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Blog post of the month: 5 things you should know about governance as a proposed sustainable development goal

Vinay Bhargava's picture

South Sudanese prepare for independenceEach month People, Spaces, Deliberation shares the blog post that generated the most interest and discussion. For June 2015, the featured blog post is "5 things you should know about governance as a proposed sustainable development goal" by Vinay Bhargava, the chief technical adviser and a board member at Partnership for Transparency Fund

On May 27, I had the pleasure of serving as a panelist at an event organized by the Governance Thematic Group of 1818 Society of the World Bank Group (WBG) Alumni.

The panelists were: Mr. Homi Kharas, Senior Fellow and Deputy Director for the Global Economy and Development program at the Brookings Institution; Ms. Heike Gramckow, Acting Practice Manager, Rule of Law and Access to Justice at the Governance Global Practice at the World Bank Group; Mr. Brian Levy, Professor of the Practice, School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS), Johns Hopkins University; Mr. Jerome Sauvage, Deputy head of UN Office in Washington DC. Mr. Fredrick Temple, currently Adviser at the Partnership for Transparency Fund, moderated the workshop. 
The panel presentations and discussion were hugely informative and insightful. I am pleased to share with you my five takeaways that anyone interested in governance and development interactions ought to know.

Procurement data for better development outcomes

Joel Turkewitz's picture

Even marginal improvements in procurement efficiency can mean big savings. And that’s just a start.
The use of data and technology in procurement make it possible for governments to make informed decisions to maximize development impact. At the World Bank, the Public Integrity and Openness Practice is developing a set of Transformational Engagements, one of which focuses on Data Analytics, to catalyze better outcomes from procurement processes.
The engagement will use data analytics to solve pressing developmental problems. The plan is to combine work on addressing common data problems (how to digitize paper records, how to link different data records, how to present data findings in ways that are accessible and influential) with efforts at the country level. Powered by advanced data analysis, countries can undertake empirical-based examinations of when best value is achieved via procurement, or in which cases and sectors government contracting is promoting the development of competitive and dynamic private sectors.
Work undertaken within the Bank will be informed by the concurrent efforts of others who are exploring different approaches and different techniques to using data and data analytics to drive improved performance. The World Bank seeks to play a constructive role within a community of initiatives to harness the power of information to change how governments function, the relationship between government and non-governmental actors, and the lives of people. Committed to an inclusive process of learning-by-doing, the World Bank is dedicated to building partnerships with researchers, government officials, the private sector, and civil society.

What will you do with access to information?

Cyril Muller's picture
View full infographic here.

A new phase of openness began five years ago on July 1, 2010, when the World Bank launched its Policy on Access to Information, which provides access to any information in the Bank’s possession that is not on a list of exceptions. The policy has served as a catalyst and has created an ecosystem of transparency initiatives to make World Bank information and data available to the public. In the years since 2010, the Bank has applied the principles underpinning Access to Information to accompanying initiatives such as Open Data, the Open Knowledge Repository, Open Finances, and Open Contracting, among others. The spectrum of transparency and innovation even extends beyond these initiatives to include the World Bank’s vision on Open Government.

Open approaches are paramount to development. But while access to information and technology are important to the development process, they are only part of the equation in finding solutions. A crucial part of the process lies with global citizens who can – and do – utilize the information and data to engage with and better their communities.

'Business unusual' can still work

Cecile Fruman's picture

I recently spent three days in Hargeisa, Somaliland. An eye-opening experience, as much as one that strengthens my conviction that World Bank Group is doing the right thing by engaging in this fragile country.

Somaliland is business unusual. Imagine among others, sitting in a mandatory security brief and specifying your blood type straight off the plane, going to meetings in armored cars, wearing the hijab  – a veil worn by Muslim women in the presence of adult males – scheduling meetings around prayers and the time of Iftar, the evening meal when Muslims end their daily fast during Ramadan.

The business environment in Somaliland is characterized by a fragile state, poor public service delivery, a weak legal and regulatory regime, inefficient and costly trade logistics, and a fragmented private sector with limited structured engagement with the government. Although the private sector accounts for more than 90 percent of GDP (an anomaly in Africa), it has poor access to finance and lacks an organized voice.

Meeting with the President of the Republic of Somaliland.
During my mission, I met with key Ministers, entrepreneurs and development partners and discussed the challenges and opportunities linked to the ongoing economic development agenda, notably the development of infrastructure and the energy sector. The exchanges highlighted how the World Bank Group's program in Somaliland is laying a foundation to create job opportunities and to accelerate the pace of economic development by fostering business reforms and SME engagement. In this light, the set-up of a high-level taskforce – reporting directly to the President – to implement Doing Business reforms compiled in a Doing Business memo, is a milestone and a strong sign of client buy-in. That is always crucial for the World Bank Group's programs to reach their objectives.  

Last, I participated in the presentation of the pilot Reform Champion Program, which aims to develop the capacity of government officials and some representatives of the private sector to implement key reforms that will address constraints to economic growth and development. The project is expected to help trained reform champions implement at least five reforms to improve government-to-business services by July 2016.

