The Wildlife Friendly Ibis Rice program has begun purchasing a new crop of rice for the coming year. The first 7 tons of paddy (out of a total of about 120 tons for 2011) was procured last week. Participating farmers were paid a premium of 100 riel per kilogram above middleman prices for their rice.
The World Bank employs a variety of specialists in different disciplines, often with abstract and hard to understand titles. Not me. When people ask what I do for the Bank I say “I build roads”. This often brings laughs from other Bank staff, but it’s true.
The Seoul G20 summit in November ended with some homework for the World Bank. We were asked to work with the ILO, OECD and UNESCO to develop internationally comparable indicators of skills that can help countries in their efforts to better match education and job training to market needs. The G20 was right to make this a priority.
In this post-financial crisis period, jobs play an important role in recovery. Making sure that people have the right skills to get these jobs is the other side. Developing countries, especially, know that skills development is necessary if they are going to attract investment that will create decent jobs and raise productivity.
Ambiguity and uncertainty about the exact scope of the term governance is useful, not least because it opens up broad areas of discussion with governments and policy-makers, allowing difficult topics to be broached or skirted pragmatically.
It is a fact that many of the countries which suffer the most from corruption are the countries which have the fewest resources to combat the problem. Poor countries may be faced with a dilemma of using resources to prosecute the corruption which degrades the quality and quantity of public goods that reach their citizens, or using resources to provide those basic goods, such as food aid and roads.
At the same time, larger bribes are not infrequently paid by outsiders, such as foreign corporations. Casual observation shows that funds must be coming from outside some of the poorest countries. In short, the bribe money is flowing from the developed world into the developing world.
My last blog entry back in July was perhaps a sign of things to come. In it I wrote how the “hearts” bit of so-called “hearts and minds” initiatives was often missing. I argued that the policy makers viewed arts and culture as a fluffy luxury and often missed their power as a key driver for change. I was at the time a self-critical policy-maker.
So, after 15 years as a diplomat and communications strategist, I have given it all up and embarked on Masters of Fine Arts study in Cambridge, England. At first it felt indeed like a fluffy luxury, at best a mid-life crisis, but once I entered into what I can only describe as a sublime learning curve, I quickly understood that my art making can easily and effectively incorporate my passions for positive societal discourse, transforming conflict and even diplomacy. Furthermore my art practice can incorporate a genuinely moving participatory element.
Sitting out in the sun, in the middle of a public school premises, I intently looked at a woman clad in a patchy orange saree carrying a lean child on her lap. It was hard not to wonder whether her bare five years of primary school education really helped her understand public financial management! Indeed I was wrong. It was the sheer urge of entertainment and not curiosity about public financial management that drew her, and many more like her, to the premises of a government owned school in Hazaribaag, near the Beribaad, Mirpur area of Dhaka.
Conventional wisdom holds that bribery is the preferred means of influencing government policy in less developed countries, while lobbying is more common in developed countries. Perhaps due to this perceived compartmentalization of lobbying and bribery, very little is known about the relationship between lobbying and bribery, the extent and effectiveness of lobbying vs. bribery in less developed countries, and how this relationship changes as countries move up the development ladder.
I would like to follow up on Paul’s interesting comments on information sharing and the need in particular for timeliness. He raises a number of issues on when to share information and this is where I would like to come in. My background relies on information sharing across disciplines, be they units in the Bank or wider afield to other agencies such as Multi Lateral Development Banks (MDB) with their own integrity/investigations function or to law enforcement. And herein lies the difference between information managed by law enforcement when compared to that of the development community. In our search for timeliness – often a crucial issue for law enforcement it is not so for the development community, and in some ways this is essential as it allows us to first evaluate the reliability of the source of the information and then question the validity of the information. One may ask why we should do this, and the simple answer is – we must be able to satisfy ourselves that we have undertaken our own due diligence and are confident that the information we are providing will add value to the enforcement entity with whom we share the information. For instance we may find that after questioning the source of the data we ascertain that the information is not known directly to the source it is in fact a regurgitation of information relayed to him/her by someone else – and therefore while our source may be good the validity of our information could be questioned.
I have some good news to share on the energy front from the experience of two tiny communities of 1,100 people on Nicaragua’s Atlantic coast. Results of a study published November 26 in Science Magazine demonstrate that low-carbon rural energy services can be delivered at cost savings in cases where communities utilize isolated, diesel-powered, electricity grids.
The rural Nicaraguan communities of Orinoco and Marshall Point were dependent on the diesel micro-grid for their electricity. In 2009, they partnered with the national government and an NGO to implement energy efficiency measures including metering, prompting residents to reduce wasteful use of electricity. Compact fluorescent light bulbs were also introduced, as well as more efficient outdoor lighting, and replacement of part of the diesel power with biogas from dung.
After the government installed meters, energy use dropped by 28%, and people’s electric bills dropped proportionately. The NGO, blueEnergy, based in San Francisco, which offered the compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFL), was able to cut household energy use by another 17%. The net result was reduced burning of diesel, even though the community’s reduced energy needs allowed the local energy supplier to run its generators two extra hours each day, providing longer service to customers. In the month after the conservation campaign, energy costs per household had dropped by 37 %.
These conclusions emerged from calculations based on a marginal abatement cost curve, or MAC, an analytical tool developed in 2008 by McKinsey & Company. The same tool was used by a team of experts headed by the World Bank, studying Mexico’s climate challenges.