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Power to the Poor in Laos brings electricity to (almost) all

Alfredo Baño Leal's picture

Building on the story about rural electrification in Laos, let me talk to you about an innovative concept under the electrification program umbrella that focused on those more disadvantaged and with fewer opportunities. This new concept is the Power to the Poor program (P2P).

The P2P scheme was launched in September 2008, although it was identified a few years earlier, in 2005. At that time, a social impact survey was carried out and among all data analyzed, one indicator was outstanding: the pick-up rate in the villages recently electrified was on average only a 70%. What was happening with the remaining 30% of households that were not being connected? It was not a design problem as those households were just a few meters from the electric post. It was, as with many problems in life, a financial problem: the connection fee charged by the power utility, Electricité du Laos (EdL), was too expensive to be paid upfront by the poorest households.

Civil Society: To What Purpose?

Shanthi Kalathil's picture

"Associations may socialise individuals into practising core civic and democratic values, such as tolerance, dialogue and deliberation, trust, solidarity, and reciprocity."
 
I'd mentioned in a previous post that I had a few more thoughts on this report on citizen engagement from the Development Research Centre on Citizenship, Participation and Accountability (Citizenship DRC) at the UK's Institute of Development Studies (IDS). In light of recent conversations at the Bank regarding civil society, I've been thinking about the significance of framing civil society in instrumental terms (i.e., as a means toward an end in achieving sectoral reforms) vs. framing it as a fundamental institution of good governance. 

Trying to See Like a Citizen

Shanthi Kalathil's picture

"The most effective citizens are the most versatile: the ones who can cross boundaries. They move between the local, the national and the global, employ a range of techniques, act as allies and adversaries of the state, and deploy their skill of protest and partnership at key moments and in different institutional entry points."
 
This quote and other interesting nuggets come via a new report on citizen engagement from the Development Research Centre on Citizenship, Participation and Accountability (Citizenship DRC) at the UK's Institute of Development Studies (IDS).  Thought-provoking and based on a decade of research spanning 150 case studies in nearly 30 countries, the new report contains a wealth of organized thought on both the changing role of citizens in development and the shifting sands of citizen-oriented development policy. In fact, I found myself highlighting so many different portions, I'm just going to split this post in two.

The Good News From Egypt

Shanthi Kalathil's picture

Just when I was ruminating on bad news, here comes an informative Foreign Policy piece focusing explicitly on some good news coming out of Egypt - the opening up of the country's traditional media. James Traub's overview of changes in the country's media sector helpfully frames current developments against historical background, so that when someone quoted in the piece says "Now it's just the news -- according to the importance of the news," the reader understands the significance. (Note: Traub's piece appears to rely on translations from Arabic, English language media and interviews with Egyptian journalists and activists, and I think it would be enhanced by complementary analyses that are directly accessing and interpreting the source material.) 

Quote of the Week: Roberts, Hsiao, Berman, & Reich

Antonio Lambino's picture

 

 

 

"Reforms need to be judged, not on reformers' intentions, but by the changes they actually produce."

 

- Marc J. Roberts, William Hsiao, Peter Berman, & Michael R. Reich (2004, p. 4)
Getting Health Reform Right: A Guide to Improving Performance and Equity

Bring in the Hooligans - Lessons in Coalition Building

Anne-Katrin Arnold's picture

A lesson in coalition building comes to us from Egypt via the New York Times. In an analysis of the build-up to the Egyptian Revolution, two NYT reporters show us how careful planning of events and allies led to one of the most important political events of our time in the region. The coalition that made such an impact consists of young people from Serbia, Tunisia, and Egypt, American and Russian intellectuals (some of them dead), Facebook groups, marketing specialists - and hooligans.

Sotto Voce?

Shanthi Kalathil's picture

Recently I read yet another paper advancing the idea that governance reforms should take a back seat to economic development. To which, as I watch the ongoing footage from the Middle East, I must respond: really?
 
