Evidence and analysis, when used well, can form the foundation for effective policymaking. But what happens once an analytical report is published, and the findings are shared? In the worst case, these reports sit collecting dust on a few lucky office shelves.
In the best cases, however, smart, rigorous, and timely evidence leads to real impact for the least well off. We set out recently to find out a bit more about how this can work in practice, looking at the case of Indonesia.
Effective social assistance is crucial not only for helping people move out of poverty, but also keeping people from falling into poverty. Too often, however, well-meaning programs do not reach those who need them the most. The poor stay poor, shocks push the vulnerable into poverty, and fiscal space is wasted on programs that are not doing what they need to do.
Since the 1990s, inequality has risen faster in Indonesia than in any other East Asian country apart from China. In 2002, the richest 10 per cent of households consumed as much as the poorest 42 per cent. By 2014, they consumed as much as the poorest 54 per cent. Why should we be worried about this trend? What is causing it, and how is the current administration addressing rising inequality? And what still needs to be done?
Inequality is not always bad; it can provide rewards for those who work hard and take risks. But high inequality is worrying for reasons beyond fairness. High inequality can impact economic growth, exacerbate conflict, and curb the potential of current and future generations. For example, recent research indicates that, on average, when a higher share of national income goes to the richest fifth of households, economic growth slows—whereas countries grow more quickly when the poorest two-fifths receive more.
While most people link air pollution only to burning fossil fuels, other activities such as agriculture and biomass burning also contribute to it. The complexity of air pollution can be explained by analyzing the composition of the PM2.5, one the most important air pollution indicators.
The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) differ from the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) in many ways. Unlike the MDGs, the SDGs universally apply to all countries and they are holistic and integrated. Moreover, their delivery is to be achieved by governments, civil society, and the private sector all working together to achieve their success.
The SDGs also recognize the central role of justice in achieving development, with Goal 16 specifically guaranteeing “equal access to justice for all.” Governments, in partnership with other stakeholders, must make necessary national reforms to provide access to justice to the billions who currently live outside of the protection of the law. They must commit to financing the implementation of these reforms and be held accountable for their success.
Regional and sub regional bodies are uniquely placed to assist governments with implementing and monitoring justice commitments made through the SDGs. Learnings from the MDGs show that countries that integrated the MDGs into existing regional strategies were far more successful in meeting the MDGs’ objectives than countries that did not have the support of an existing regional strategy.
To get a full picture of how social accountability can improve the quality of health services in Indonesia, one only has to travel to the border areas in East Nusa Tenggara (NTT) province.
On a scorching afternoon in August 2015 in Bijaepasu sub-district, a six hour drive from the provincial capital Kupang, a queue was forming in front of the village health center or puskesmas. The crowd seemed undeterred by the temperature that hovered around 40 degrees Celcius.
Leaning against its deteriorating walls were mothers and babies, elderly women and men. The queue was long and slow moving. The health center workers appeared overwhelmed. There were barely any medical equipment or supplies.
“The first five years have so much to do with how the next 80 turn out,” billionaire philanthropist Bill Gates once said, summing up the importance of early childhood education.
Early education is featured prominently in the World Bank’s Education Strategy 2020, which lays out a ten-year agenda focused on the goal of “learning for all.” With the tagline ‘Invest early, invest smartly, and invest for all,’ the strategy says that an investment in early education will support the development and growth of a nation, particularly for emerging economies such as Indonesia.
The so-called “Panama Papers” scandal reminds us that concealing wealth and avoiding tax payments is neither uncommon nor — in many cases — illegal. But the embarrassing leak exposes something else: The public trust is breached when companies, the rich and the powerful can hide their money without breaking the law. If this breach is left unaddressed, those who aren’t rich enough to hide money will be less willing to pay and contribute to the social contract in which taxes are exchanged for quality services.
As finance minister in my home country of Indonesia, I saw firsthand how a weak tax system eroded public trust and enabled crony capitalism. Shadow markets arose for highly subsidized fuel, family connections secured jobs, and bribes helped public servants beef up their salaries. Tax avoidance among the elites was common and the country couldn’t mobilize the resources we needed to build infrastructure, create jobs, and fight poverty.
It is widely acknowledged that reducing emissions from deforestation could bring about one-third of the greenhouse gas emission reductions we need by 2030 to stay on a 2-degrees trajectory. But protecting and managing forests wisely does not only make sense from a climate perspective. It is also smart for the economy. Forests are key economic resources in tropical countries. Protecting them would increase resilience to climate change, reduce poverty and help preserve invaluable biodiversity.
Here are just a few facts to illustrate why forests are so important. First, forests provide us with ecosystem services like pollination of food crops, water and air filtration, and protection against floods and erosion. Forests are also home for about 1.3 billion people worldwide who depend on forest resources for their livelihood. Locally, forests contribute to the rainfall needed to sustain food production over time. When forests are destroyed, humanity is robbed of these benefits.
The New Climate Economy report shows us that economic growth and cutting carbon emissions can be mutually reinforcing. We need more innovation and we need more investments in a low carbon direction. This requires some fundamental choices of public policy, and the transformation will not be easy. However, it is possible and indeed the only path to sustained growth and development. If land uses are productive and energy systems are efficient, they will both drive strong economic growth and reduce carbon intensity.
Already, the world's large tropical forest countries are taking action.
Recent studies in neuroscience and economics show that early childhood experiences have a profound impact on brain development and thus on outcomes throughout life. A growing number of impact evaluations from low- and middle-income countries underscore the importance of preschool for children’s development (to highlight a few: Cambodia, Mozambique, and Indonesia).
In post decentralization Indonesia, the responsibility to deliver services falls largely at the hands of the local government. So, too, does the management of public money. Local governments currently manage about half of Indonesia’s public finances. Transfers to the regions increased by more than threefold in real terms since the onset of decentralization.
However, with few improvements in health and education indicators, the results of these increased transfers are not encouraging.