. PSM Working Paper – Issue 2 – PSM – MAF Document
Action: PSM Expert Group to prepare Draft for Circulation to PSM Discussion Participants to make their comments. There may be need to prepare and comment upon 2nd and 3rd Draft before Final Draft is produced and disseminated.
3. PSM Working Paper – Issue 3 – PSM – MAF Testing Document
Action: PSM Expert Group to prepare Draft for Circulation to PSM Discussion Participants to make their comments. There may be need to prepare and comment upon 2nd and 3rd Draft before Final Draft is produced and disseminated.
4. PSM Working Paper – Issue 4 – PSM – CA/CT Document
Action: PSM Expert Group to prepare Draft for Circulation to PSM Discussion Participants to make their comments. There may be need to prepare and comment upon 2nd and 3rd Draft before Final Draft is produced and disseminated.

Let us sustain and improve the excitement and enthusiasm achieved in PSM Discussion Phase 1 in PSM Discussion Phase 2 and beyond. Let us contribute to the PSM Discussion marking TURNING POINT in National / International Development Cooperation. Let us remember that it is easy to contribute good ideas / pertinent suggestions. It is especially difficult to get into the Trenches – working SMARTer to convert good ideas / pertinent suggestions into Sustainable Benefits Demanded and desired by PSM Target Beneficiaries

If you have contributed or can contribute good ideas / pertinent suggestions and if you have the Courage and Conviction to “Walk your Talk”, please join the PSM Expert Group and help prepare the Draft PSM Working Papers

