Good governance is critical for all countries around the world today. When it doesn’t exist, many governments fail to deliver public services effectively; health and education services are often substandard; corruption persists in rich and poor countries alike, choking opportunity and growth. It will be difficult to reduce extreme poverty — let alone end it — without addressing the importance of good governance.
I’ve always been intrigued by the challenge of coming up with new solutions for everyday problems – kind of like 3D-puzzles for adults. Problems that seem simple from the outside but that are really difficult to crack once one focuses on them, like the development challenges countries face. Whether it’s access to basic services such as education or health, or building the infrastructure needed to connect producers to markets, or providing drinkable water to all, a broad range of sound and proven technical solutions already exists. But millions of kids continue to suffer from poor quality education, mothers continue to die while giving birth, and poor families spend a good chunk of their day walking just to get drinkable water.
Why is it so difficult to get solutions to reach those who need them the most? Many times, the almost automatic answer is that while the knowledge is there, countries lack the necessary resources to address these problems. But too quickly, more money is thrown at these problems without changing the fundamental issues, resulting in limited success at best. In other cases, we spend millions of dollars to build capacity and share knowledge, but it is hard to see results because the institutional support for a solution is lacking.
World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim has started a conversation about development and the private sector on Oxfam’s blog.
The evolving discussion isn’t so much about whether to harness the private sector to cut poverty, but how to do it.
In an Oct. 28 blog post, Kim said the Bank needs to work with many partners to help meet the goals of ending extreme poverty and boosting shared prosperity. Private sector investment “is needed to stretch scarce development resources.”
“Engaging the private sector is not about how we feel about business; it’s about how high our aspirations are for poor people. If we rely only upon foreign aid, then our aspirations are far too low.”
Last week, Transparency International published its 2013 Corruption Barometer, which reports the findings of a survey of 114,000 people in 107 countries on their interactions with corruption, the institutions and sectors they see as most corrupt, and their perceptions on whether they have a role in combating corruption. The report captures a number of trends, including the view that corruption is worsening across many sectors; it also calls for governments to strengthen their accountability platforms and enhance standards for procurement and public financial management.
This year’s survey found that 27% of people report having paid a bribe in the past year, nearly the same percentage as in the 2010/2011 report (26%). This indicates that more than a quarter of people surveyed have been touched by bribery.
There was a follow-up question: If the respondent did pay a bribe, what was the reason? The answer given most often, with 40% of responses, was “to speed things up.” This high rate of bribes for speed of service, to me, suggests a troubling complicity: The person paying the bribe may feel entitled to more rapid service at the expense of others.
Recently, many in the community concerned about international corruption have begun to discuss the need to hold individuals responsible criminally for their actions. While people have long discussed the failure to hold high-profile bribe recipients responsible, now the discussion has mutated to the bribe payer side. Lower-level targets are certainly more easily prosecuted than the rich and powerful. After all, corruption, like most crimes, is committed by people, not by companies, machines or cultures. Some countries, most notable the U.S., have brought an increasing number of cases against individuals directly involved in paying or authorizing bribes.