I spent the past 11 years working and living in Afghanistan. I didn’t intend to stay that long in one country office, but I got swept up in the Afghanistan Reconstruction Trust Fund, which under the World Bank, was financing 50% of government expenditures earlier on. Its budget operations grew from $600 million in 2004 to more than $5 billion in 2014.
For anyone working on public financial management, there were a lot of challenges to tackle and no good time to leave. Moreover,
If you have ever doubted that the mother of invention is necessity, then look no further than Pakistan.
Pakistan has struggled to provide opportunities to its people for decades. But
They are using all of the resources at their disposal to tackle their challenges..
“This dengue has become a calamity,” Saad Azeem said in September 2011. He wasn’t exaggerating. Azeem, a 45 year-old police officer, was “at home suffering from the fever and mourning the death of his elderly father.”
Sadly this wasn’t the case just for Azeem. Everyone was affected in Lahore, the capital of Punjab, the most populous province of Pakistan. The fever didn’t discriminate. Dengue mosquitoes were affecting the poor and the rich, the old, and the young. Out of more than 12,000 people who were infected in Pakistan, at least 10,000 resided in Lahore.
It was a disaster.
If you live in a country where electricity never or rarely goes out, you are lucky. In my country, Nepal, we are pleased when we get uninterrupted electricity for even eight hours a day.
Like Nepal, many countries around the world struggle to deliver basic services to their citizens. But things are slowly improving.
1. Participatory budgeting
In the Democratic Republic of Congo, citizens of South Kivu Province are using “mSurvey” to obtain information about budget meetings. Using just their mobile phones, they can actively monitor, discover what was decided at meetings, and evaluate those decisions via online voting. by actively reminding local authorities of their commitments while ensuring that citizens are getting services they deserve.
Though the Indian government has steadily increased funding for its health sector, per capita allocation is still low; reform is thus critical to effectively utilize the available budget.
The underlying question is: Given a set of resources, how do you procure goods in a way that achieves value for money and maximum efficiency?
Drugs and medical supplies are not procured and distributed in time, and this interruption in the delivery of services in health facilities affect the general population’s health outcomes.
Development depends on how well resources are spent. So, how can we truly follow the money from the moment that it is delivered all the way through how it is spent? How can we gather the data necessary to make informed decisions about the resources that drive development?
Connecting data from revenue generation through spending is key to tracking resources. If we have open data about development assistance, as well as open data about public contracting, and we can connect that data, we will be better able to have the information necessary to ensure that resources are spent more effectively and efficiently.
The efforts of the Open Aid Partnership (OAP) to collect and disclose aid data, and the recent release of the Open Contracting Data Standard (OCDS) provide an unprecedented opportunity to "follow the money".
At times, I ask my friends in Nepal, why they would not launch a business, especially when they have funds. A common obstacle for everyone is that they say you have to bribe government officials to even open a business.
Turns out, this isn’t unique to Nepal. According to Drivers of Corruption, a report recently published by the World Bank,
. These charts are based on surveys of more than 13,000 firms in 135 countries, by World Bank Enterprise Surveys.
Check out these charts and tell us if you are surprised.
I joined Facebook in 2007. For years, I would boast that I got all my news from Facebook and the Daily Show, an American satirical television program, which delivers fake news reports. I should be embarrassed to admit this, but perhaps it was inevitable. I certainly didn't feel connected to news sources, or government press services, so Facebook and fake news somehow felt more authentic and trustworthy than the traditional means of accessing information.
, making their government data available to enable public scrutiny and citizen monitoring, and enhance government accountability. The Open Contracting community is devising Open Contracting Data Standard to enhance disclosure and participation in public contracting processes. In the U.S., the GovLab at New York University developed an OpenData500 project that has an interactive visualization of how U.S. companies are using government data for new business opportunities. It’s all a good start.
Despite all these developments on opening up data interaction, a critical question remains: how can we make sure that governments disburse public resources to those that need it most, and that public contracts are allocated in a transparent, accountable and efficient manner?
I was intrigued by Kerala's Akshaya program. Kerala is uniquely, a most decentralized state, the only one of 17 in India to enact the Right to Public Services and, to open citizen service centers called Akshaya, run under the oversight of panchayats, 3-tier local self-governments, in 14 districts set within a 2 km radius of households. Akshaya was designed in its first phase in 2003 by the Kerala IT Mission to improve e-literacy in underserved areas and, in its second phase to provide a platform for government to citizen services through a public-private partnership. Over 60% of Kerala's 33 million citizens have been served by 2070+ Akshaya centers run by private entrepreneurs who collectively earn 30 million INR a month, creating employment for over 20,000 individuals. (For more details, see Akshaya Overview and UNDP Report on Akshaya).