The World Bank and Public Sector Management: Where do you come out?


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The World Bank is updating its approach to public sector management. The aim is better World Bank support for governments seeking to improve public sector results: results needed for citizens' today through improved health, education, agriculture and transport services; and the less obvious but equally critical results such as fiscal stability which maximize the prospects that those results will still be delivered tomorrow. 

Most can agree that how the public sector is managed matters. It seems clear that public services will be higher quality, or at least less expensive, if senior staff are recruited on merit, if political interference is constrained in day to day operations, and if the budget agreed by the legislature is published and then followed in practice. But the specifics of successful reform are more elusive:

• Mexico is one of the few countries on track to meet the health Millennium Development Goals – but it has massive disparities in health outcomes across population groups. What are the best management arrangements for Mexico's rapidly expanding public health care system?
• In the vast public bureaucracy of India, how can the government ensure that its many diverse state level computer applications can "talk" to each other?
• Following the late 1990s fiscal meltdown, officials in the Russian Ministry of Finance decided to manage public finance flows centrally. Were they right to then try to impose tighter central controls over individual transactions, or was this a step too far in this large and diverse country?
• In post-conflict Sierra Leone, with limited government focus and attention, what was the priority for rebuilding the public administration – central finance functions or local service delivery? Should one be tried without the other?
• How can the new civil service law in Tajikistan, with its requirements for competitive selection of candidates and new systems for job classification and performance appraisal, be given "life" so that it does not remain a paper exercise?
• Is it possible that Tunisia had good public sector management but poor governance? Is there a difference between the vehicle of the public bureaucracy, and where it is being driven?

If the general principles are clear, why is it so difficult to agree on what should be done in a particular case?

Beyond making superficial changes in the formal rules of the game, effective public management change requires that many thousands of public agents alter their behavior, much of which is hidden from view. Well-intended reforms may only be partially introduced. There are political risks. Politicians often need to balance service delivery to citizens with the pressures to serve powerful vested interests – public sector unions or influential elites who are part of a delicate political equilibrium. In some situations, reforms may be undertaken for reform's sake in a hunt for credit for being seen to reform. And lurking in the background, there are challenges in technical design. Much uncertainty remains about what works and why in public sector management reform in different contexts, and while practitioners have developed a strong body of tacit or "craft" knowledge, explicit codified evidence about what works in public sector management remains in short supply.

The Bank is a significant player in the field. Since 1995, the World Bank has approved over 1,500 lending projects with significant public sector components. Last year, it committed nearly $3.6 billion for lending for public sector management reforms in low and middle income countries. Getting the approach right means that we can do more with these resources in helping governments improve their public sector management. 

The draft World Bank Approach to Public Sector Management 2011-2020 is proposing some practical ways forward.  Are these over-ambitious or too cautious? Are they unduly inward-looking or hubristic in their view on the degree to which the Bank can influence global trends?

The draft Approach sees the Bank as a thought leader in improving public sector management. It asserts that the Bank can help move past hand-wringing about the difficulty of these issues, towards a clearer assessment of when the risks of failure are outweighed by the potential returns from success. It proposes that we strengthen the Bank’s own capability to diagnose functional problems and binding constraints, with a "good fit" rather than "best practice" approach.

The draft Approach sees the Bank as a major development actor, and argues that it can use its large and influential portfolio to obtain greater impact. It proposes using flexible approaches (including a proposed new Bank "Program for Results" lending instrument) that adjust to the nature of public sector management reform trajectories which are often incremental and require room for experimentation and constant adaptation.

The draft Approach also sees the Bank as a knowledge-generator. It proposes a significant scaling up in learning about what drives results in public sector reform, improving the evidence-base for understanding what works, when and why, in public sector reform. Similar to the catalytic role the Bank played for growth research in the 1990s, the Bank needs to create a "sputnik moment" for filling this knowledge gap. It proposes improved country-level tracking of institutional reform impact, learning more from Bank projects through treating them as natural experiments, and a multi agency research agenda that inform practical support strategies for future public sector reforms.

Finally, the draft Approach sees the Bank as a disciplinary integrator. It notes that many specialists and advisors work on public sector management, even when this is not in their job titles. The Bank can mobilize collaboration between these different sector specialists (education, transport, public administration etc.).

Early consultations suggest where opinions diverge:
• Defining what the Bank does vs. focusing on how it does it. There are those who consider that the Bank should distinguish more clearly between areas where the knowledge base is more secure and the track record more robust (assisting in revenue administration reforms, designing Financial Management Information Systems, etc.), and those areas where success rates are much more mixed (civil service reforms). Others consider that the Bank will always respond to requests as best as it can and so should not rule anything out however daunting.
Narrow focus vs. broad leadership. There are those who argue that the Bank should focus on the quality of its own projects and research work. Others argue that the Bank has a strong global leadership role; it should consciously set an example of good support to governments and take an active lead in a new international research agenda.

Where do you come out, and why?



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

Stuti Khemani
April 25, 2011

On the one hand, the Public Sector practice is increasingly arguing that “politics matters” both for de jure reforms and de facto implementation to impact development outcomes; on the other, the projects and programs on which actual monies and human resources are expended focus on technocratic capacity building, and on de jure design of institutions of public sector management. The intellectual leadership on why and how “politics matters” to which the practice seems to subscribe most prominently is that of North et al on “limited access orders”, which suggests that technocratic changes introduced externally upon a polity which has its own internal “logic” of political rent-seeking are unlikely to make a difference. I quote (from page 43-44 of North et al, July 2007): “…the dominant coalition in a LAO can adopt the institutional forms proposed by an international donor without fundamentally changing the way the receiving society operates. Since institutional forms and mechanisms operated differently in different societies, recipient countries may be able to adopt the recommended institutional forms and co-opt those forms to sustain or strengthen their LAOs….We need to appreciate more deeply the logic and power of the LAO by which elites have incentives to subvert these reforms or, as they would see it, to adapt the institutional reforms to local conditions.” Indeed, any/most political economy theories would reach the same conclusion. How is the new, updated, PSM strategy addressing such (very difficult) concerns?

Lanre Rotimi
April 27, 2011

I have read with interest Nick’s article on the World Bank’s New Public Sector Management, PSM, Thinking, posted on 25 April and note that AfCOP circulated information on this article on 26 April.

The points made by Nick and Stuti underline the magnitude and complexity of the real and complex PSM problems on the ground from village to global levels and on Donor Agencies, International Institutions, Developed / Developing Countries Governments and CSOs’ – National and International sides.

Our study finding is that sustainable solutions to real and complex PSM problems on the ground on International Institutions, Donor Agencies, Developed / Developing Countries Governments, CSOs’ – National and International sides, greatly depends on sustainable solutions to real and complex Global Visions – MDGs’; PD; AAA; One UN Initiative; One World Bank Group; G20 Global Solutions to Global Problems on the ground and this calls for Integrated Political, Economic, Financial, Social, Cultural, Technical and Religious Solutions Frameworks within One Worldwide Assessment Framework, Budgeting Framework Competencies Framework for all Service Providers and Service Users.

The point we are making is that achieving World Bank New PSM Vision Ambition greatly depends on Policy, Program, Project Interventions within New PSM Initiative and New PSM Training as a “Single Project” in all Institutions in the World Bank Group Driving World Bank Group Reform that is effectively linked to Reforms in all remaining G20 Institutions – UN, IMF, EC; all G20 Countries, Non G20 Countries and Non G20 Institutions. The Professionals, Processes and Frameworks required for successful implementation; monitoring, evaluation and assessment of the implementation of these Integrated Reforms exist.

May I make the following suggestions:-
1. The World Bank through AfCOP Secretariat / MfDR World Bank need to adopt a structured approach to organizing effective New PSM Thinking Consultation in select Developed and Developing Countries.
2. The World Bank through AfCOP Secretariat / MfDR World Bank need to Integrate the Consultation in (1) with Diagnostic Studies whose recommendations are Implemented with Implementation Monitoring, Evaluation and Assessment Outcomes fed back into the Continuing Constructive Consultation Process.

Should these suggestions be welcome, I am willing to make further contributions some public and some private through the supplied email address.

(These comments have been edited)

Warren Master
April 27, 2011

I applaud the World Bank's emphasis on public management and equally importantly its effort to reach out to and engage a broader community of practice in becoming part of the conversation. That said, I encourage all of us to further target our emphasis on those practitioner reforms that are most amenable to early adoption - e.g., e-governance practices at the national and municipal levels. The Public Manager has published numerous articles on this topic as it relates to such reforms in the former Yugoslavia (Slovenia and Serbia - Also, the American Society for Public Administration (ASPA) plans to publish similar applied content on its Web site as part of an effort aimed at promoting good governace worldwide - particularly with an eye towards involving public managers from emerging democracies (in Eastern & Central Europe, the former Soviet Union, sub-Saharan Africa, etc.).

As part of these efforts to form a global network of professional public managers, we have already begun reaching out to other stakeholders - including the US State Department's exchange programs, Sister Cities, the UN, etc. We would very much like to collaborate with the World Bank as well.

Warren Master
President & Editor-at-Large
The Public Manager

William Kandel
April 27, 2011

This is a significant step forward in "joining up" our thinking about PSM, but I am not sure that the current draft gives sufficient emphasis to the business climate. It refers initially to regulatory quality as one of the outputs of the public sector (a much needed corrective to the usual single focus on service delivery) - but then does not develop this theme much further. It would be great to see some others' views on this. (BTW, these are my views alone and do not reflect those of the Congressional Research Service).

Jana Malinska
April 27, 2011

The emphasis on a diagnostic approach seems the right way to go - but we need to talk more about what this looks like concretely in terms of private sector development and the enabling environment for business. This connects with Stuti's point as, very often, searching for the binding constraint and following the trail upstream will lead us all the way back to raw politics. The emphasis in the approach on taking governance into account is right - but maybe limited. How can we even begin to think about how the deep political incentives that limit enterprise can be changed, at least at the margins?

April 27, 2011

Nice to see increased emphasis on research and knowledge! On that note, it would be good to improve knowledge about some of the basics that are important in the “results chain.” For example, it would be really helpful to have an up-to-date database of public sector pay and employment practices and levels. While it’s certainly a challenge to track down this sort of information from multiple countries, it is always sought after by client countries, and provides a good starting point for discussion. Having this type of fundamental information would fill a much-lamented gap in knowledge.

Richard Allen
April 27, 2011

An important element in developing the Public Sector Management for Development program is analyzing the impact of "political economy" factors - the informal rules and incentives that drive the behavior of politicians and government officials - and working out the implications for Bank's lending and other support operations. Everyone in the Bank recognizes that "political economy matters", but the Bank is much less good at standing up to the implications of this mantra. Billions of dollars have been wasted - and continue to be wasted - on lending programs and projects which, if assessed cooly and logically would never have proceeded because of the high political risks of failure. The Bank has operationalized its assessments of fiduciary risk. Why not of political economy risk, which presents at least as serious a challenge? The answer may lie in the Bank's internal incentives which are to lend at virtually any cost without taking too seriously the risks of failure or reduced development impact. Ideally, political economy risk analysis should be used as a filter, to sift out projects and lending proposals that are deemed politically viable from those where the risks are simply too high to go ahead. This of course might result in a reduced or more selective portfolio of lending and technical assistance operations, a result which will not be welcome in many parts of the Bank. Does the Bank have the bottle to take such work seriously, and take it to its logical conclusion?

Increasing the Bank's work on political economy analysis also raises the issue of who should do such work. Does it require specialists with Ph.Ds in political science? Or experienced operators who have spent many years working in the field and understand a region's political dynamics inside out? While specialist knowledge of political science is certainly an advantage, I tend to side with the latter view. In particular, country teams should be encouraged to build relationships with leaders and groups that give the CMU an inside track on a country's political dynamics. Is a proposed $40 million IFMIS project, for example, likely to succeed, or will it fail because the finance ministry hasn't taken the trouble to build up a consensus in favor of the project with his cabinet colleagues, and reach the necessary political bargains to break down opposition?

