“50% of Arab world citizens are dissatisfied with public services in their area,” according to a World Bank survey — which prompted not one, but two sessions at the World Bank Group-International Monetary Fund Spring Meetings. So it was no coincidence that the meme #BreaktheCycle emerged in another Middle East and North Africa (MENA) panel, “Creating Jobs and Improving Services: A New Social Contract in the Arab World,” which also revisited the theme of the social contract in both oil-importing and exporting countries.
Public Sector and Governance
In many countries, courts offer to waive their fees to anyone who can demonstrate that they cannot afford them.
Whilst it is true that fee waivers will not overcome profound barriers to access to justice, they do provide an important safety net for the poor to access essential services. And by helping the poor to pursue their rights, the courts can help to level that unequal playing field that is the courtroom.
In Serbia, providing court fee waivers are particularly pertinent.
In a sector that is scarce and expensive to begin with, corruption can mean the difference between life and death.
I recently attended the World Bank Group’s second annual Youth Summit, developed in partnership with the Office of the United Nations Secretary-General's Envoy on Youth. The event, hosted thanks to the leadership and initiative of young World Bank Group employees, focused on increasing youth engagement to end corruption and promote open and responsive governments. In the wake of the Ebola crisis, and amidst some very eager, idealist, and passionate conversations, I couldn’t help but think about the price of corruption in health.
Many have argued that decades of corruption and distrust of government left African nations prey to Ebola. Whether in Africa or any other continent, it should come as no surprise that complex, variable, and dangerously fragmented health systems can breed dishonest practices. The mysterious dance between regulators, insurers, health care providers, suppliers, and consumers obscures transparency and accountability-based imperatives. As the recent allegations about Ebola-stricken families paying bribes for falsified death certificates illustrate, when it comes to health, local corruption can have serious consequences internationally.
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.
Laura Tuck, Vice President for the Europe and Central Asia region of the World Bank, discusses her recent trip to Albania, during which she had broad ranging discussions with the government and other partners on the country's growth and development.
Would you be more willing to pay taxes if you didn’t have to spend hours doing it, or if you see that money being used in the right way? Well, you are not alone.
Armenians, like people around the world, feel the same. According to the recently conducted Tax Perception Survey in the country, easier tax compliance and more visible link between taxes paid and public services received was found to be particularly important.
Between 66 percent and 75 percent of respondents said they would be more willing to pay more taxes if the procedures were easy and less time-consuming, if they saw more useful social and other public services, or if they saw less corruption.
Over 95 percent of respondents felt the tax burden is heavy or very heavy, while almost 50 percent reported that evading tax payments was not justified under any circumstances.
About 57 percent noted that high taxes or desperate financial situations were the main reasons for avoiding or evading tax payments.
The data unveiled by the latest Tax Perception Survey, carried out with USAID support and World Bank Group technical assistance covered around 1,500 households and 400 business taxpayers. The analysis strengthened the need to modernize the tax system, which has remained a major challenge for Armenia. Despite Armenia’s ranking as 37th in Doing Business, the taxation system, at 103rd on the list, still requires a lot of work.
To be sure, there have been some improvements to the system in the past few years. They include the introduction of electronic filing of tax returns, e-government applications, risk-based audit principles, and taxpayer service centers and appeal system. These achievements contributed to increasing the tax to GDP ratio from 19.5 percent in 2010 to 22.8 percent in 2013.
But much remains to be done to further streamline and simplify tax procedures, modernize the tax administration, and enact a tax code.
Right now, as you read this, wherever you are, we are in uncharted territory. Our global population of 7.1 billion is headed for more than 9 billion by 2050. With our growing numbers and aspirations for shared prosperity comes a growing demand for energy to power homes, businesses, industry and transport. Our continuing reliance on fossil fuels is generating pollution and a dangerously high amount of greenhouse gas emissions – this past summer, the concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere passed levels not seen in 3 million years.
If you were in Beijing last week, you felt the impact in your lungs: Just 16 days into the new year, the city woke up to its first “airpocalypse” of 2014, the latest in a series of dangerously high smog days. Beijing’s mayor announced plans the same day to cut coal use by 2.6 million tons and ban heavily polluting vehicles.
That was an important local step, and we are seeing forward-thinking cities and national governments make similar moves as they develop the architecture for a cleaner, low-carbon future.
If you love books as much as I do, perhaps you too cherish the sensation of holding a new book in your hands for the first time. Or the way your nose twitches when dust lifts off the pages of an old paperback you just discovered on a bookstore shelf. Books are real treasures – they appeal to many different senses and can create memories that stay with us from childhood.
Today, more and more books take a very different form to when I was a kid. The Internet now provides us access to a vast electronic library where billions of books are available digitally rather than in the old-fashioned paper form. But there are many of us who still prefer the real thing. With this in mind, my colleagues and I at the World Bank office in Astana, Kazakhstan, held a book donation on the threshold of the New Year at the National Academic Library - one of the four depositary libraries in different regions of Kazakhstan (Almaty, Astana, Ust-Kamenogorsk, and Pavlodar) back in 2005 as an effective channel for sharing of knowledge and information.
For the event, we brought a ton of World Bank publications from the country office, inviting people to walk in and take any books that appealed to them. It took just one hour to clear the shelves! As people selected multiple books from the shelves, I asked, “Are you really going to read all of those books?” Their responses surprised me pleasantly.
Did you know that funding Moldova’s Parliament costs each citizen on average $2 per year - the country spends double the share of its public budget for the cost of its Legislature when compared to Finland, Lithuania or Ireland. Or that the cost of passing a law in Moldova in 2012 was twice what it cost in 2011? These are just some of the many interesting facts I recently learned about my country through an Open Data initiative.
Budget Stories is an Open Data initiative which originated as a grassroots idea among the “think-tank” community in Moldova and has quickly developed into a popular and useful online tool for citizens, primarily by digesting raw budget execution numbers and presenting them as visually-engaging infographics.