The role of ombudsman institution in improving public service delivery

Danang Girindrawardana's picture

In May 2015, I was a panel speaker at the 2nd World Bank – International Ombudsman Institute Roundtable on the role of ombudsman institutions (OIs) in promoting citizen-centric governance and inclusive institutions. This was a great opportunity to share the experience of my office, the Ombudsman Republic of Indonesia (ORI) in promoting greater government accountability and also learn from other countries’ experiences presented by the other panelists. 

The OIs come in various shapes and sizes, thus encompassing different roles depending upon their national mandates. While OIs are mostly known to deal with complaints regarding maladministration issues not addressed at the agency level, our panel discussed how OIs could contribute to service delivery improvements, while also promoting citizen engagement in demanding accountability.

As fellow Ombudsman Peter Tyndall from Ireland noted, OIs are capable of not only looking into individual complaints regarding poor service delivery often caused by one-off incidences, but also investigate and uncover roots of more systemic problems within public institutions. 

Increasing value for money in procurement under railway projects in China

Jianjun Guo's picture
 Yang Aijun / World Bank

China has experienced substantial economic growth over three decades, with sustained annual GDP growth rates of 8%-10%. In order to maintain the growth, the government seeks to accelerate the process of industrialization and urbanization started in the 12th Five Year Plan (2011-2015).

China has made investment in transport infrastructure a centerpiece of its strategy, with investment in the rail sector specifically increasing, in recognition of lower cost, higher energy efficiency, and lower carbon emission of rail transport compared with road and air transport.

China has built the world’s largest high-speed rail network, which includes 16,000 kilometers of rail connecting 160 cities on the mainland. China’s Mid- and Long-term Railway Network Plan (2004-2020), adopted in 2004 and updated in 2008, contains an ambitious program of railway network development, with an aim of increasing the public railway network from 75,000 km to 120,000 km, among which 25,000 route-km will be fast passenger railway routes.

Procurement of high-speed railway projects in China is complex and transaction heavy. The technology is constantly changing due to innovation by designers and manufacturers, and the inclusion of multiple agencies and officials can increase the complexity.

‘Orderly traffic’ as a governance measure: a suggestion

Suvojit Chattopadhyay's picture

Traffic in IndiaMeasuring good governance can be tricky, but 'orderly traffic' can be used as an indicator since it offers insights beyond its limited definition.

As hard as it is to define ‘governance’, we have plenty of indicators to measure its quality: quality of key public services, extent of corruption, ease of doing business, etc. One of the challenges with these indicators is the distance between the process and outcomes, in particular, the assumptions involved in the translation of certain process into tangible outcomes. It follows that by mixing up indicators for processes and outcomes, we risk, well, measuring what doesn’t matter, and not measuring what does matter.

So as the title of this post suggests, could ‘orderly traffic’ be a good measure?

A familiar context: I live in Nairobi (and prior to that, in Delhi) and spend a considerable time waiting in traffic. What often makes traffic a problem is a complete lack of coordination amongst motorists on the road. However, I don’t think the onus of coordination at an intersection should rest on motorists – there are traffic lights or traffic police whose job it is to enforce discipline to ensure orderliness on the road. In many cities though, this is plain theory. In reality, traffic lights may not exist, or be broken; the traffic police may be absent, or just be incompetent. Motorists joust with each other every day and often end up creating gird-locks that hold everyone up. Please note that I am not talking about slow traffic caused purely due to long stops at intersections waiting for the lights to change. I am specifically concerned with the ‘orderliness’ of the flow. People waste time, fuel and a lot of their good humour (unless you are in a zen state) when they are in these gird-locks. It is usually more than evident to everyone whose fault it is and what the solution should be – and that usually only serves to raise tempers on the road. On days when the traffic flows smoothly, everyone seems happier. Zipping home after work is often the high point of the day.

Olympic opportunity: Renew the ideal of the global Games – by restoring the Olympics to their historic home

Christopher Colford's picture

Wasting billions of dollars, time and time again, to stage self-indulgent sports spectacles is no way for any society to build shared prosperity for the long term. But just try explaining that common-sense economic logic to the sports-crazed cities that keep lining up to purchase a moment of fleeting fame – and that end up squandering vast sums, by building use-once-throw-away “white elephants” for one-off events like the Olympic Games or the World Cup soccer tournament.

The sports-industrial complex continues to beguile the gullible and the grandiose, even though scholars have long warned of the futility of sports-event-driven spending. Beijing spent about $40 billion to host the 2008 Summer Games, and Sochi spent upwards of $50 billion to stage the 2014 Winter Games – while Brazil spent $20 billion to host (and heartbreakingly lose) the final rounds of 2014 World Cup soccer. Not to be outdone for extravagance and excess, Qatar reportedly plans to spend as much as $200 billion for the 2022 festivities.