Benjamin Santa Maria
April 27, 2011

This consultation process re-opens again the cycle PSM-policy thinking but still a low understanding of the relationships between institutional change, , in-country resources for problem-solving (norms, standards, values), and incentives. Despite the operational experience, the overall knowledge drawn from the first review of difficulties and delays in project implementation made since the establishment of the PSM unit in the WB and the launching of a large program in this area in the 80s (see Arturo Israel, 1987) has not changed noticeably. There seem to be two reasons, one is the dominant quantitative bias and thus neglecting organizational analysis and local politics (less quantifiable aspects), and the second is the lack of a theory of government (or at least of an integrated concept of ‘governing of government’). Consequently this is a muddled area (governance/governability/network governance/governing/new government/societal governance) that does not help to a fruitful dialogue between economists and specialists from other disciplines as political science. The bottom-line is that everybody talks about ‘incentives’ but nobody seem to know exactly how to manage them as to elicit better performance in a public agency. I trust that soon there will be a follow on WB report taking stock of set of incentives used in this area.

Talib Esmail
April 27, 2011

It is great to see the Bank thinking more seriously about how it breaks out of its somewhat stove-piped approach, to integrate its public sector management thinking across sectors and professional disciplines. The Bank cannot be the only large organization however that faces this challenge of providing a unitary response to "wicked", multi-disciplinary problems. How are we reaching out to other large and complex organizations to learn from them?

Willy McCourt
April 27, 2011

I want to add to the comments of others, especially Stuti Khemani and Richard Allen, on a single highly charged issue: the relationship between politics and PSR, relating it to the ‘public sector results chain’ as it is outlined in the draft. Fools rush in where angels fear to tread: I suspect that this is currently a sore spot within the Bank. But the sore spot may be the one that needs treatment. So I shall blunder on, even though my remarks may be about as welcome as Banquo’s ghost was to Macbeth.

I think putting results at the centre of the debate, in the form of the public sector results chain, is the right strategic decision, as the experience of countries like Malaysia and the UK has shown: this fundamental NPM insight is correct always and everywhere. The ‘Approach’ will have been worth the price of admission if it reminds all of us that results are what we are in business to help clients to deliver.

The centrality of the public sector results chain within the draft makes it very important to get the details right. The links in the chain as it stands are well specified, but as a whole the explanatory force of the chain is not as strong as it could be because it omits politics. The implied reform sequence is:

specify reform (and then) get political buy-in

In other words, we craft our reform proposal, and then we bolt on the politics.

If this was the correct approach, we wouldn’t have the long line of Bank evaluations showing that CSR interventions have had disappointing results. Barbara Nunberg noted this in a paper in 1997, drawing on a large number of Bank evaluations of the period. Essentially the same point is repeated in the Independent Evaluation Group report of 2008 (the report is referenced in the draft). Only last year, a paper was circulated within the Bank with the title Why do Bank-sponsored civil service reform programs such have a poor track record? The consistency of the outcomes, if nothing else, is tremendously impressive!

Part of the answer to that question, I believe, can be found in the truly enormous number of studies of the political economy of reform which show that politics comes first. Within the Bank discourse, the 1998 David Dollar Assessing Aid report is a convenient summary of them. Its basic insight has been fleshed out over the last decade. Within the donor discourse more generally, Dahl-Østergaard et al. (2005) is a good summary.

So I think we must make politics integral to our thinking about reform. However, I gather that within the Bank, there is some resistance, and even resentment, towards political analysis, which might be summed up in the old saying, ‘Fine words butter no parsnips.’ The belief is that political analysis has failed to deliver on its promise. Political analysts have been unable to tell practitioners what they should do differently. Their critiques may be sophisticated, but they are futile – ‘academic’ in the worst sense of the word.

So the challenge for those who are convinced that politics (and in my case, this is a conviction that has strengthened over more than a decade and which I have tracked through a series of publications) is to demonstrate the practical value of political analysis. And if I may say so, the challenge for the Bank is to be open rather than defensive to the extent that said practical value is demonstrated.


By the early 2000s, successive waves of reform in Sri Lanka had resulted in the public sector employing more, not fewer people, despite its commitment to do the opposite, and the major donors had withdrawn in disgust. But that was precisely the point where the government introduced a reform that was more fundamental than anything the donors ever envisaged: a constitutional amendment, passed with the support of over two-thirds of MPs, which restored the independence of the service commissions, including the Public Service Commission. Indigenous reformers believed that while overstaffing was the ‘presenting problem’, the root of the problem lay in the patronage system which was embedded in Sri Lankan public administration and the wider society. Freed from the confounding effect of heavy-handed donor influence, they used their networks to assemble a reform coalition within the major political parties. When I studied it in 2004, the reform was working: in the view of a Deputy Chief of Police, for example (not a soft touch!), political interference had gone down ‘from 90–100% to 5–10%’ of appointments.

There had been reform stirrings bubbling under all along, but the donors were unable to read the signals.
(Source: Chapter 7 of McCourt, W. (2006) The human factor in governance (London: Palgrave Macmillan)


Following the 2008 election in which the ruling BN coalition got the fright of its life, losing the two-thirds majority which it had taken for granted, the government introduced a Governance Transformation Programme. It contains ambitious targets for abolishing hardcore poverty, reducing street crime, improving rural infrastructure etc. The government has oversold its first-year progress and it is still early days, but the progress is real.

But a donor focusing only on public finances might miss that progress altogether, or downplay it, not realising the powerful head of steam behind it, and the sheer irrelevance of other reform models, however powerful in their own terms, within current Malaysian politics. For better or worse, at the moment GTP is the only game in town.
(Source: McCourt, W. (2011) ‘Reconciling top-down and bottom-up: Electoral competition and service delivery in Malaysia’, University of Manchester Working Paper.)

What moral should we draw from these two exhibits? Sensitivity to politics in these two cases means (or would have meant):

• Going with the grain of domestic politics in a way that makes reform more sustainable
• Being more, not less ambitious about the scale of reform. (Why do we always assume that indigenous reformers are less ambitious than we are? From my earlier research, I recall that the donors’ influence in Uganda was to persuade President Museveni in his early fire-breathing phase to moderate his civil service reform ambitions, not to toughen them up.)

However, sensitivity to politics also means being flexible about models of reform that are worth investing in, and having top-rate political intelligence. It is my sincere hope that the draft on which I am commenting shows that the Bank, as the market leader in PSR, wishes to rise to this challenge, and show other development actors the way.

The Bank is the most important international agency working on PSR. That’s not just in terms of amount of money spent, but in its long track record, the reach of its operations and the fact that PSR has remained central to the Bank – different from other major agencies in that respect. Anyone who believes that PSR is central to development must wish to see the Bank as an effective player. I therefore strongly welcome this exercise, and the spirit of self-criticism in which it has clearly been conducted.

April 27, 2011

The Bank's Private Sector Development Strategy Implementation Progress Report describes progress in the investment climate diagnostics. There are questions about the methodology but the approach has undoubtedly changed the debate significantly. The diagnostic path that the PSM approach sets out for the public sector seems a promising equivalent - but there is a lot of details for the devil to hide in if this is to become anything approaching an "industry standard". Does the Bank have the time and the patience to really develop this?

Lanre Rotimi
April 28, 2011

The point we are making, which underlines all contributions thus far, is that in finding; implementing; monitoring, evaluating and assessment of the implementation of sustainable solutions to real and complex PSM Initiative and PSM Training as Single Project, problems on the ground, the PSM Approach should be genuinely understood by all relevant stakeholders to mean PSM Initiative and PSM Training as Single Project:-

a) Whose research, planning, statistics, implementation, monitoring, evaluation and assessment systems are interlinked, interconnected and interdependent and each of the 7 systems is built on openness, transparency, transformation, learning, performance and results.
b) Which adopts Policy, Program, Project Cycle Management and Comprehensive Systemic Reform (3PCM and CSR) or similar Benefits Focused Approach to Trade / Development; Monitoring, Evaluation and Assessment; Service delivery / Performance Management; Elections and Democracy; Diplomacy; Defense / Security; Procurement; Human Rights in all its Ramifications – Political, Economic, Social and Cultural Rights: HR-PESCR; Environment / Climate Change and Management in the work towards achieving Global Visions Ambitions – PSM Initiative; MDGs’; PD; AAA; One UN Initiative; One World Bank Group Initiative; G20 Global Solutions to Global Problems and National Visions Ambitions of both Developed and Developing Countries worldwide.
c) Which adopts scientific approach to Organization, Orientation and Discipline of Individuals and Societies; Institutions and Governments Worldwide.

Can Nick strengthen interactions by responding to points raised by contributors to date and also invite author(s) of the Draft World Bank Approach to PSM 2011 – 2020 and World Bank Program for Results to join him in responding to points raised by present and future contributors?

Sanjay N. Vani
April 29, 2011

Most PS reform articles/papers are increasingly emphasizing the importance of “political economy” analysis before designing any reform interventions. Although in theory it is hard to argue against the importance of understanding political undercurrents and needs of different stakeholders before designing a reform plan, I have yet to see significant mass of evidence to support this theory in the form successful interventions which were designed after careful political economy analysis. Most articles/papers that have underscored the importance of political economy have done so on the basis of analysis of failed interventions or retrofitting successful interventions with political economy analysis done subsequently. There is absence of a critical mass of examples where interventions were designed after careful analysis of the political economy while rejecting certain options that weren’t supported by the conclusions of the PE analysis. Thus the counterfactual has been proven – that most failed reforms lacked a proper political economy analysis. However, a mass of evidence in the form of successful reforms that were preceded by careful analysis of political economy is missing. There are a number of examples of successful reforms that actually go counter to the conclusions of political economy analysis – the liberalization of the Indian economy in early nineties is one such example. The powerful industrial lobby feared liberalization would weaken their dominant position, the bureaucracy feared losing power, the political rulers feared the killing of the golden goose, and the mass of poor India had much less say in the matter. Given this intense opposition by powerful lobbies, political economy analysis would have warned against unleashing liberalization in India. But in reality, the liberalization of the economy has catapulted India onto the world-stage. So the point that I am making is let us not impose a blanket requirement to carry out political economy analysis in the design of each and every PS reform project supported by the Bank.

Marcus Manuel
April 29, 2011

Great to see that the Bank is proposing switching from project based engagement to much more continuous approach. Based on what I've seen from my recent ODI perspective of World Bank work in fragile states this one change will be enormously beneficial.

What didn't stand out from the summary is what the Bank will do to support pay reform. This is too often parked in the "too difficult; too expensive" box. Yet we know govt's and donors' collective failure to address this often undermines all of our reform efforts. Is the Bank prepared to take the lead here?

The other point is about where you locate your staff. Too often the key people are in Washington and not in country. Reforms in this area are difficult and you need to be in country to understand the politics; spot the opportunities and work with others to overcome the constraints. Lack of people to support the reforms is a much more common reason for failure than lack of technical analysis or the right diagnostic tool. And within country I've also been surprised to find World Bank managed sector specific pooled funds being based in the Ministry of Finance and not the sector ministry.

Good luck with taking this forward!

Nicola Smithers
April 29, 2011

This a very clear and persuasively-written paper that marks a significant advance in the Bank's thinking on public sector management. Very importantly it provides concrete steps in a number of directions, of which these in particular stand out for me:
1. Design and implementation of programs for results. The Approach proposes some critical innovations including (i) diagnosis of functional problems, binding institutional constraints and options- the methodology, provision of tools and on-going support to teams in collaboration with HD look a very promising package (ii) flexibility, adaptability and consideration of the "reform space" including the demand-side in implementation of PSM programs. This latter point speaks somewhat to important political economy considerations that other commentators are raising, and warrants more explanation and emphasis.
2. Explicit and systematic learning. The major program of monitoring, analysis and research to learn how public institutions perform and what works in PSM reform is central to improving results, and has the potential to fundamentally change how this work is done. This work is essential, and facilitating others to contribute is a great idea. The provision of a menu of robust indicators will be very helpful to country/bank task teams, and will support learning from Bank projects – the clarification that these will be optional and can be tailored is very welcome.
3. A holistic view and coordinated approach to PSM. The Approach tackles the critical issue of needing to understand both the upstream and the downstream of PSM – one or other alone provides an incomplete view of the incentives impacting performance, th results chain, how functions perform and resources are actually managed, and what is required to bring about sustainable change. The specific proposals to encourage multi-sectoral team working seek to address a binding constraint for doing this.
4. Setting targets and tracking progress. The involvement of country partners, as well as other development agencies, in developing common indicators would be very positive. A collaborative development process is critical for legitimacy and for collaboration in application, as the paper explains, though it would be important to note that this also means it is likely to be a major task – in effort and elapsed time. There are also significant resourcing implications for data collection – collaborating with others will share these costs, but the high coverage achieved for PEFA has undoubtedly been motivated in part by fiduciary requirements for budget support as the paper notes.
A few queries/suggestions:
• Standards. Is it necessary or desirable to propose the definition of "standards" against which assessment will be made of "compliance"? "Compliance with standards" may generate a negative reaction, or give the wrong impression about how this would be undertaken and for what purpose. Would anything be lost by instead referring to a common set of performance measures? More substantively, the major challenge in the development of PEFA was less about agreeing on the indicators and more about how the framework would be applied and for what purpose- it was important to balance the desire for monitoring information with domestically-driven processes of change. Deciding specifically on these will be part of the collaborative development process but signaling upfront the intention and tone would be important.
• Change management. It would be helpful to more explicitly bring out the need for understanding and adopting effective change strategies and management– in the piloting of new approaches to implementation, and in the learning program, in particular. This, together with the thinking on how to empower stakeholders to create reform space and bring about change, is something on which WBI could contribute.
• Consultations. It could be useful to include in the document the collaboration process built into its preparation, involving partners inside and outside the Bank. Getting partners on board to the Approach while it is being developed (and allowing them to contribute) would enhance the likelihood of support, resources and collaboration being forthcoming once it is launched.

