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Private Sector Development

Nurturing a Culture of Integrity?

Maya Brahmam's picture

At the World Bank Spring Meetings last week, there was a very interesting discussion, moderated by Femi Oke, on the topic of “Investment, Infrastructure, and Integrity,” On the panel were a few worthies from the private sector, Karan Bhatia, of General Electric, Peter Solmssen of Siemens AG, and Julio Rojas of Standard Chartered Bank, along with Rashad Kaldany and Janmitra Devan of the World Bank. They were joined by the Minister of Finance of Indonesia, Agus Martowardojo, and the Secretary of Finance of the Philippines, Cesar Purisima.

The issue is a prickly one: How to promote clean business in large infrastructure projects? It is unavoidable for the World Bank, the private sector and governments to be involved in infrastructure, so it is essential that the reputation of the infrastructure sector be tied to integrity. At the same time, the response to corruption has to be pragmatic. The challenge is to figure out the balance and respond appropriately and make “risk-based” decisions, versus “rules-based” decisions. The panelists alluded to the role of knowledge and the open dissemination of knowledge on private-sector business dealings and in government contracting and procurement to spur accountability and governance in this arena. There was agreement that the World Bank’s open agenda would be helpful in pushing this forward.

The panel was asked to share their individual “principles” to achieve integrity.

Are Citizen Service Centers Viable?

Sabina Panth's picture

In my earlier blog post, I had conceived the idea of 'fee-based service centers' that can be run through public-private partnership with the goal of improving citizens’ access to, and delivery of, government services.  The concept was considered in the context of sustainability of demand for good governance practices in relation to the aid dependency culture of civil society organizations.   Recently, I became aware that such ‘fee-based service centers’ do prevail and, in fact, have caught the attention of policymakers and development experts.

What Role Does Civil Society Play in Economic Development?

Sabina Panth's picture

I recently came across a fascinating initiative where civil society organizations have played a lead role in building public-private partnerships in economic development activities.  The USAID-sponsored Education for Income Generation (EIG) program has brought together local, national and international partners in galvanizing disadvantaged youth to partake in income generating activities toward increasing economic activities and peace building process in post-conflict Nepal. 

It’s Our Money

Sabina Panth's picture

It has been argued that corruption cases are focused mostly on the offenders and retribution is calculated on material value. This leaves out the victims of corruption and the collective damage done to the society at large, especially when the malfeasance involves the misappropriation of public money.  The concept of ‘social damage’ is an emerging concept in the anti-corruption movement, which seeks to identify, quantify, and repair the impact and consequences of corruption on ordinary citizens.  It posits that citizens, as taxpayers, are entitled to a legal claim on public money and how it is spent because “every dollar lost in corruption is a dollar stolen from spending in education, social services, poverty reduction and job creation (Its Our Money)”.

Something for Nothing?

Sabina Panth's picture

My blog posts have been highlighting the significance of empowered citizens and active civil society in driving development efforts.  But in doing so, have I been focusing solely on the voluntary spirit and good-will of the ordinary citizens? If so, is it practical to expect that the momentum will persist long enough to give the continuity and dedication required to realize the undertaking?   There is also a reoccurring theme in my blog posts about aid dependency and the project-based ethos of civil society organizations. Given the scenario, it is difficult to assess the strength and spirit of ‘naturally grown’ vs. ‘project instigated’ community activism.  As it is, community members are hard pressed to make ends meet and can barely afford to partake in community activities. And even when they do, their voluntary contribution is often directly proportional to their incentives. 

Skeptics and Idealists in Demand

Sabina Panth's picture

Two types of reaction are common when talking about civil society engagement in public sector reform: 1. Skeptical.  2. Idealistic.  This leaves very little room for a realistic view to genuinely reflect on the actual impact and contributions of civil society in good governance work. 

SMS Gateways for Public Accountability

Sabina Panth's picture


Last week, I attended a presentation on Strengthening Good Local Governance in Indonesia: Lessons from a Demand-Driven Approach.  The $62 million 5-year USAID-funded program focused on both the supply (strengthening core competencies of local administration) and demand (strengthening institutions to ‘lobby’ for good governance) in the context of the recent “big bang” decentralization in Indonesia.  The presentation featured various tools and instruments for good governance.  I was particularly struck by ‘SMS gateways’ - a new e-governance tool that has been used to strengthen public accountability mechanisms in local governance.

WikiLeaks: “The Intelligence Agency Of The People”

Naniette Coleman's picture

I am not sure if I stumbled upon a tool for fighting corruption or a conspiracy theorist’s dream. Either way, I will report and leave the judgments and interpretations to you, the reader. Before you begin reading this particular blog post, I would recommend that you close your door, pull down the shades and close all other browser windows; after all, you never know who could be watching.

WikiLeaks says they have a “history of breaking major stories in every major media outlet and robustly protecting sources and press freedoms.” They claim that “no source has ever been exposed and no material has ever been censored since their formation in 2007.”  WikiLeaks claims they have been “victorious over every legal (and illegal) attack, including those from the Pentagon, the Chinese Public Security Bureau, the Former president of Kenya, the Premier of Bermuda, Scientology, the Catholic & Mormon Church, the largest Swiss private bank, and Russian companies.” And, as if that is not enough of a soap box on which to stand, WikiLeaks claims to have “released more classified intelligence documents than the rest of the world press combined.” If you do not believe WikiLeaks, perhaps you might trust another source, Time Magazine who suggests that WikiLeaks “...could become as important a journalistic tool as the Freedom of Information Act.”

The Public’s Proxy?

Antonio Lambino's picture

I recently attended a brown bag on the Bangladesh Investment Climate Fund (BICF), an advisory facility that seeks to help improve the country’s investment climate.  The International Finance Corporation’s Advisory Services team runs the initiative, generously supported by the UK’s Department for International Development and the European Commission.

Core program areas include regulatory reforms, economic zones, and capacity building and institutional strengthening.  According to Syer Akhtar Mahmood, BICF’s Senior Program Manager, results include the following: a 50% reduction in property registration fees; an online system for business registration; effective consultation mechanisms to identify regulatory issues and recommend reforms; platforms for broad-based public-private dialogue on policy formulation and implementation; and a core group of mid-level government officials who have, among other things, generated notes on reform options and authored 10 articles/op-eds which, according to Mr. Mahmood, rarely happens in Bangladesh.

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