Like the deluded leaders of declining Rome – who distracted their once-industrious city into passivity by pacifying the populace with what the poet Juvenal derided as panem et circenses: "bread and circuses" – modern-day civic leaders are allowing their obsession with media-moment athletic fame to trample economic logic. The scale of their civic hubris – and the malign self-interest of the construction firms, financiers, flacks and fixers who goad credulous Olympic-wannabe cities into wanton overspending – is insightfully dissected in a valuable new book, “Circus Maximus: The Economic Gamble Behind Hosting the Olympics and the World Cup,” by Andrew Zimbalist, a professor of economics at Smith College.

In recent remarks at the World Bank, Zimbalist deplored the reckless rush that stampedes many cities into bleeding their civic coffers in the quest for Olympic notoriety. The saddest example may be the city of Montreal, whose debt from the 1976 Summer Games burdened the sorry city for 30 years.

Yet the suckers keep taking the bait. Boston, said Zimbalist, recently put forth an extravagant multibillion-dollar bid for the 2024 Summer Games – and only later, after the initial headlines and hoopla had abated, did more complete statistics reveal the likely scale of Boston’s folly. And, of course, the Olympic organizers would again stick the long-suffering taxpayers with the bill for any revenue shortfall.

Zimbalist’s logic is a wake-up call for those who somehow imagine that “this time is different” – that one-shot wonders might somehow produce long-term economic benefits. Some occasional exceptions suggest how very rare it is that optimists are rewarded: London, for example, may have gained a much-needed morale boost after its successful 2012 Summer Games, and two (but only two) Olympic festivals actually turned a profit – both of them in Los Angeles, which shrewdly re-used some of its 1936 Olympic facilities when it again played host to the Summer Games in 1984. But for most cities – Montreal in 1976, Sarajevo in 1984Athens in 2004 and many more – the money spent on soon-to-crumble stadia, ski jumps and swimming pools was a diversion from urgent human needs and productive investment.

Zimbalist makes a compelling case – yet beyond the diagnosis of the malady, one seeks a prescription to cure it. Can such Olympic megalomania be tamed? Are there other ways to build, and pay for, worthy sports facilities that honor the spirit of the Olympic Games while avoiding the overspending that bleeds their hosts dry?

A potential solution arose amid Zimbalist’s recent World Bank discussion. Rather than build one-shot Olympic facilities that are destined to be discarded as soon as each extravaganza is finished, why not build just one enduring set of permanent Olympic facilities that can be refurbished and re-used, year after year? Build it right, and build it only once: That way, the cost of building and maintaining an Olympic complex could be spread over generations.

Pursuing that solution seems especially timely right now, and here's why. Where is the historically logical place to locate such a permanent Olympic site? Why, in Greece, of course, where the Olympics originated in 776 B.C. and continued until 393 A.D. There could be no more authentic place to have today’s marathoners run than in Marathon itself – no more meaningful place to have skiers schuss than on Mount Olympus, or to have boaters ply the very waters that warmed Odysseus’ odyssey.

Weekly wire: The global forum

Roxanne Bauer's picture
World of NewsThese are some of the views and reports relevant to our readers that caught our attention this week.

Drones for Development
Project Syndicate
Unmanned aerial vehicles have populated both the imagination and nightmares of people around the world in recent years. In April, the United States Navy announced an experimental program called LOCUST (Low-Cost UAV Swarming Technology), which officials promise will “autonomously overwhelm an adversary” and thus “provide Sailors and Marines a decisive tactical advantage.” With a name and a mission like that – and given the spotty ethical track record of drone warfare – it is little wonder that many are queasy about the continued proliferation of flying robots. But the industrial use of the lower sky is here to stay. More than three million humans are in the air daily. Every large human settlement on our planet is connected to another by air transport.

Confronting the Crisis of Global Governance
Commission on Global Security, Justice & Governance
Today’s global challenges, from mass violence in fragile states and runaway climate change to fears of devastating cross-border economic shocks and cyber attacks, require new kinds of tools, networks, and institutions if they are to be effectively managed. Climate change, economic shocks, and cyber attacks are likely to have lasting and far-reaching consequences, and the marked and visible increase in mass atrocities in one country after another has reversed the trend of declining political violence that began with the end of the Cold War.  Dealing with each of these issues calls for policies and actions beyond the writ or capabilities of any state and threatens to escape the grasp of present international institutions.

What’s proactive governance?

Ravi Kumar's picture
See the inforgraphic in high resolution here. Designed by Boris Balabanov, World Bank

Let’s say on a dark, cold day, electricity supply to your house is suddenly interrupted. With no heat and light, you furiously walk to the nearby government energy administration office to file a complaint.
As you file your complaint, an official also asks for your mobile number and tells you that within the next 24 hours, you will receive help. A day later, you get a text message or robocall asking you whether you have been helped and how the service was.  
This process—when government proactively seeks feedback directly from citizens about the quality of its services and makes it mandatory for service providers to use smartphones and creates dashboards for citizens to view real-time information on service delivery—is called proactive governance.
Proactive governance was first introduced in 2011 in Punjab, the most populous province of Pakistan.