Anthony Higgins
May 01, 2011

Picking up Richard Allen's and Willy Mccourt's discussion of the importance of the political dimension, my experience in implementing or evaluating PFM or PSR reform projects in Africa, Asia and the Pacific, is that political initiative and sustained political involvement in the reform program is strongly associated with any degree of success. Unfortunately donors tend to measure political involvement with attendance at inception workshops and signatures on loan agreements or MOUs. Civil service officials have finely tuned antennae when it comes to picking up on any real level of interest or commitment from their own ministers and from Cabinet. PFM and PSR projects require a sustained level of commitment over 5 years or more from Cabinet, the PM and the Finance Minister (and of course this implies some level of political stability and continuity is also helpful). Unless they are there when it counts to remove obstacles, deal with turf wars and inertia, deal with recalcitrant officials and consultants, their next point of involvement will be at a point of crisis when the IFMIS is about to fail, or the PSR project is be closed down by the donor because of lack of progress. How many times have I sat on steering committee meetings where the chair (Minister of Finance or the Finance Secretary) has apologised and been replaced by an innocent but politically powerless official? If the officials sense genuine political interest and consequences, they will engage more with the reform.

PFM and PSR reforms by definition require the involvement and cooperation across several ministries. Where the lead ministry is faced with inertia or a lack of cooperation, it will often require Cabinet or its Ministers to demonstrate the importance of the reform, and to guarantee consequences.

Could the Bank and its partners explore further the possibility using performance assessment frameworks for budget support and similar evaluation instruments to more genuinely link sustained political engagement to program support?

Carlos Santiso
May 02, 2011

The World Bank’s proposed new approach to public sector management raises a number of important challenges and proposes avenues to explore for policy makers and development practitioners interested in understanding and strengthening public sector governance. We all agree that public sector management is critical to development and poverty reduction, as effective, open and accountable government is crucial to governments’ ability to deliver results across sectors. Further, we all now agree that understanding the political economy of public sector management and its reform is central to any effort to improve it; we need to look beyond the forms to the functions of public sector management and better understand the institutions, interests and incentives shaping public sector performance.

But are we really practicing what we preach in our lending operations in support to public sector management? Would we actually still be doing PSM lending operations if we were? The challenge is to effectively translate this knowledge into practice to improve the design of PSM operation and mainstreaming governance concerns across sectors so as to improve operational effectiveness of development finance institutions such as the World Bank. It also requires addressing the political economy of development finance institutions themselves.

In a way, the proposed approach seems to reflect a certain disillusion within the public sector management field. The 2008 IEG evaluation of the World Bank’s public sector management work showed mixed results, with promising improvements in the area of public financial management, but less in the areas of civil service reform or judicial reform. For development practitioners, the approach paper actually proposes the end of public sector governance as a “vertical sector” malleable to direct interventions and dedicated projects, and its transformation into a horizontal concern that ought to be mainstreamed across government functions and in particular in those sector critical for service delivery. It challenges us to rethink, recast and reposition the public sector governance agenda in the broader development field.

Rather than an end it itself, the new approach decisively proposes to apprehend public sector governance agenda not as an end in itself measured by improvements in institutional and policy quality, but as a means to achieve development results and whose performance depends on its capacity to deliver. In fact, the World Bank’s new Africa Strategy adopted in March 2011 also treats governance and public sector capacity no longer as a sector pillar or vertical sector, but rather as the foundation of its strategy to improve competitiveness and employment, while reducing vulnerability and improving resilience.

The proposed new approach is indeed seducing and tempting, but would it work? It does help recast the public sector management agenda - both upstream (at the strategic level of the machinery of government) and downstream (at the sector level focusing on service delivery and development results) – giving it a renewed sense of purpose it has somehow lost in the past decade. The danger of mainstreaming is to dilute the public sector governance “sector” until it evaporates in the air, being everywhere and nowhere.

Lanre Rotimi
May 02, 2011

Your points touch the Heart of IMPLEMENTING this PSM Vision. Our view is that the Big Issue is not that the World Bank Group, WBG, create the time and the patience to really develop Industry Standard Diagnostic Path to PSM Approach necessary to Professionally tackle real and complex Village to Global problems on the ground within work towards achieving PSM Vision; it is two fold – that WBG Muster the Political Will necessary for achieving PSM Vision ambition on successful and sustainable basis and that WBG Professionally tackle Muddled Thinking Challenge within International Development Cooperation Challenge. The points laying emphasis on Diagnostic Approach that is an Integral part of Joined Up Approach / Strategic Thinking Approach made by Lanre, William, Jana, Benjamin, Talib, Willy and Anonymous underline the Fact that this is the Big Issue.

To effectively address this Big Issue, the Big Questions are:-
1. Does WBG recognize that
a) Achieving WBG Vision Ambition – Our Dream is a World without Poverty, greatly depends on achieving PSM Vision, ICR Vision, CLEAR Vision, MfDR Vision, Visions of other WBG Initiatives Ambitions?
b) Operationalizing (1a) in Practice greatly depends on shifting focus away from complex problems and passing blame and shifting focus towards practical solutions and creating opportunities?
c) Operationalizing (1b) in Practice demand WBG authorities correctly identify Professionals with adequate Hard Competencies – Learning and Skills and Soft Competencies – Character, Courage and Mindset; Empower, Promote and Protect these Professionals on WBG, other G20 Institutions, G20 Countries, Non G20 Countries, Non G20 Institutions, CSOs’ – National and International sides through provision of adequate support – influence resources, technical resources and funding resources.
d) Operationalizing (1c) in Practice greatly depends on accepting Overarching Lessons Learnt in past 51 years of International Development Cooperation is that No Lessons have been Learnt and taking Practical Action Steps to ensure that Moving Forward Lessons are Actually Learnt from Lessons Learnt.
e) All good ideas and pertinent suggestions generated in continuing PSM Vision Discussions need to be harvested and implemented on time?

2. Will WBG deliver on its Duties and responsibilities as basis for Enjoying its Rights in the work towards overcoming PSM Initiative and PSM Training as Single Project Challenge?

3. Can WBG deliver on its Duties and responsibilities in the work towards Overcoming PSM Initiative and PSM training as Single Project Challenge without taking prompt ACTION on all good points made by contributors to this ongoing PSM Discussion?

In finding practical answers to these Big Questions, WBG need to recognize that:-
1. The WBG cannot on its own tackle all real and complex village to global PSM Initiative and PSM Training as Single Project Linked Political Process, Human Factor, Technical Process, Capacity Building, Financial Factor, Consensus Building and Consultation Process problems on the ground, hence the need at this early stage for Inclusive Consultation and Negotiation Process that is an Integral Part of a Comprehensive Testing Framework for PSM Initiative and PSM Training as Single Project.

2. The Task to overcome PSM Initiative and PSM Training as Single Project Challenge in (1) is a Task that must be done, if sustainable solutions are to be found to World Food, Fuel, Finance and Terrorism Problems and Global Recession problems on the ground.

3. PSM Vision Complex problems are soluble. It is Not Impossible to find; implement; monitor, evaluate and assess practical solutions to PSM Initiative and PSM Training as Single Project problems on the ground – many of these problems have been identified in ongoing discussions; should WBG be prepared and determined to face New Direction, adopt New Priorities and Support New Partnerships – in the work towards achieving PSM Vision, ICR Vision, CLEAR Vision, MfDR Vision, Visions of other WBG Initiatives Ambitions within One WBG Initiative Ambition effectively linked to work towards achieving Global Visions Ambitions – MDGs’; PD; AAA; One UN Initiative’ G20 Global Solutions to Global Problems and Developed / Developing Countries Governments National Visions Ambitions.

4. Current National and International developments present Bright Prospects of Success in the work towards achieving PSM Vision Ambition. The successful and sustainable implementation of PSM Vision would Mark Turning Point in International Development Cooperation and Deliver Sustainable Benefits to Citizens on both Developed and Developing Countries sides, particularly the Billions of World Poor. Poverty, including Child Poverty, is increasing in Developed Countries including the US and UK and so Fighting Poverty is no Longer Matter of Charity and Morality but also Matter of Economic Well Being and National Security for Developed Countries.

5. Global Collective Action for WBG and Partners Best to be Good Enough is necessary condition for achieving PSM Vision on successful and sustainable basis. Should WBG accept to serve as Central Actor and jointly with other Central Actors – Powerful International Institutions, particularly the EC; Powerful Developed Countries Governments, particularly US, UK, France and Germany and Powerful Developing Countries Governments particularly Nigeria, South Africa, Brazil and China Drive Change in the International Development Cooperation System; this Global Collective Action could be Built in Record time and Maintained to Deliver Sustainable Benefits to Citizens on both Developed and Developing Countries sides within implementation of the Global and National Visions Initiatives.

Former Sector Manager Turned Academic
May 02, 2011

The PSM Approach paper signals a welcome shift in the direction of the Bank's public sector work. It's good to see the Bank start to explicitly upgrade PSM services to adjust to changes in the country "market" and to try to align upstream improvements and downstream results.

Several points could be more forcefully emphasized in the paper. One is the need for data collection and assembly on public pay and employment. This is a very important knowledge and monitoring gap that the Bank needs to fill.

The second is the need to actually understand the causal link between "upstream" efforts and "downstream" effects in the sectors. Without this, there is a risk that the system-wide efforts will be abandoned in favor of exclusively sectoral interventions. This would be an unfortunate overcorrection. This is an important part of the applied research agenda -- one that cannot be fully addressed by the "randomista" approach.

As a major part of the applied research agenda, it would also be good to see more emphasis given to much more systematic analysis of the successes, where country institutions have moved from A to M, as in Brazil (all over LAC and Asia, of course.) How has the steady acceleration and refinement of demand for improved services over a period of years interacted with more capable government to produce better results. It would be a major leap to move beyond faddish "boxes" in reports that advertise success before it's actually been documented and understood properly.

The global practice approach as applied to public management could be further fleshed out, particularly with regard to a framework for a more explicit mentoring and training strategy that could raise the bar for all PSM staff across the institution. This global practice would benefit from a systematic process to glean generalizable lessons from this global practice, once it's launched.

Some parts of the paper could be strengthened. The paper calls for cohesion and coherence while simultaneously implying that there's still a relative dearth of consensual wisdom. This discussion doesn't square neatly with the rejection of "best practice."

The paper over-sells the panacea of diagnostics. While diagnosing a problem before supplying the solution is of course sensible, diagnostic frameworks seem sometimes to be offered up when we don't have anything else to propose. They should be seen as a means to an end.

The strategy seems insular; It would be more modern to see the bank hooked up globally not just to other donors but to global practice (countries and consultancies) and research (think tanks, academia.)

Finally, the paper may be over-pushing indicators as a panacea. We know they don't work for everything and they sometimes feel like the intervention of last resort: when you don't know what to do, measure it. Having said this, the effort to integrate PSM with the broader Bank's move to an outcome-, results-based approach is clearly very welcome.

In all, though, nicely done; a fresh and sensible approach.

Malcolm Green
May 02, 2011

1. Best practices, typologies, and diagnostics: how to go about PSM

The report proposes a role for the Bank as ‘thought-leader’. This is critical. But what should this mean in the context of PSM reform? I very much welcome the theme emerging in the draft paper of getting the Bank to think about public management in a much more systemic way, as this will lead to wholly different kinds of intervention in different circumstances.

