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Public Sector and Governance

Lessons from the taxi industry to improve Romania’s governance

Ismail Radwan's picture
taxi in Romania
Photo: Daniel Kozak, World Bank


The first time I came to Bucharest in 2013 the Bank office offered to arrange a pick up from the airport. Being a seasoned traveler, I declined the offer. I reasoned that I had lived and worked in so many countries I could manage the transfer to the hotel without assistance. I was wrong.
 
I picked up my luggage to find a local cab outside the airport. A taxi driver offered me a ride. I didn’t negotiate the price upfront seeing that he had a meter in the car.
 
Twenty minutes later we reached the hotel. The meter read Lei 200 - at the that time about $60. That was over twice the going rate but there was little else I could do. I felt cheated as so many tourists do.
 
I learned from the experience, accepted offers of help from colleagues and paid more attention to rates going forward.
 
About a year later I returned to Bucharest to find a new system in place.  An electronic kiosk had been installed at the airport.  Arriving visitors could now press a button to get an estimated wait time to hail a taxi. I took my ticket. It was a smooth ride.
  
What made the difference? 
 
The new taxi ordering system is now available on mobile phones mirroring, in many ways, the service provided by Uber. Passengers can rate drivers and increase accountability.  
 
Bucharest has gone from being a difficult place to find an honest cab driver to one of the most convenient. 
 
The change has been driven by incentives and improved technology. 

 What are the implications for governance reform? 

The future of government is open

Stephen Davenport's picture


The World Bank Group sees the pillars of a more open and citizen centric government--transparency, citizen participation, and collaboration--as strategic priorities in its work on governance because they suggest concrete ways to promote shared prosperity. Having made significant strides to increasing openness in the Bank's own work, we seek to build on this progress to support client governments in their own efforts to make the development process more inclusive. 

What are we talking about when we talk about “subnational” governments?

Arturo Herrera Gutierrez's picture
Municipality of Guatapé in Colombia. Photo - Adrienne Hathaway / World Bank
Municipality of Guatapé in Colombia. Photo - Adrienne Hathaway / World Bank


Over the last 25 years, the relevance of local governments (states, provinces, municipalities, etc.) in Latin America has been constantly increasing.

The process started with a wave of decentralization, particularly in the education and health sectors, followed by the increasing of other responsibilities of local governments (with the accompanying budget!), and most recently topped off by the allocation of additional investment resources fueled by the commodities boom of the mid-2000s. Currently, in some countries, half of the national budget is now allocated to lower levels of governments.

The World Bank has a long history supporting countries in the region as they transition political, administrative, and fiscal responsibilities to subnational levels, as part of national strategies for strengthening democracy, transparency, and efficient service delivery. 

Integrity due diligence: How much do we need to know?

Samuel Harrison Datlof's picture



The World Bank’s “zero tolerance” policy on corruption makes clear how thieves and embezzlers will be dealt with, if they are discovered. But what about before corruption actually occurs—how should the Bank go about preventing fraud and corruption in the first place?

The divide between prevention and enforcement shapes the World Bank’s fight against corruption in ways both subtle and profound. Enforcement is easier to conceptualize; it is tangible. Someone commits fraud or corruption, by siphoning Bank funds away from their intended purpose.  When the Office of Suspension and Debarment slams a company with a sanction, we can quantify the effect.

Prevention, on the other hand, is a slippery idea. It evades definition. Quantifying how much fraud a policy prevents relies on counterfactuals, making it far more difficult to pin down. This means, for better or for worse, innovations and efforts towards the prevention perspective may lag behind enforcement.

Improving Public Investment Management: Spotlight on Ethiopia

Mario Marcel's picture
 
Overview of Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Photo - Arne Hoel / World Bank
Overview of Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Photo: Arne Hoel / World Bank


Last month I met with ministers and local officials in Addis Ababa to explore areas where we, at the World Bank, can help build institutional capability in Ethiopia. The trip was an enriching experience, both personally and professionally. It was gratifying to see first-hand the good work and commitment to development exhibited by our staff in the country.

We have had a decade-long engagement with Ethiopia with a successful track-record. Ethiopia has one of the largest World Bank portfolios in the Africa Region (US$6.1 billion in 2014) and the partnership is strong, with a robust future.

During my visit, I gave a lecture at Addis Ababa University on Public Investment Management before an audience of faculty, students, civil society organizations and donors. I shared with them how much public infrastructure investment has done for the country. Ethiopia has the third-largest public investment rate in the world and three times the average for Sub Saharan Africa.

This effort has contributed to growth that has averaged 10.9 percent since 2004—a figure higher than that of their neighbors or low-income countries on average. Infrastructure investment has also been helpful in expanding access to services and in gaining competitiveness, being a large landlocked country. 

​LGBTI people are (likely) over represented in the bottom 40%

SOGI Task Force's picture


World Bank President Jim Kim recently said “we will not reach our twin goals […] unless we address all forms of discrimination, including bias based on sexual orientation and gender identity.”

Sexual and gender minorities are particularly important for the Bank because they are (likely) overrepresented in the bottom 40% -- the target of the Bank’s goal to promote shared prosperity.

Why only “likely”? Because robust data on LGBTI development outcomes is rare, even in high income countries.  With support from the World Bank’s Nordic Trust Fund, we are seeking to fill some of these data gaps, starting with research in the Western Balkans.

What we do know is that, across the board, barriers to education and employment contribute to greater chances of being poor – and this may be worse for LGBTI individuals. 

Available data on Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) people shows that youth are more likely to face barriers in getting a good education.  It’s also harder to find – and keep – a job, pushing LGBTI people further into poverty.

Good communication strategy is essential for good governance

Ravi Kumar's picture
2010 post earthquake Haiti. Photo - Mercy Corps Mercy Corps
2010 post earthquake Haiti. Photo: Mercy Corps


When trust in governments around the world is at a historic low, and a myriad of challenges continue to overwhelm leaders, it’s imperative for government agencies to revamp their strategic communications approach.
 
Whether it is during a natural disaster or a policy consultation process, citizens expect honest and useful communications from their government agencies. This expectation isn’t misplaced, as they now live in a world where mobile phones and the Internet are ubiquitous.
 
Governments often succeed or fail because of the way they communicate their vision, mission and policy objectives with the wider citizenry. In a digital age, it’s becoming increasingly obvious that governments ought to be proactive in the way they communicate and engage with citizens.
 
The decreasing price of technology such as mobile phones is leading to the rapid democratization of digital communicators.
 
Recently, when the devastating earthquake hit Nepal, Nepalis inside and outside the country wanted actionable information as soon as possible. Many of them were talking about the devastation even before the government’s initial statement. Twitter and Facebook are popular in Nepal and people were using the platforms to talk about damage and rescue.
 
As a Nepali citizen, I know my government has yet to be digitally savvy. Thankfully, the government launched a Twitter account to share the latest devastation numbers and information about rescue operation. It was a strategic use of the tool in a time of crisis.

Without public sector partners, how can international organizations like the World Bank combat corruption?

Samuel Harrison Datlof's picture
The World Bank
The World Bank


When it comes to engagement in the fight against corruption, developing country governments span a wide range. Some are willing to investigate and prosecute corruption; others are more reluctant.

Some can count on a well-organized and responsive civil service; others cannot. In short, from the perspective of intergovernmental organizations interested in combatting corruption, some governments are better partners than others.

For those states unable or unwilling to be strong allies in the fight against corruption in World Bank projects, efforts must be channeled through actors other than the government. And since corrupt transactions—like a tango  (it takes two) —there is always an alternative actor to address: the private sector.

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.

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.

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