Rosa Alonso
May 23, 2011

I will add some specific suggestions to follow up my earlier broader comments on the approach.
In discussion within the Bank concerning the Approach, you have mentioned that we do not have consensus on a model for state development for post-conflict states. Though this is not an easy question and it is still evolving, I would posit that it is important to have a short-term and a medium-term agenda.
In the (post)-conflict states, the public sector strategy could focus on three areas-- managing service delivery, building capacity and fostering transparency. In the short term, it is important to get the state to develop a capacity to manage devolved service delivery –by donors, NGOs and, if it makes sense, local government. In my experience, it is those groups that have developed the capacity to deliver services in those difficult circumstances. The state should simultaneously have a medium term agenda to ultimately deliver (most of) those services itself while in the short term setting objectives for, managing and monitoring delivery by other actors. PSM Indicators on service delivery for these states could measure capacity to deliver services including ably managing the delivery by others (donors, NGOs, etc.)
The second area of focus –to begin addressing in the short-term, but which would yield fruits in the medium to long term-- would be capacity-building. I do not think we have an alternative to the traditional state structures with ministries and agencies and I have never worked in a country that did not want to look like that (eventually, but sooner rather than later). In this endeavor, it is critical to: a) focus on a few critical areas of state-building (e.g. Ministry of Finance, key service delivery ministries such as education and health, ministry of public works and the justice sector); b) use standards and processes that are achievable so governments from client countries can carry out state functions themselves soonest rather than have them delivered by donors in an unsustainable manner (e.g. if standards on national planning, sector strategies, and budgets are those of developed or high middle income countries, low income post-conflict countries simply cannot deliver and have their scarce capacity dissipated in non-essential tasks); c) focus on implementation keeping planning and monitoring systems to a focused core minimum (otherwise scarce capacity may end up being used to plan and monitor things that never happen).
A well thought-out capacity building strategy should be put in place early on. This is an area in which we still do not know enough, but need to learn more and soon. Carrying out case studies on successful –relatively rapid and effective—capacity-building could be very useful (e.g. Botswana). This strategy would likely include sending off people to get appropriate university degrees, shorter technical training programs and on-the-job training. Indicators on all three areas should exist (number of qualified personnel in X ministry in Y function; delivery of workshops in critical areas of shortage expertise; and outcome-oriented indicators of improved state capacity. Tapping former practitioners from other developing countries some steps ahead of the recipient can be most useful (and much cheaper!). Cultural appropriateness and a common language are key and often under-estimated factors as are very strong people skills.
The third area in which we could consider having indicators (for all three sets of development levels) is transparency measures in key areas—e.g. publication of budgets, publication of executed budgets, publication of final audited accounts, national and sector strategies and key development results, Government laws, etc.
Measuring state capacity. Although the report mentions the importance of “state capacity,” it does not do enough to lay out how we are to support and measure its development. This is one of the most crucial and under-studied areas of development and one in which the Bank is still not strong. Some of the indicators that need to be used, especially in conflict and in low income countries, are indicators of civil service capacity, both in terms of educational background and training of staff as well as regarding capacity to deliver on specific critical state functions.
It is laudable that paragraph 40 openly acknowledges that “there is relatively little explicit evidence about what matters for results in improving public sector performance.” That is why the research agenda in this area is particularly important.
School-based management over-emphasized. The document mentions “school based management” a number of times. In my view, this is over-emphasized. Some of the best education systems in the world (such as Korea and many European systems, are only beginning to experiment with school-based management and they have gotten where they are now without it). Given the enormous diversity across regions and schools in developing countries, I doubt that this should be an important or universally- desirable reform. I would reduce or eliminate those references and perhaps find some that have more generally-applicable recommendations (such as stepped-up training of teachers and Ministry of Education monitoring systems).
Experts who are just passing through. Box 3 correctly points out the dangers of “experts who are just passing through.” This cannot be overemphasized. Country knowledge and capacity to adjust to context is critical and, in my experience, the immense majority of “experts who are just passing through” simply do not have this capacity and end up leaving documents that are poorly suited to context and hence ineffective or worse, distorting. This is one of the reasons I do not support the formation of “global expert networks” aside from in areas of very limited number of professionals in the Bank (such as tax administration).
Risk assessments. The diagnostic proposed is very well thought out. The framework should be clearly laid out, simple and required as part of the PAD. It should not be overly complex and it should not change in a few months.
Box 2. I would substantially revise or take out Box 2. I found several of the OECD reforms highlight poor practice rather than good practice and not well-spread either (e.g. moves towards defined contribution pension schemes). Others have recorded very mixed results (such as the “arms-length” agencies, which have unsurprisingly been found to be wanting in accountability and sometimes even in efficiency). I felt similarly about the Latin America reforms—again, some not yielding particularly good results (e.g. decentralization in education and health, establishment of “islands” of performance). Moreover, some key good reforms are missing or insufficiently highlighted, such as improvements in strategic planning and budgeting and performance monitoring and evaluation. Given the focus on service delivery and outcomes and away from means to ends, it would be particularly good to remove references to a specific policy model, especially when it does not yield generally good results.
MTEFs. Paragraph 32 on MTEFs has too little in it to be helpful. It should either be developed or taken out. If developed (to go with the graph, which otherwise should also be scrapped), it could be noted that their impact has been mixed (with Governments from many middle income countries report them crucial to their planning and budgeting exercises and many low-income countries with high levels of instability and donor aid finding the exercises not very productive). Like some other public sector reforms, MTEFs were for some time over-recommended including for settings where they were not suited while now they seem to be over-criticized when they in fact are high value added reforms in the right settings and with the right approach.
Paragraph 56 could acknowledge more openly that PSM is not only politically harder to carry out, but that it does not have as well established a track record on mattering for development outcomes as other areas do (e.g. “merit-based” pay; impact of reduction of civil service on aggregate demand in African structural adjustment programs).
Box 7. Rather than “They recognize that they will lose support, including sometimes from the World Bank, if they do not look like actors in other comparable settings” it should read: “like actors in developed countries” or “like the latest best practice model.” I think this is the problem; if countries were truly compared to “actors in comparable settings,” this would not be by far as much of a problem.
The approach document mentions several times “engaging with key stakeholders as they experiment with reform options.” I am very sympathetic to the principle, but the document does not say enough on what it means by this. It would be good to elaborate further and even include a box with an example.