The draft quite rightly highlights the limitations of ‘best practices’. The use of ‘best practices’, however, should not be completely abandoned. But they are really only relevant in relatively simple situations, where the issues are well-defined and are generally understood and agreed by everybody. Such situations do exist, but not that often.

But there is also a danger (happily not found in the draft strategy report) of other sorts of typologies being introduced to replace ‘best practice’. All such approaches are characterized by a pre-defined set of solutions or methods being in place in advance of any data collection in the institutions being reformed. The reverse approach is what should be adopted, of undertaking diagnostic work as a first step and then deciding what might work - and this is recognised to some extent in the draft strategy. I would like to see this theme developed much more strongly.

Typically, the situation in PSM reform is that the context is likely to be at least complicated – often more than complicated. In such situations it can be impossible to know in advance what intervention will work and what won’t: the range of appropriate responses is likely to be contained within ‘let’s experiment a little and see what works’ – albeit by informed practitioners operating within some sort of structure. As is noted in the report, there are now some interesting diagnostic tools available in management science to guide this kind of thinking. It would be good to think that the new lending tools that the Bank is developing could provide for an initial diagnostic (N.B. not design) phase, with considerable flexibility granted after that to permit very different solutions being tried. If such lending tools were combined with thought-leadership on the use of a preferred diagnostic tool, then this could become a powerful new approach for the Bank in PSM reform.
So, there are dangers in new typologies being offered (as some bloggers have suggested). But there are considerable opportunities in using systemic diagnostic tools to approach PSM reform in a way which retains structure, but which is agnostic on the eventual solutions to be used. There are clear benefits to be realised: appropriate reform solutions based on evidence; and lower risks in implementation. Maybe an example of a systems-based diagnostic approach should be developed for this strategy paper in order to illustrate what this would mean, and how it could work?

2. Technology

The word ‘technology’ literally does not appear in the draft strategy report at all, and this is surely an oversight. The delivery of many public services, and citizens’ transactions with the state, may be transformed by the use of technology. What is the significance of this for the Bank? At the very least, surely, it is ensuring that its PSM practitioners are aware of developments in this field. But also, the diagnostic tools that may play a more central role in PSM reform often depend on technology. The Bank will surely need to become much more proficient in the use of technology for public management purposes if it is to be of continued value to its clients in PSM reform. More work is required on this!

Mark Robinson
May 02, 2011

The Bank's updated approach to public sector management is very welcome. Four elements of this approach stand out for particular attention. First, the emphasis on links between institutional reforms at the centre of government with durable results in sector line ministries through improved service delvery outcomes and fiscal stability. Second, the recognition that incremental approaches focused on a more manageable set of objectives and reforms stand a better chance of success than complex and overly ambitious reforms across the whole of government. Third, the move away from best practice approaches to careful and continuous diagnosis of context and client needs as the basis for best fit approaches. Fourth, recognition of the importance of more systematic research and impact evaluation to inform the design and potential success of country operations.

The approach could usefully be refined in a number of respects. First, as already noted by several commentators, it could highlight the importance of political factoes in shaping reform outcomes more directly. The experience of the Bank and other donors has repeatedly shown how the best designed reforms can founder in the face of political resistance and bureaucratic opposition. Making the right decisions about political buy-in and organisational leadership are central considerations in the design phase of PSM reforms and have a critial bearing on risk assessment. Second, the revised approach could be more explicit about reform trajectories in fragile states and in countries emerging from protracted conflict, thus providing an important bridge with the 2011 WDR. Some of the most ambitious reforms are currently being planned in the most challenging institutional environments as an integral element in a broader state-building approach. The revised PSM approach might usefully highlight lessons learned from PSM reforms in fragile states as distinct from other LICs and MICs as this is a major gap in existing knowledge. Third, clearer distinctions between the different components of PSM reform are essential for designing more effective interventions. The IEG evaluation highlights the better performance of PFM and taxation relative to civil service reforms and anti-corruption. This is also borne out by the experience of other aid donors. It is striking that client demand and lending for the more successful areas continues to increase while the share of civil service reform has been declining.

Bank leadership in public sector management is both acknowledged and welcomed by many in the donor community. Developing better evidence through improved research and evaluation is clearly a shared agenda with other donors and an area ripe for stronger partnerships and lesson learning. Another area that has considerable potential for joint approaches and mutual learning lies in enhancing the knowledge and skills of specialist staff in donor organisations founded on stronger communities of practice that learn from each other and are not solely internally-focused. Better evidence and deeper skills in the most challenging areas of public sector management reform are integral to the success of the revised approach.

Lyn Squire
May 03, 2011

I read with interest the proposed approach to PSM spelled out in Better Results from Public Institutions -- very impressive and thoughtful. It's clear that the effort has to grapple with all sorts of unknowns and this is fully reflected in the emphasis on risk and on learning. Both seem perfectly sensible to me.

My comment is with respect to the emphasis on results. Clearly, this has merit but raises two questions in my mind.

First,suppose that we have a PSM intervention designed to improve financial accountability in the Public Works Department (I have no idea whether this is a reasonable example or not. If the latter, please insert your own.) Suppose further that the intervention involves the introduction of checks and balances and that the desired results are achieved. Is this a good intervention? My answer is I don't know until I've examined the costs of the checks and balances. What is wanted is results achieved at reasonable cost. Costs may be rather nebulous in some PSM interventions but nevertheless the idea that all actions have some costs and that in some cases the costs may exceed any reasonable valuation of the results ought to be recognized. Costs are not mentioned anywhere in the document (or at least the ES). They should be at least as a reminder that 'results' only tell us something about one side of the equation.

The second point raises the question of the 'counterfactual'. Staying with the same example, can the observed results automatically be attributed to the checks and balances? Possibly, but other factors may have also contributed or perhaps the better results would have occurred even without the intervention. Identifying to the extent possible what would have happened without the intervention is essential to understanding its real contribution. The with and without principle is a useful device for thinking about any intervention and I don't see why it's not relevant to PSM. Again, I did not see 'counterfactual' mentioned in the document.

A key point made in the document is the importance of learning from ongoing interventions. Thinking about costs and the counterfactual are critical to understanding the merit of any intervention. Results by themselves only tell part of the story.

Lyn Squire
Former Director of Development Policy for the World Bank Chief Economist and retired President of the Global Development Network

Gord Evans
May 06, 2011

The report introduces some welcome emphasis on pragmatism and expectation management in PSM interventions. These comments, for the most part, relate to implementing the overall approach rather than the report per se.
Dealing with Political Risk
The report rightly emphasizes the high level of risk in PSM interventions and encourages a stronger risk assessment (a diagnostic tool is mentioned). I haven’t seen the diagnostic tool, but my suspicion would be that the most common factor underpinning a high-risk scenario for PSM interventions would be political indifference, gaming, and/or opposition. This raises the delicate issue of how to assess and manage the politics; i.e., when and how to say no, or at least how to downscale the intervention to fit the inherent risk in the political environment. A full assessment could be informed by a diagnostic, but would also need to include an appropriate forum for a frank discussion concerning the political risk. How this would work in practice needs some thought as it obviously touches on sensitive, even diplomatic issues.
A related dimension of this issue is the need for continual, not just ex-ante, risk assessment. Development interventions, once underway, create considerable institutional momentum to make it to the finish line (usually 2-5 years away). High risk may continue to be acknowledged, but there rarely seems to be any clear understanding of what to do when the risk turns out to be real and results are not forthcoming. More adaptive, risk-responsive designs should be considered (this reinforces the “agility in delivery” theme in the paper).
Terminating Dysfunctional Reforms
The Bank’s role as thought leader/knowledge generator could be particularly useful in identifying reforms that rarely if ever work and lobbying for their discontinuation. The impact on PSM results would presumably be beneficial if funding was directed away from these structural, money-wasting losers.
One egregious example (which you know very well) would be conventional functional reviews. It is not just that these expensive development interventions do not fully realize their goals, they rarely achieve any at all. The primary reason seems to be disconnect between the marketing of the reform (streamlining, modernization, savings) and the political implications of the recommendations (which finally dawn on the politicians when the recommendations come forward well into the project). A vigilant risk assessment would require that the incredibly rare winning conditions for functional reviews (e.g., Canada 1994) are in place before proceeding.
I suspect that comprehensive public administration reform programs might also fall into the structural loser category, but that’s another discussion.
Rethinking Best Practices
The report points out that developed countries, especially middle income, are looking to import/adapt developed-country best practices. It also comments on the perception that the Bank is always invested in best practices, and acknowledges the shortcomings of such an approach. A nuance here is the way in which a best practice approach distorts the conception of the reform process; i.e., developing country x proceeds, linearly, towards a best practice benchmark that theoretically exists in developed country y.
Part of the problem is that (outside of OECD perhaps), the professional development community has only anecdotal knowledge of how these so-called best practices actually work in developed countries. If I think of Canada, for instance, the quality of our PSM systems does not just sit at a “best practice” level. Over time, they may improve, deteriorate, become outmoded, and then be adapted and re-energized. The necessary political attention required for a reform push will only be available sporadically.
If we accept that these cycles exist, then reform implementation approaches need to move away from the linear, best-practices approach and build in the capacity to identify and mitigate periods of performance decline and political inattention.
From the Bank’s perspective, perhaps more effort needs to be placed on understanding the dynamics of PSM systems in developed as well as the range of developing countries.
Projects/Interventions as Research Opportunities
I’m sure this has been considered, but given the fiscal constraints against expanded research, could PSM knowledge be generated by incorporating a modest data collection/analytic component into actual TA projects/interventions/Bank involvements, perhaps in collaboration with other donors? This obviously could not be as rigorous as PEFA, but there may be some critical PSM indicators/analysis that could be collected and aggregated by the Bank.
Centre of Government/Upstream Institutions
The report makes the useful distinction between upstream and downstream institutions and rightfully includes the office at the centre of government along with MoF as the main upstream institutions. I also notice that the gap in policy management skills was identified as the highest-ranked major problem affecting project design/implementation of Bank projects (figure 13).
This report isn’t the place for a centre of government discussion, but it might be worth reinforcing a couple of points: the importance of sound policy management practices to realizing policy reliability at the sector level; and, the need to ensure that the government’s policy and financial management systems are mutually reinforcing.
Beyond this report, we should be considering how to make some of this “tacit” practitioner knowledge on centre of government/policy management, and its linkages to public financial management, more explicit.
Informally, I’ve had a couple of exchanges with the PEFA Secretariat about the need for a modest companion to PEFA that covers off the policy side (this was also a topic of the fireplace conversation I moderated on ). In some recent work on an Eastern European country, , a PEFA assessment would have missed the way in which the government decision-making system consistently subverts the fiscal framework (e.g., passing slews of laws without a proper fiscal assessment; walking unvetted items into Cabinet; using emergency ordinances; etc.). The PEFA Secretariat are interested in this issue and agreed that this is a gap that needed to be addressedIn any event, this is one area that could be made a little less tacit. This would also help address the skills gap identified in figure 13.

Alice Poole
May 05, 2011

Thanks Nick, Jurgen and team for sharing a provocative PSM approach which at least steers us in a more results-driven and operational direction. To add two ha'penny worth of remarks on a few of the insightful comments above:

i) In response to Sanjay's comment... as a facilitator of the Bank's 200-strong Community of Practice (CoP) on PE, I wryly nodded my head in agreement with his statement that we can prove that most failed reforms lacked a proper political economy analysis but we are missing the evidence of successful reforms preceded by careful analysis of political economy. Nevertheless, the CoP is trying to develop this evidence base - at least at the early stages of project design - by working on a set of 'impact stories' to show how PE analysis is being incorporated into project design by teams ... whether the projects deliver better outcomes is a question a couple of years too early (at least)for us to begin to answer but it's a start. Another start would be having more robust PE analyses of public sector work in the first place - there are surprisingly few of these in either the Bank or in other donors, especially compared with other sectors.

ii) In response to Mark Robinson's multi-pronged comment, it may be worth noting that a team in the Public Sector & Governance group at the Bank (PRMPS) is working on a research project aiming to provide better operational guidance to colleagues working in the field developing governance and public sector programming in fragile and conflict-affected states. The idea is set out a coherent analytical and diagnostic framework which identifies the fundamental causes of fragility and conflict, and which uses a state-building ‘template’ against which governance and public sector investment options can be assessed. This is likely to be out in the summer.

And, thinking about results - is it worth us thinking more about the incremental wins that can be made through process re-engineering? The bread and butter of management consultancy firms working on public sector engagement, there's a lot of successful reform that can be built up in such a way, and it can weave in strengthening governance, accountability and, perhaps, even e-governance (Warren's point) or e-government along the way.