If there is nothing else that recent events in Egypt have taught us, it is that people, everywhere, demand a voice. Not all democracy templates are universally applicable. But citizens of any country surely desire the freedom to express themselves, and count themselves heard. It's not merely a human right; it's a human fact. 
 
Many development agencies have been caught off balance by recent developments in the Middle East, and are scrambling to adjust. Why? Because we, the collective development community, still have no real way to think about issues of voice, accountability, representation, politics, and power. Our assessment templates only marginally, if at all, take into account such crucial issues; operationally, we have no established methods of building such issues into our work. Even now, governance remains a road hesitantly trod, skirting the outside of the development mainstream. And yet I challenge anyone who has watched recent global events unfold to argue that governance and politics do not matter in people's everyday lives.

Business Environment Reforms: Distinguishing Tokenism from the Real Thing

Inessa Love's picture

To promote the registration of new firms, many countries have been undertaking reforms to reduce the costs, days or procedures required to register a business. For example, the World Bank Doing Business report each year identifies the 10 most improved countries on the overall Doing Business index (comprised of 9 subindicators). One of these subindicators measures reforms related to starting a business, with 30-65 countries reforming in this area each year. A still unanswered question is whether some reforms are more important than others. A priori, it is not clear what magnitude of reduction in costs (or days or procedures) is necessary to create a significant impact on firm registration. In other words, what exactly constitutes a reform? Is a 20% reduction in the costs of registration sufficient, or is a 50% reduction necessary to get a substantial number of firms to register?

In a recent paper Leora Klapper and I empirically investigate the magnitude of reform required for a significant impact on the number of new registrations. We use a new dataset that is uniquely suited for this purpose: the World Bank Group Entrepreneurship Snapshots (WBGES), a cross-country, time-series panel dataset on the number of newly registered companies. We supplement it with data from Doing Business reports that contain the cost, time and procedures required for registration of new companies. Importantly, both datasets focus on limited liability companies. In an earlier paper, we used the same dataset to investigate the impact of the global financial crisis on new firm registrations

An American Lesson: Counter-Reform Can Shape Public Opinion

Sina Odugbemi's picture

What might be the generalizable lessons of the recent mid-term elections in the United States? There are several that this blog would be interested in. The one that I would like to draw attention to today is the fact that despite the huge reform bills that Democrats successfully passed - the biggest being the health care reform bill - it seems clear that they lost the battle for public opinion, and that losing that battle did not help them on election day, whatever else shaped voter preferences on that day.  Reformers everywhere need to reflect on that experience very carefully.

When reforms fail what is often blamed is 'lack of political will'; in other words, not enough leaders in leadership positions in the specific country context supported the proposed reform and it failed. Suppose you secure political will, as in this case, and the reform succeeds, is it game-over? Clearly not. To quote Robert  O. Varenik of the Open Society Justice Initiative (at the end of a  review of a series of pretrial detention reform experiences from around the world): "The acid test of reform should not be what can be attained but what can be sustained."

Publish and the Problem Will Go Away?

Johanna Martinsson's picture

Transparency International’s (TI) 2010 Corruption Perceptions Index provides a rather bleak picture of the current state of corruption around the world. With more than half of the 178 indexed countries scoring below five on a 10 point scale (with 10 being “very clean”), corruption remains a major impediment to development.  Thus, TI is now advocating for stricter implementation and monitoring of the United Nations Convention Against Corruption (UNCAC), a global legal framework that came into force in 2005 to help curb corruption. The Convention’s 140 signatories’ will be under review for the next three years for their efforts in fighting corruption.  TI further recommends that focus should be given to areas such as, “strengthening institutions; strengthening the rule of law; making decision-making transparent; educating youths and setting up better whistle-blower protection schemes.”  As a matter of fact, anti-corruption measures will be discussed at the G-20 summit taking place in Seoul next week.  However, Christiaan Poortman, TI’s Director of Global Programmes, is skeptical as to whether it will produce any major changes at the governance level. 


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