Finally, the gauntlet...
I know some of the reasons why the Bank has historically done little on justice sector reform, and note that we still do pockets of it in regions (e.g. ECA) but, given the emphasis on justice in the recent WDR, isn't it time to think again about its place in our work? I don't imply that we should start dealing with police forces, but broader (criminal) justice reform, including supporting court building and efficiency ( management systems) or, for example, prison infrastructure etc. could all be areas where the Bank, along with country governments and other donors, could play a vital role in improving justice, and hence the legitimacy of new state-building efforts. Especially in fragile and post-conflict states. So what about it?

Alice Poole, PRMPS and ECA

Lanre Rotimi
May 05, 2011

Your point” The proposed new approach is indeed seducing and tempting, but would it work?” raises fundamental issues of Diagnosis, Prescription, Surgery and Recovery Management and Good Diagnosis as starting point for Policy, Program, Project Interventions within PSM and other International Development Cooperation Initiatives. To address these issues the WGD needs to recognize:-
1. The Link between Good Diagnosis and Competencies, Motivation and Drive of Internal and External Consultants on one hand and adequate Governing Council / Executive Board Political and Financial Support on the other hand.
2. The Link between Good Diagnosis (particularly of the Consultative Research and Diagnostic Study type with a package of Orientation Workshops; Technical and Engineering Surveys; Financial Surveys and Administrative and Management Surveys) and Good Prescription; Good Surgery and Good Recovery Management.
3. A Chain is as strong as its weakest link component. The weaker one or more link components, the higher the deterioration from Good Diagnosis to Flawed Diagnosis to Failed Diagnosis and same for Prescription, Surgery and Recovery Management.
4. Operationalizing (1) –(3) in Practice in the work towards achieving increasing convergence between Original PSM Vision Intention and Reality, greatly depend on Webmaster, Blogger Nick and Blog Administrator persuading relevant WBG authorities to consider breaking new ground through ensuring that ongoing PSM Discussions are effectively harmonized and coordinated in ways that help produce a PSM – SAIF (Single Agenda Implementation Framework) Document and PSM – SAIF Testing Document and continue with relevant follow up actions set out in the 2 documents.

It is pertinent to note that submission cleared for posting demonstrate WBG tolerance for diversity of PSM Perspectives. This is commendable. It appears the traffic pattern suggest that this tolerance help to create confidence in Professionals with expertise, experience and exposure to share, that encourage their participation in the ongoing discussions. However, active interactive discussion is yet to start, as only one participant has made multiple submissions to date.

With 22 comments as at this posting, this PSM discussion has broken existing traffic level for discussions on this World Bank Blog Platform. The PSM Discussion has thus far generated significant amount of good ideas and pertinent suggestions, indicating high probability of your question being answered in the positive and on sustainable basis. However, the Real Test of Credibility of PSM Discussion is How it helps WBG and Partners to Deliver:-
1. Improving International Development Cooperation Effectiveness
2. Improving International Development Cooperation Impact
3. Improving Good Corporate Governance Practices on World Bank Group; other International Institutions; Developed / Developing Countries Governments; CSOs’ – National and International sides.

Our thoughts on How PSM Planning Side – Research, Planning and Statistics; Implementation side – Implementation and Evaluation side – Monitoring, Evaluation and Assessment is Linked to PSM Learning, Performance and Results and related matters would be set out in Achieving World Bank New PSM Vision Ambition 3 to be submitted shortly.

Bill Dorotinsky
May 05, 2011

The ‘strategy’ is coming along nicely, and the process has generated valuable introspection and discussion. Intuitively, the strategic directions of (1) design risk mitigation (2) knowledge management and (3) skills and staffing "feel" right. However, to me there seems to be a gap between the specifics levers listed under each direction and the strategic directions themselves (perhaps some missing items?). I wonder if we have a complete picture of the weaknesses, and are picking the weakest links to address, and if for the areas we’ve picked to focus have interventions that will in fact address most directly the problems identified.

One approach that might be followed to help assure complete picture is to
• list all the current problems or reasons the projects are problematic or not performing, why we think learning is not occurring, and staffing issues, and
• address how one(and if) would objectively measure these problems (or, what would the ideal situation look like, and can we measure it if it were achieved). Assigning relative weights to the problems, in terms of how much we think each contribute to the poor performance (at least consensus based), and arraying these from relatively more problematic to less, would help.
• Identify what interventions would most directly address the issues. Perhaps array these from the measures that would most directly or substantively address the problems, and select a few interventions deemed most likely to address the problems.
This would provide a monitorable framework in terms of actions and measuring whether the problems are being corrected. My fear is that there are mismatches, partial problem definitions, and partial solutions. If this is the case, we will not have much to show at the end of the next cycle.

For example, strategic direction 1 on design risk has as its first element (1) improving responsiveness to country programs. The measure or intervention under this heading is to ‘enable more flexible TA and dialogue through flexible instruments to reduce dependence on PSM projects.’ The problem this implicitly addresses would appear to be inflexible instruments and inability to carry on a dialogue with our clients. This hypothesis should be more explicitly stated as such, to enable challenge and testing. From my experience, it is not clear to me we need a new instrument, or that we lack instruments with which to maintain a dialogue with clients. Whenever we engage with a client on public sector (or other issues), we must think of the current engagements, and all instruments, we might employ. It would not be unusual to start some work as TA under a DPL discussion, followed by some work via ESW, then perhaps a specific lending operation which also leverages donor resources under a trust fund to support project implementation and reforms. Over a period of 5-10 years, the dialogue and support would appear continuous, and support results on the ground, but the vehicle or instrument (financing) varied at any point in time. (This ‘holistic’ approach would also be a more appropriate means of evaluating impact --- looking at the impact of just the ESW work, for example, would be a very partial picture, and not show the impact in the short time horizon of the ESW.)

So, if the PS strategy is positing that public sector projects or reforms perform poorly because of inappropriate or inflexible instruments, I would suggest that is not the case, and also not the problem or constraint to having impact. We would have a wrong solution to the wrong problem, and any efforts would not likely much improve public sector reform fortunes when this strategy is evaluated in future.

I am not advocating a dry, pedantic exercise, but would encourage a more rigorous approach to problem definition, metrics, and interventions, to be sure we are tackling the most important problems, have the right solutions, can monitor implementation and impact, and have the highest likelihood of improving impact.

Stephane Guimbert
May 06, 2011

The draft approach paper is a very rich sum of experience, lessons learned, and new proposals, and the comments on this blog page already present a wealth of points and counterpoints. So I will just focus on three points.

The emphasis on diagnostics is well taken but should not be misinterpreted as “whatever works” A doctor that is diagnosing a patient has in the back of her mind a range of theories that are connecting symptoms to medicines. It is therefore important that the research agenda of the PSM approach paper includes further elaboration of these “theories”, perhaps more correctly named “contextual guesses”, and what each of them means in terms of interventions. It is fair to worry that such categorization could bring us back to “best practices”, but this is unavoidable.

This way of looking at diagnostics is also important so that we can learn over time. If each diagnostics is based on a range of ultra-specific contextual factors, the sum of intervention case studies will never add up to any “lesson learned”.

Second point, on political economy. I think Richard, Willy and Sanjay have thrown a very healthy debate in the discussion, which Alice takes up nicely. It seems to me a fair critic to challenge that we can operationalize (or that we ever have) findings from political economy analysis (although failing by ignorance does not seem more attractive than failing by incapacity to influence).

I think that where political economy could help would-be reformers, and their advisors, is in helping formulating a realistic theory of change (cf. also point Nicola makes). Most PSM interventions are predicated on some implicit change process – forcing this process to be explicit and tested against basic political economy (at least ex ante) would seem to be progress. A basic feature of such theory of change would be to set some realistic expectations on timing (cf. nice post by Michael Woolcock on the difference between an oak tree and a sunflower…).

Another area where political economy could be directed is the issue of demand for PSM reforms. This links back to the issue of connecting PSM to sectors – service delivery or regulatory functions. Who is supporting change? What kind of change is in demand and how far are stakeholders willing to push for it? As Nick notes, PSM is difficult because it requires many thousands of public agents to alter their behavior: so if demand is not strong, it will fail.

Third point, on results. Again, a welcome addition. This should really push the envelope in terms of measurement. As the “former sector manager turned academic” noted, “public pay and employment” seems basic. But they are a range of other functions where comparative data would help diagnostics, research, and focus on results.

Mark Ahern
May 06, 2011

As someone working on PFM reform - most recently in the Middle East -I found much to agree with in the proposed public sector management approach. In particular:

• the need for an ongoing dialogue to identify the real problems and constraints, and provide timely support.
• the benefit of a flexible approach to implementation that recognizes that the reform path is unpredictable and requires the reformer to take opportunities as they arise.
• the value in a local solution that invariably has greater ownership than a parachuted in “best practice” model.

One issue raised by the approach, however, is the resource implications for the Bank. To implement a more nuanced and flexible approach there is a need for experienced PSM specialists with up to date country knowledge. Without this it would be difficult to have the necessary understanding of the underlying PSM systems and country context to advise on:

• what really are the “functional” problems?
• whether a home grown reform is a “good fit” solution, or a wasteful dead end? or
• whether a departure from the initial reform plan is astute management in light of the evolving country context, or a wrong turn that will not deliver results?

The Bank has been prepared to make an investment in country based (or linked) specialist staff in other areas of activity in order to have the necessary mix of skills and country knowledge - economic monitoring comes to mind. Is it a priority to do something similar on public sector management?

John Gonzalez
May 06, 2011

I reviewed the draft Approach and also reviewed a background note “World Bank Lending Instruments and Public Sector Management” prepared by Nick Manning, Mike Stevens, Alexandre Arrobbio and Alberto Leyton available on the Bank's intranet.

It seems to me that interest in borrowing from the Bank, however concessional the lending, might be lessening given the increasing availability of international credit. In consequence, it will presumably be more difficult for the World Bank to support countries’ public sector reform processes through lending, particularly for technical assistance - and the dialogue will be more easily taken off course by political considerations.

A more robust focus on reform programs will likely be more feasible at the subnational level. Assisting subnational governments would probably have more impact and results - and, in contrast to the situation at the national level, the local and subnational governments find it hard to get access to credit and so might be more interested in Bank finance.

Thus the introduction of the P4R lending instrument could provide a good opportunity for subnational lending as it “will disburse not against transactions under Bank procurement and FM rules, but for targeted results achieved using country systems… and Bank disbursement will be triggered by the indicator and no matching eligible expenditure will be necessary”.

Lanre Rotimi
May 07, 2011

Your point “….I wryly nodded my head in agreement with his statement that we can prove that most failed reforms lacked a proper political economy analysis but we are missing the evidence of successful reforms preceded by careful analysis of political economy” is a Puzzle. The solution to this Puzzle could be found in WBG recognizing:-
1. The interlinkages, interdependencies and interconnectivities between research, planning, statistics, implementation, monitoring, evaluation and assessment in each PPPI (Policy, Program, Project Intervention) in each WBG Initiative e.g. PSM, MfDR, ICR, CLEAR, others or indeed any International / National Development Cooperation Initiative on International Institutions and Developed / Developing Countries Governments sides.
2. That overcoming muddled thinking challenges within (1) is necessary condition for achieving success on sustainable basis, because: -
Wrong Answer to Wrong Question is Disaster
Wrong Answer to Right Question is Mistake
Right Answer to Wrong Question is Blunder
Right Answer to Right Question is Success
Citizen Right to be Served Right is Governments / International Institutions is Good Thinking Delivering Good Product.

Also, your point / question “I know some of the reasons why the Bank has historically done little on justice sector reform, and note that we still do pockets of it in regions (e.g. ECA) but, given the emphasis on justice in the recent WDR, isn't it time to think again about its place in our work?” underline the fact that Access to Justice Initiative / Justice Administration Initiative can and should be Integrated into PSM Initiative, MfDR Initiative, ICR Initiative, CLEAR Initiative, other WBG Initiatives and other International / National Development Cooperation Initiatives on one hand and on the other provide supporting evidence on need for Real World Validation in Practice of Methodologies within Planning, Research, Statistics, Implementation, Monitoring, Evaluation and Assessment Methodologies based on System Theory such as Methodologies within 3PCM and CSR Benefits Focused Approach.

The reality is that Justice Sector (Administration) Reform, which is part of Governance and Accountability Reform can and should be interlinked, interdependent and interconnected with Monetary Policy Reform; Macro Economic Policy Reform; Fiscal Policy Reform including Taxation, Accounting and Budgeting Reform; Procurement Reform; Public Private Participation Reform; Public Sector (Service) Reform including Civil Service Reform, Pensions Reform, Parastatals Reform, ICT Modernization, Service Delivery Reform; other Governance and Accountability Reform including Anti Corruption Reform, Transparency Initiative Reform, Security Reform; Aid Delivery Management / International Development Cooperation Reform including MDGs’, G20 Global Solutions to Global Problems, One UN Initiative, One WBG Initiative, Bilateral Initiatives and other National / International Reforms. That is success in a particular Reform not effectively complimented by success in other relevant Reforms cannot be sustainable.

It is against this background that we urge WBG and PSM Discussion Participants to seriously consider taking up the gauntlet Alice has thrown. To set the ball rolling, we challenge Alice to be the first to pick up this gauntlet by:-
1. Persuading and if necessary pressuring some of the Best Reform Minds in her 200 strong PE COP to participate ACTIVELY in this ongoing PSM Discussion
2. Persuading and if necessary pressuring relevant WBG authorities to help Structure and Organize this PSM Discussion to pass the Real Test of Credibility set out in Lanre’s last posting.

We also challenge the Blogger – Nick and other participants to recognize that picking up this gauntlet is necessary to help achieve increasing convergence between Original PSM Intention and Reality and that increasing multiple contribution from increasing number of participants in necessary if fundamental issues raised by Alice and other contributors are to be effectively addressed.

At this stage in the ongoing PSM Discussion, it is clear that many good ideas and pertinent suggestions have been generated. However, there is a need for contributions to be Structured and Organized to Sharpen Focus and Improve Discussion Productivity and Quality through distilling Key Points and asking follow up questions.

For example, moving forward PSM Discussion within 7 Strands / Themes – Inclusive Approach; Politics and PSM Reform; Economics and PSM Reform; PSM Competencies Reform; PSM Commissioning Reform; PSM Measures of Success Reform and General. Drawing up relevant questions for discussion in each Strand /Theme based on contributions received and moving forward discussions based on responses to the questions. This way the current situation where some issues are well discussed, some issues are not well discussed and some issues are not discussed at all could be significantly improved upon.

To achieve this, we suggest the PSM Discussion adopt new way of doing things through:-
1. The Blogger – Nick accepting role of Lead Discussant guiding PSM Discussion’s Direction and Priorities; Sequence and Pace or
2. Participants select one of their number who has adequate competencies and commitment to serve as Lead Discussant with same responsibilities as set out for Nick.

May 08, 2011

E koreaki te blog aei n te taetae ae e iruwa nakoia angiia aomata ake tiaki aia taetae te taetae ni imatang ke English language. Ibukin anne ao boto ni iango ake a maroroakinaki n te blog aei e aki uaana nakoia aomata ake tiaki aia taetae te English bwa are boto ni iango ae aki kakamenenai n aia taetae.
Ngke arona bwa boto ni iango n te blog aei a maroroakinaki n te taetae ae a kona n oota iai aomata ake te English tiaki oin aia taetae, i.e simplified, ao ena rangi ni uaana te blog aei ma ngkai ti tabo ma te blog aei e target nakoia te naan elite English speakers are nanona bwa e aki uaana nakoia angiin te aomata n te aonnaba.

[An English equivalent of this message is:

This blog is written in a language that is foreign to most peoplefacing the advantageous and disadvantageous consequences of World Bank activities. Therefore, many of the concepts being discussed are also foreign. Therefore, among other things, it is probable that ideas / issues from other languages that would not be foreign to speakers of other particular languages are not being discussed. More of the same then!]

Ray Shostak
May 08, 2011

Thanks for the opportunity to comment on the consultation draft. It is an excellent piece of work and clearly has raised the debate. I'd like to test my reading of the document and see if others think the same. Firstly, I like the framing of the approach by explicitly outlining the banks interest in both what central government does and also the impact on frontline services. In my view what matters is the outcomes of the interface between services and citizens (after all that is what public services are about) and all upstream actions should serve the improvement of that contact. Good government is about improving the lives of citizens and is not an end in itself. The more 'systems' approach seems to me to be right. Secondly, I like the focus on 'changing behaviours' and it looks to me as if the new approach is underpinned by a set of principles like taking a can do/action focused attitude, putting advice in context, focusing on outcome and changed behaviours, function following form, developing long term not a short term relationships and looking at the system as a whole. If my reading is right then this looks good, is it? Thirdly, I like the four roles but think you are over reacting to concerns about best practice (which I recognise). Why not move to developing an approach based on 'good practice' which provides options for clients and enables decisions to contextually based. Fourthly, if you are going to play more of a role as 'knowledge generator' and 'integrator' why not do it in a strategic alliance/coalition with other like IMF, OECD.....and combine our learning. And finally, a couple of questions/omissions - a) why don't you make the link between the improvement of public service outcomes and the economy? Many public service outcomes are drivers of economic growth - and it matters. b) shouldn't you link what you do on financial management more closely to accountability, building capacity and securing outcomes?; and c) where is the point of greatest leverage in improving systems from previous work of the bank? d)why is the section on ensuring progress so weak - I'd be interested in what others think about how the bank can best judge its success?

Grace Morgan
May 10, 2011

Let me make an initial observation about the use of the word "risk". The document underscores the importance of risk management in PSM design, selection, and implementation. My concern is that this focus is somewhat imbalanced – emphasizing managing risks, without giving equal weight to assessing returns. The constant reference to risk management and mitigation suggests a more contained, rigid, and proscriptive approach to PSM reform. It does not promote a sense of experimentation or innovation that may be needed in this kind of work. Thus, my suggestion would be to deemphasize the use of the term risk, and to balance it out with a focus on both risks and returns. By focusing on both risk and return, the proposed Approach would indicate that it is important to acknowledge and accept risk, in light of anticipated returns.

Second, I welcome the focus on using data and indicators to improve country level tracking of institutions and their functions. But I also believe this approach can be taken a step further to enhance PSM results. While the Bank has a high level of comfort collecting data for purposes of cross country comparison, less emphasis has been placed on collecting and providing data to promote government-based performance management in the PSM area. The wealth of PSM data available in the PSM area creates great opportunity to create tools for government to monitor their progress in a range of PSM areas. Thus, I was pleased to see that the new Approach recognizes the opportunity to conduct country-level tracking.

However, publicly available PSM data also creates the opportunity for demand-side actors to track government progress in areas of PSM. In other words, this same data can be used to support demand side efforts which promote increased government accountability and transparency. I realize that demand side activity creates some risk -- challenging Bank-led efforts to collect PSM data from governments (i.e. PEFA data) which could then be used to to press government to improve performance. Many governments would be uncomfortable with this possibility.

However, a notable amount of PSM data is collected by non-Bank actors and is already in the public domain. Global Integrity and the Open Budget Index are two good examples, and both are included in the Actionable Governance Indicators dataset. This data is useful evidence-based PSM data, collected consistently and frequently for a broad range of countries, focusing on fairly specific PSM functions. Just as government can use this data to track its performance, demand-side actors can use this PSM data to monitor government, and to push for results. Thus, I see no reason why the new Approach cannot promote both supply and demand side efforts to monitor country PSM performance. Let's take a risk!(If you want a real world example, I will provide you information on a project I have worked on with Tony Verheijen and Barbara Magezi in Uganda.)

Lastly, an organizational comment. As someone who always looks for summary information, I found myself looking for a brief, comprehensive list of “action strategies” (you may have a better term) that would result from using the new PSM Approach. While bits and pieces of these strategies are scattered throughout the document, they are not listed in one place. To minimize the risk (yes, risk again!)of a reader missing one of your eloquent points, I would suggest inserting a comprehensive list of action strategies which would result from the Approach. I came up with a starting list that included the following:

• Develop funding streams to support more continuity in PSM reform support
• Develop a diagnostic tool to weigh risks and returns of PSM reforms, and promote bank-wide
• Conduct joint Public Sector Management Clinics (HD and PREM)
• Design and implement PSM and DFGG pilot to create “reform space”
• Improve country level tracking by…
• Develop an open source of PSM data
• Develop and implement a multi-donor PSM research agenda
• Relaunch Thematic Groups and combine Communities of Practice in the PSM area
• Establish a Country Systems Monitoring Process

As you can see, it all relates to risk! Many thanks for your thinking and artistry as evidenced in this document.

Richard Hogg
May 10, 2011

Alexander Pope's famous line has some resonance for those of us in the field trying to do 'public sector reform' in difficult places. And there is no more difficult place than Kabul, where we have been implementing public sector reform with mixed results since 2003. Quite honestly there is no substitute for learning on the job. Ideas are one thing but implementation is another, and its that aspect of the public sector reform discussion that needs to be brought to the surface. No matter how good the ideas on paper-and quite frankly a good public sector management expert can argue for just about anything-its what flies that mattters,and quite frankly our time horizon is far too short to often judge what is a success or a failure. Over the last few years we have probably done it all-we have done all the classical and not so classical things; we established a Civil Service Commission, introduced merit based recruitment, pay and grading, HRMIS,we went for an asymmetric approach at first, then under pressure from those parts of government that felt they were missing out went government wide, and have now gone back to the first approach or a variant of it. In the meantime we have been told by several observers that what we are trying won't work, can't work given the political economy context. Yet in the time I have been here- on and off since 2003- I have seen significant improvements for the better. Development agencies, and the World Bank is no exception, expect change to happen too quickly. Public sector reform is painfully slow, and the setbacks are many, but its not always about the set of instruments at your disposal but the ability to keep going-not in the face of approaches that have clearly failed but with the idea that reform and change take time to take hold, and that the high risk of failure doesn't mean the risk is not worth taking. When the Bank asks for comment on its next generation strategies and approaches it should not be just about a discussion of technical public sector approaches, but a discussion of the Bank's own appetite for risk, its appetite for taking the long haul, and how it judges success, which it often too narrowly defines in terms of technical project indicators and money disbursed. The effort to arrrive at better instruments of reform in other words need to take account of the institutional culture of the development agency itself and what is feasible in terms of that culture and internal set of institutional incentive structures.

David Booth
May 12, 2011

The proposed new Approach has several really useful qualities, among which I would count:
•The frank admission that although moving from ‘best practice’ to ‘best fit’ has been on the Bank’s intellectual agenda since 2000, operationalising it remains extremely hard.
•A clear recognition that the obstacles include both correctable problems on the Bank side (lack of continuity in country dialogue; the Bank’s structural divisions; inflexibility of previously available lending instruments, etc.) and understandable incentives on the client side (the legitimacy and prestige factors in institutional mimicry; tokenistic compliance with best-practice objectives to keep aid flowing, etc.).
•Proposals for addressing the Bank-side obstacles within a flat-funding context which look appropriate and practical – to the extent an outsider can judge.
•A good outline of how, in the context of more continuous, joined-up and flexible working at country and regional levels, the Bank’s public sector management diagnostic and design work might become at least as sophisticated as the emerging approaches to topics such as growth or industrial policy.
All this is terrifically important and promising. Does it add up to a breakthrough? I would be more confident that it does if two challenges could be addressed (and I don’t see why they couldn’t be).
First, communication of the new thinking, and appreciation of its implications, is hindered in a couple of important places by an old language redolent of ‘best practice’ conventions. This concerns a) risk, and b) indicators.
Although the text recognises in various places that uncertainty implies opportunities as well as risks, the headline messages are all about doing a better job of managing risks. Why not be more up-beat, saying more about not missing opportunities? The language of ‘well-accepted theories of change’ is used once (para. 107). Why not make fuller use of that language?
Relatedly, the passages on indicators still seem too little informed by Matt Andrews’ warnings against ‘indicators without theory’. Surely we all now agree that what should be tracked are indicators derived from appropriate theories of change; that is, theories that capture well the tacit knowledge of country contexts that Bank staff often possess. The point is made (para. 101) that the needed indicators are not necessarily quantitative, but that is secondary to whether they are informed by a sound, ‘best fit’ theory.
Second, the question why explicit knowledge about what works in public sector reform remains ‘surprisingly limited’ is more of a mystery than it needs to be. The principal problem is surely that what works in PSR cannot be divorced from the broader question of ‘what works in development’, and the answers to that question are largely about country politics. That means they lie somewhat outside the comfort zones of operational Bank staff. But the Approach is already pushing out the frontiers in this respect (in para. 34 and Figure 4 for example), so why not take a couple of further steps?
Stuti Khemani has already pointed out that according to North, Wallis and Weingast, ruling elites within Limited Access Orders (LAOs) respond to incentives that make them unlikely to be (genuine, not tokenistic) champions of reforms the Bank might want to support. This is a challenge that the Approach needs to pick up somehow, because otherwise it will remain the proverbial elephant in the room, effectively preventing the desired shift from tacit to explicit knowledge.
The good news is that research into the politics of what works in development is generating more fine-grained propositions than are to be found in North et al. Rather than treating LAOs as a group, Africa Power and Politics research is looking for salient differences among states of a broadly neopatrimonial type within low-income Africa. The variable of how the ruling elite manages (or not) the utilisation of major economic rents has proven significant to comparative experience in Africa, as well as previously in SE Asia. This suggests that while North et al. may not be wrong at the rather stratospheric level of generality at which their comparisons are conducted, there are some slightly less dismal stories to be told at the level of particular sub-sets of LAOs – as well as within particular countries.
Here then is a topic, and a body of ongoing research, to which Bank thinking could be turning to flesh out the Approach. A broader alliance with what is going on in policy-oriented politics research would put the pursuit of more explicit knowledge about public sector reform on firmer foundations. That would make the Approach as a whole more compelling.

Lanre Rotimi
May 12, 2011

We commend you for raising your voice in your language. We commend WB for translation that make possible wider dissemination of your view.

Your points underline need for PSM Initiative that is All Inclusive and all Encompassing in identifying and solving all real and complex PSM problems and related International / National Development Cooperation problems, on the ground from Village to Global levels on Developed Countries, Developing Countries, WBG, IMF, UN, EC, other International Institutions and CSOs’ – National and International sides.

You have said ..."it is probable that ideas / issues from other languages that would not be foreign to speakers of other particular languages are not being discussed. More of the same then". To take positive action on your call for "Inclusion", we urge you to please take the next step to put those issues you consider excluded on the table. This way you increase the probability of same being Agenda items Moving Forward in the work towards achieving PSM Initiative Vision Ambition.

The ongoing PSM Discussion with 31 participants as at time of this posting; has 1 Bloger, 2 Anonymous Contributors, 1 Language contributor and 1 Multiple Response Contributor. This continuously improving Comments Record is good. But it could be much better, particularly in the specific area of participants contributing multiple responses.

The overarching assessment thus far is that it is easy to identify problems. It is difficult to solve identified problems. It is not impossible to solve identified especially difficult problems. This assessment explains the Misnomer – Good Research Bad Result; Good Plan Bad Implementation and the Incongruence – Good Policy Bad Evaluation; Good Partnership Agreement Bad Partnership Performance identified by some contributors.

Yes, ongoing PSM Discussion has generated and continues to generate many good ideas and pertinent suggestions. However, the Real Challenge that need to be Professionally Tackled Moving Forward is How these good ideas and pertinent suggestions are harvested and processed into PSM Discussion Report? What are the Uses of the PSM Discussion Report? Who are the Users of the PSM Discussion Report? How will Report Recommendations be Implemented? How will the Implementation of Report Recommendations be Monitored, Evaluated and Assessed?

To tackle this Real Challenge and in ways that ensure WBG and Counterparts Pass the Real test of credibility of PSM Discussion set out in earlier Lanre Posting, we urge WBG to recognize that:-
1. There is urgent need to harness and channel PSM Discussion Participants Enthusiasm and Energy through better Structure and organization of the PSM Discussion for Continuing Improving Productivity and Quality.
2. If (1) is not done, the probability is high that this PSM Discussion would lose steam. Allowed to occur, this is not helpful in the work towards achieving increasing convergence between Original PSM Intention and Reality.
3. Achieving PSM Vision on successful and sustainable basis greatly depends on Comprehensive National / International Reform Program Driven by Professionals:-
a) With adequate Intellectual Capacity – Hard Competency: Learning and Skills and Soft competency: Character, Courage and Mindset; Commitment; Passion and Energy.
b) Who are Non Partisan and Neutral in bringing Whole of World, Region, Country Good Thinking to bear in the Practical Solutions to Whole of World, region, Country PSM and related National / International Development Cooperation real and complex problems on the ground.
c) Who help WBG and Counterparts achieve necessary levels of Organization, Orientation and Discipline within Openness, Transparency, Transformation, Learning, Performance and Results in the work towards achieving New PSM Vision Ambitions.
d) Who help WBG and Counterparts build Global / National Collective Action for each Partner’s Best to be Good Enough in the work towards achieving New PSM Vision Ambitions.
e) Who are identified, empowered, promoted and protected to effectively support WBG and Counterparts in Delivery of each Partners Duties and responsibilities within New PSM Vision using “Living Strategy” wherein corrections are made based on implementation realities, each Partner is aware of Progress other Partners are making and or challenges other Partners are facing.

Should there be at least 5 more Contributors genuinely interested in Participating Actively in ongoing PSM Discussion through contributing multiple response, the probability is high that this PSM Discussion Outcome could help ensure WBG and Counterparts Pass the Real Test of Credibility. Can you be the First of these 5 more Contributors?

Stuti Khemani
May 12, 2011

David Booth made an important argument about the “what to do” when politics is a problem: going beyond investing in grand theories towards more ways of using more practical political economy research and knowledge on “what works” in local contexts within countries. To my mind, at least a variant of this idea resonates in what Abhijit Banerjee and Esther Duflo call the “quiet revolution” strategy in their new book “Poor Economics: A Radical Rethinking of the Way to Fight Global Poverty”. This view may pose a challenge to the PSM agenda, even the updated one, if its core business is overwhelmingly in operations and reforms that are simply too “macro” to benefit from new research and knowledge on local, incremental changes. The type of political economy analysis that currently seems to be pursued by the practice is suited to this established, “macro” agenda—use political analysis to identify “feasible”, “second-best”, “good fit” reforms; the “right time and place”. This seems to be the ultimate “planners” paradise—the policy-designers know (largely) what the right technical reforms are for good governance, growth and development, and now they can use political analysis to find out when or which reforms can be pushed through in difficult country contexts. Indeed, a skeptical view on whether formal political analysis can indeed fulfill this tall order (as has been expressed in various comments on this blog) is hardly surprising. What political economy conclusions may be suggesting for the PSM agenda, however, is not just that since politics matters, more analysis of it is needed, but a more significant paradigm shift to incorporate more of the “searchers” model—- finding out how political incentives are changing within countries, at local levels (with lots of internal variation across local jurisdictions, despite the same, larger, institutional rules of the game)? How (do?) they correlate with variations in local governance and public sector performance? How can incremental changes be implemented at these local levels, not only for local improvements, but also towards a gradual and quiet revolution for improvements at the top? It’s not really an either-or (things rarely are), but whether there’s sufficient diversification and innovation in our strategies.

Edwin Lau
May 13, 2011

The cross-cutting approach advocated in this consultation draft is welcome and reflects the thinking that organisations such as the OECD are also engaged in over how to move towards a more results-based focus in public sector management. I, in particular, appreciate the plea for a diagnostic approach rather than a “best practices” one which leads to “me too” reforms that are not necessarily suited to the needs and capabilities of the countries undertaking them.

The OECD has been applying a similar approach through its Public Governance Reviews which seek to provide comprehensive analysis and recommendations to public governance and public management challenges in the country under review. It does so by interlinking horizontal public management issues such as HRM, e-government, public budgeting, and regulatory reform, with impact areas in the form of case studies in sectors such as elderly care, hospitals, waste management and education. So far, we have undertaken reviews of Ireland (2008), Finland (2010) and Estonia (2011), while reviews of Greece, Slovenia and Poland are currently underway.

The key is finding the balance between comparable and results-oriented data and context-dependent “diagnostic” analysis that can identify both needs as well as possible solutions that are the most appropriate given a country’s institutional setup and public sector human capital. This also reveals the critical need for data to help match like with like in order to identify clusters of countries that can most usefully learn from one another. We have already begun this work within the OECD by looking at process and output indicators in Government at a Glance (see Zsuzsanna Lonti’s post of Wednesday, 27 April), and welcome a broader dialogue on getting the balance right.

Lanre Rotimi
May 16, 2011

You have raised very interesting points. We agree with you that the challenge of “ruling elite responding to LAO incentives in ways that make them genuine champion of reform” is a challenge that relevant WBG authorities need to professionally tackle, if PSM, CLEAR, ICR, MfDR, other WBG Initiatives Visions are to be achieved on successful and sustainable basis.

We also agree with you on the need to professionally tackle a second challenge – “need to give visibility to genuine effort at communicating new thinking and new ways of doing things within the new PSM Vision to achieve continuing all round improvement based on realities of implementation”.

Many contributors, particularly Richard Hogg, correctly identify the fact that in the work towards achieving Global / National Visions ambitions, establishing institutions is not enough, if their operations confirm that they are not learning organizations and their performance confirm they are lagging behind or failing to deliver on their mandate and vision ambitions.

Your points underline the need for Development Research if WBG is serious about professionally tackling the two challenges you have identified.

In the work towards finding and implementing successful and sustainable solutions to real and complex Global recession, World Food, Fuel, Finance and Terrorism Problems on the Ground on Developed Countries, Developing Countries and International Institutions sides, there is urgent need to ensure that Development Research is Focused on Development Policy & Program and Development Monitoring, Evaluation & Assessment within National Visions e.g 7 Point Agenda in Nigeria, National Security Strategy in US and World Visions e.g. MDGs’, Paris Declaration, Accra Action Agenda, One UN Initiative, One WBG Initiative, G20 Global Solutions to Global Problems Initiative.

However, turning Researchers into Policy / Program Entrepreneurs or Monitoring, Evaluation and Assessment Entrepreneurs and turning Research Institutions into Policy / Program focused Think Tank or Monitoring, Evaluation and Assessment focused Think Tank is not easy because it involves fundamental re-orientation, organization and discipline towards Policy / Program engagement or Monitoring, Evaluation and Assessment engagement, rather than academic achievement; engaging much more vigorously with Policy / Program Community or Monitoring, Evaluation and Assessment Community; Developing a Research Agenda focusing on Policy / Program or Monitoring / Evaluation / Assessment issues rather than academic interests; acquiring new skills or building multidisciplinary teams; establishing new internal systems and incentives and spending much more on Communicating effectively with all stakeholders.

This New Approach should include Dialogue before, during and after the Research itself; producing appropriate Communications products for each audience – in most widely acceptable language, at the right time and working more in effective partnerships and networks. It also involves looking at a radically different funding model.

To influence Policy / Program or Monitoring / Evaluation / Assessment Decision Makers in all concerned stakeholder communities from Village to Global levels; Genuine True Development Researchers need additional skills. They need to be politically influential, able to understand the politics, the economics, the sociology and culture and identify the key players. They need to be good storytellers; to synergize simple compelling stories from results of the research (not spin doctors who publicize falsehood). They need to be good networkers; to work effectively with all other concerned stakeholders and they need to be good engineers to build Shared Vision initiatives that pulls all of these together or they need to work on multidisciplinary teams with others who have these necessary skills.

The Research for True Development Storytellers are not Spin Doctors spreading spin (falsehood / lies) or Propagandists spreading propaganda (half truths or outright falsehood presented as whole truths). They are Development Change Champions telling inspiring Stories based on real life experiences that challenge concerned stakeholders to take positive Development Change Action ultimately resulting in Win – Win for all Partners – Rick or Poor, Strong or Weak. Within Research for True Development, Good Researchers need Good Reporters and Good Reporters need Good Researchers.

We make bold to state that without adequate numbers of Good Researchers and Good Reporters, who have required levels of Hard Competencies – Learning and Skills and Soft Competencies – Character, Courage and Mindset for achieving National Visions e.g. 7 Point Agenda in Nigeria; National Security Strategy in US and Global Visions – MDGs’, Paris Declaration, Accra Action Agenda, One UN Initiative, PSM, CLEAR, ICR, MfDR, other WBG Initiatives and G20 Global Solutions to Global Problems Initiative would be a Mirage.

The Concept of Development for Research described above contain Master Keys for Rethinking, Redesigning and Rebuilding the Role of Researchers and Reporters in the work towards achieving National Visions Ambitions and Global Visions Ambitions on Developed Countries, Developing Countries and International Institutions sides.

It is easy to give Visibility to Headlines, Establishing Institutions like CLEAR Centers, pursuing New Approaches like PSM, Moving from Grand Theories to Quiet Revolutions as suggested by Stuti etc; it is difficult to give Visibility to Stories of the type generated by Development Research, with Strategic Purpose of helping to achieve Practical Sustainable Solutions to real and complex Global / National Vision Initiatives problems on the ground. This is because Good Stories that inspire all relevant stakeholders to jointly establish and sustain Inclusive Approach in the work towards achieving increasing convergence between Original PSM Intention and Reality etc requires Good Content and Good content is best generated when WBG and Counterparts accept the challenge you have identified and in ways that simultaneously achieve several Paradigm Shifts, some of which are Shift:-
1. From Academic Research to Development Research
2. From Focus on Problems and Passing Blame to Focus on Solutions and Opportunities
3. From Handbook Management, Service delivery and Evaluation etc to Hands On Management, Service Delivery and Evaluation etc
4. From Arithmetic Model progressing in Arithmetic Proportions to Geometric Model progressing in Geometric Proportions
5. From Negative Risk Analysis that is Problem Focused and Anti Innovation to Positive Risk Analysis that is Solutions Focused and Pro Innovation.

Will WBG and Counterparts accept your challenge? Can WBG –Our Dream is a World without Poverty Vision ambition be achieved without positive action on all good ideas and pertinent suggestion s generated in this PSM Discussion? Can PSM Vision be achieved without this PSM Discussion producing PSM Discussion Report; PSM – SAIF (Single Agenda Implementation Framework) Document and PSM – SAIF Testing Document?

Sylvester Obong'o
May 30, 2011

The debate on public sector reforms is interesting and has come at the right time. There are great lessons that can be deduced from past experiences in charting the way forward.

In most African countries, the modern day public sector reforms started from structural adjustment programs, to civil service (administrative) reforms, to sector wide (public sector) management reforms, then somehow emphasis started veering again towards, sub-sector reforms (public finance, transport and so on), with specific sectors receiving special emphasis. In all these there are critical lessons. From civil service to public service, there seemed to have been a need for coverage- (consider the entire equation) and may be moving back to subsectors seems to be pointing out towards needs to focus on specifics- finance management, etc. The need for results led to performance management and perofrmance contracting and so on. One critical lesson that I have gathered from all these is that each aspect as been considered as project with a time line and therefore fades away with time. Despite numerous acknowledgements that reform is a long term undertaking, practical experience seems to be deployment of short term measures.

Arising from the above, it seems as if there is no aspect of the public that has not gone through some sort of reform. Unfortunately, in our reform endeavors, the public sector especially with the advent of NPM has be portrayed as being so bad and the private sector as the angle to be emulated even in countries rated poorly in all those indicators that need to be changed. Public servants do not operate in isolation of the rest of the public. Within a country if public servants are corrupt, chances are that the private sector is equally corrupt, so replacing public servants with people from the private sector in the same old institutions may not be of great help.

Therefore, as we we focus on the changing circumstances public sector reform must also change its primary focus, the old and great divide between public and private is getting very blurred with the emergence of an array of third party organizations pursuing what was primarily considered 'government' or public. The next phase of public sector reforms may not therefore be focused so much on internal performance of the public sector, organizational efficiency, management, restructuring, important as these may be, but on how the government interacts with the private sector. And hence development of effective 'Tools of Governance'

To that extent, I would expect the operations of institutions such as the professional bodies not only to keenly pursue standards within the private sector but also within the public sector. Such that if an engineer working within the public sector is sanctioned or deregistered by the professional body, such should automatically stand suspended from their public service employment. Civil Service need to cease to be a profession, but an institution comprised of registered professionals with their respective bodies, within a country.

In brief I am saying that may be the future is in focusing on development of mechanisms or tools that transcend the 'public sector' and bringing together various government or public sector and private sector institutions in pursuit of development results.

Sylvester Obongo,
University of Newcastle.

Elisabeth Huybens
May 23, 2011

Many thanks for the opportunity to comment on the draft "World Bank Approach to Public Sector Management 2011-2020". The draft offers a wealth of information on lending and technical assistance trends. It provides important insights into the challenges of achieving coherence, allocating human resources, and capturing and channeling tacit knowledge in an effective manner which are crucial for improving results in the Bank’s programs. We also very much appreciate the broad and open consultation process which has generated a very engaging live conversation on the approach.

With this in mind, there are a number of points that we would suggest considering:

· Assessing the progress made in the past decade, explicitly defining the problem, laying down the assumptions of the theory of change that underpins the approach, and relating the way forward to this analysis.
It would be useful to add a brief discussion about the objectives of the previous strategy, the results achieved, lessons learned and the changed environment both externally and internally to the Bank. While trends in lending and positive experiences are featured, there is no systematic examination of what the objectives of the last strategy were, what has been achieved in the last decade vis-à-vis these objectives, and what the lessons learned are. There is also no discussion of changes both externally to the Bank and internally that may merit taking into account for the approach forward. Implicitly, the draft appears to say that on the "what" side, we will do more of the same (PFM and CSR) and that on the "how" side we will do things differently. It is however not clear what analysis has led the team to decide that is the "right" way forward for the Bank. Such analysis would allow an explicit statement of the problem the approach intends to address, whether/why it is conceptualized differently than the last strategy, why the "what" should remain the same, and what theory of change underpins the approach to "how" things should be done differently. Such brief analysis would also help to understand how the proposed objectives and instruments link to the statement of the problem.

· Situating the Approach into a Broader Context
Public sector management appears to be considered in a rather narrow manner. Apart from a brief discussion on trust there is little consideration of public sector management as a key element of the fundamental compact between citizens and the state. The approach appears to assume that the Bank's PSM approach should continue to focus on central Ministries of Finance and Public Administration and service delivery line ministries and exclude parliaments, oversight institutions, local governments, .... There are some references to the demand side of governance, but the vision of reform continues to come across as top-down and heavily focused on the central government. There may be a host of good reasons for continuing a narrow and top-down approach, but the paper fails to lay out clearly what these reasons are. Wouldn't it be helpful to consider whether there are fundamental changes in the operating environment of client governments and to analyze the emerging trends for the next decade? In particular, would it be helpful to consider the transformation in the relation between citizens and governments beyond the brief discussion on trust dynamics? The “reform space” approach and the joint piloting of projects with DFGG introduced in the last section of the draft are promising but sound rather timid. This is an area where SDV would be very happy to help refine the strategy and contribute to its implementation.
We are also missing a discussion on the latest developments in public sector management theory and practice and how they have informed the strategy. For example, the paper points out that behaviors are at least as important as formal rules and yet it is not clear how this very important finding is reflected in the way forward. Very little is said about the recent literature and innovations around organizational culture, the diffusion of norms, change, communication strategies, hard and soft administrative technological innovations, leadership (beyond a the traditional understanding of the term), etc. Are we implicitly assuming that the Bank will continue its focus on the "hard" innovations? If so, why? While the bank is expected to be a knowledge generator, there is no discussion of what the most crucial knowledge gaps are in public administration and what the Bank's comparative advantage is vis-à-vis other others in addressing the knowledge gaps.
With regard to the above, a reference is missing to the recent update of the Social Development Strategy the four pillars of which are social inclusion, cohesion, resilience and accountability, which are greatly relevant not only for assessing the success of public sector reform across the world, but also for the implementation of the approach.

· Making sure the approach is relevant for all the Bank's clients
It is not clear to us that the proposed approach will be relevant to the full spectrum of the Bank's clients. Implicitly, the approach seems to be focused on MICs. All the examples are from MICs, and the principal instruments highlighted (P4R and fee-based services) have an inherent bias toward MICs. Specifically it is not clear to us that the proposed approach will help us become more effective in fragile and conflict affected situations. Consider for example our dialogue with Cote d'Ivoire which is at a crossroads with a protracted strife between two presidential candidates finally having been settled. The new President will face important questions on how to address reconciliation in the face of a highly fragmented citizenry. The temptation will be very high to address this reconciliation through the public sector in a way that will affect the effectiveness of the public sector for years to come in one of Africa's major economies. Or consider CAR where the State is essentially absent of citizens' life except in a predatory fashion, and where all kinds of traditional/informal institutions, including a deeply worrisome resurgence of witchcraft, are the institutions of recourse. Does the proposed approach fit these situations and if so would it be possible to make that more explicit?
The strategy would make a greater contribution by elaborating some of the implications by types of country settings (MIC, LIC, FCS) and providing guidance on what can be contextualized as best fit in each of these. The parameters of engagement and risk would certainly be very different in a MIC than in a country emerging from conflict or a country in which the state is largely absent from people’s life. While the message of accepting greater risks and uncertainties in PSM projects is an important one, it might be better to use less the language of risk mitigation (or avoidance) and more of risk management and the promotion of innovation.

John Wilkins
June 22, 2011

The Commonwealth Secretary-General has said that, "Leadership is the lifeblood of good governance." It is estimated that more than 100,000 public servants across the Commonwealth need some form of leadership development. The basic case is made in the Commonwealth Secretariat's remarks above on this critical 'missing link' in the WB's approach to PSM.

Heads of national training institutes in the Commonwealth reaffirm the primacy of leadership development in strengthening governance and public administration in their countries. They acknowledge that weak institutions and limited resources severely constrain government capacity to reduce poverty and achieve the MDGs.

Forty-one stakeholders meeting this May in Nairobi agreed that creative strategies and cost-effective initiatives are critical in promoting Leadership for Development. Training institutes from 18 Commonwealth countries discussed ways to collaborate.

The challenge of developing and sustaining effective leadership capabilities is formidable. Learning programmes have to be customised to country context and circumstances because effective leadership is inseparable from cultural norms. While leadership programmes for senior executives are resource intensive, they offer high return on investment. More capacity building is needed to develop effective leaders.

Leaders at the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in Australia in October will consider three resolutions:
1. To reaffirm support for the role of leadership development in strengthening the capacity of member countries to deliver public policy, reform, and services
2. To endorse active collaboration among member countries and the international development community to strengthen leadership capacity
3. To prioritise collaborative strategies that build the capacity of training institutes, that develop the competencies required of leaders, and that facilitate governance, management, and funding of the leadership development community.

The proposed Commonwealth Leadership for Development Initiative responds to members’ and stakeholders’ priorities for action. An annual forum is envisaged to build a community of practice and to facilitate networking and exchanges. Leadership programmes to develop the competencies of senior executives, as well as workshops, toolkits, case studies, and research to expose training professionals to advanced learning methodologies, programme design, and impact assessment, are also in the works. A guiding coalition is steering business planning and community development.

The message from the Vice-President of Kenya at the close of a recent CAPAM conference endorsed the need to train leaders to inspire excellence in public service and to fulfil national development goals. Plans for cross-cultural leadership development were commended as a 'finishing school' for senior public executives.

The importance of leadership development is underscored in state building at the centre of government. Leaders of central institutions like Auditors-General, CIOs, Anti-corruption Commissioners, Procurement Officers, and Public Service Commissioners are critical to integrity, innovation, accountability, and capacity development across government. They are instrumental in massaging the political-administrative interface that advances the WB's and Commonwealth's good work in PSM reform.

Max Everest-Phillips
June 14, 2011

To achieve national results for democracy and development, leadership excellence is needed at all levels of government. From the office of the President or Minister down to front-line supervisors, leadership skills coalesce commitment and galvanise efforts to deliver results for citizens.

Because leadership challenges associated with vastly different levels of responsibility, authority, and accountability require different forms of intervention and support, the skill-sets needed must be conceptualised and scoped appropriately to meet a wide range of developmental needs. For countries going through decentralisation of government, these needs are most profound at sub-national levels.

The centre of government drives policy development under the leadership of the Prime Minister or President. The new WB approach to PSM should address how to strengthen the leadership capacity with public institutions, ideally tied to improving the political/administrative interface - ie. how cabinets and cabinet secretaries structure policy and coordinate its implementation. Creating innovative policy calls for a change in mind set by all actors – governments, businesses, civil society and other stakeholders – and for forward thinking, flexibility and dynamism. Lack of leadership skills undermines this happening.

Public Service ministries or Commissions in many countries have a critical role to play (at least in principle) in providing strategic direction in in leadership skills development in terms of human resources management and civil service policy and regulation, as well as in ensuring and maintaining the integrity of the public service. However, in practice, PSCs may not always be able to perform their key functions effectively, so HR leadership is lacking and leadership skills are not being adequately fostered in many public service organisations.

The new strategy should expressly seek to address this lacuna.

Max Everest-Phillips
Commonwealth Secretariat