How officials can do better at delivering services to citizens


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Future of Government Third Disruptive Debate
Future of Government Third Disruptive Debate

The third Disruptive Debate in the Future of Government series featured four participants from East, South, and West Africa, who discussed the challenges of service delivery. The conversation focused on how governments get things done. While many governments can successfully set policy or strategy, far fewer can implement those plans successfully.

There are many motivated and effective people working in government, even in very dysfunctional systems. Yet between 2006 and 2019 many governments did not succeed in improving their prioritization and implementation of policy, systems and processes. Governments that can’t effectively reach important objectives waste public money, don’t improve quality of life and lose public support. 

Implementation attempts often fail, even in high-income countries. For example, there has been little success in meeting carbon-emission targets over the past several decades. And there are signs of dissatisfaction with declining public services in many countries as policy challenges pile up. Finally, with the COVID-19 crisis accelerating the pace of technological adoption, governments’ ability to meaningfully implement policies is more important than ever. 

Here are some key takeaways from the conversation.

George Werner, Liberia’s former Minister for Education and former Head of the Civil Service Agency, argued that governments cannot deliver alone. Some states have struggled to meet demand and give young people the tools to build the future of their countries. Governments need to be more open to developing partnerships with non-state actors to deliver traditional government services. While government shapes policy objectives, there are areas where the private sector is traditionally strong, including logistics and transport. The broader community is also required to co-produce public services, to keep governments accountable for delivering promises and to hold officials’ feet to the fire.

Given the harsh realities that African governments face, business as usual isn’t sufficient to bring about decisive change. Adopting riskier policies with the potential for transformative change, but also electoral downside, is a requirement of governing. Liberia’s education reforms are an example of this.

Eden Getachew, Centre of Government and Delivery Lead at the Tony Blair Institute for Global Change, remarked that, if done right, combining best practice management principles, prioritization and political power can “get things done” and translate governments’ visions into reality. But governments cannot tackle every challenge at once. Delivery units can be catalysts for change and become “halfway houses” to whole-of-government transformations. Partnership is critical for getting the required talent and skills into government.

Delivery is not just about the center of government, but also about cascading objectives down to the middle levels and ultimately the front line. Still, functional central units helped during the COVID-19 crisis.

Government is under pressure to deliver. Globalization of information has affected expectations of government efficiency, particularly among young people. Within countries, technology has made it easier to express these demands and needs to leaders.

Clement Uwajeneza, Chair of the Rwanda Chamber of ICT, said COVID-19 has placed technology at center stage. Not every government has succeeded during the crisis, but attitudes have shifted. There are three key aspects to successful technology reforms: First, leaders need to prioritize and commit to digital integration; second, they need to value data derived from technology for its potential to improve the way they deliver; and third, they need to build effective teams to deliver digitalization.

For governments, failure is extremely costly, even unacceptable, but genuinely novel interventions often don’t succeed. Governments must find ways to absorb the potential for failure if they are to innovate. 

Mithika Mwenda, Executive Director for the Pan African Climate Justice Alliance, explained that major global and local crises, such as the COVID-19 pandemic and the climate emergency, have a compounding effect. These impacts exacerbate existing vulnerabilities, weaken societies’ adaptive capacities, and make the cost of addressing pressing problems more difficult and expensive.

COVID has been a far more pressing crisis for governments and has forced climate change further down the agenda. Governments in Africa don’t have the resources to respond to simultaneous crises. It is difficult to envisage an effective climate response without much greater resource sharing between richer, polluting countries and poorer countries. But this should not be seen as a “favor to Africa”; climate change will harm us all eventually.

Summing up the conversation, Edward Olowo-Okere, the World Bank’s Global Director of the Governance Global Practice noted that it’s more important than ever for governments to engage with citizens and non-state actors to meet the changing demands and expectations for government services. Digital technology has become central to service delivery, and innovation offers great opportunity to improve the delivery of services. Climate change decisions need to be streamlined into service delivery. Decisions made now will have great consequences for years to come.


You can watch the entire conversation here.

How do you think governments can improve service delivery?  You can contribute to the conversation via Twitter @wbg_gov using the hashtag #FutureOfGovernment, via our website at, or by leaving a comment below.


Blogs in the Future of Government series



Donna Andrews

Global Lead for Public Institutions Reform in the Governance Global Practice, World Bank

Tim Williamson

Tim Williamson, World Bank’s Global Lead for Public Financial Management, Public Investment Management and Subnational Governance for the World Bank

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David Harold Chester
December 01, 2021

Your correspondents fail to understand and have no idea, is about what will eventually spoil their newly established countries. What they need to to stop this slow dedegration is the better sharing of national resources as follows: The Most Socially Just Tax

Our present complicated system for taxation is unfair and has many faults. The biggest problem is to arrange it on a socially just basis. Many companies employ their workers in a variety of ways and pay them differently. Since these companies are registered in various countries within a number of categories, the determination the general criterion for a just tax system based on earnings becomes impossible, particularly when it depends on a fair measure of the quality and amount of human work-activity. Similarly a tax based on what we purchase is unethical because everyone has different needs and will pay different sums for these utilities. Some of us will spend less and prefer to invest instead (the profits of which are also being taxed). So why try to tax our efforts and hopeful futures when there is a much better means available for taxation, which is really a true and socially just method?

Adam Smith’s (“Wealth of Nations”, REF. 1) says that our natural resource of the land is one of the 3 factors of production (the other 2 being human labor and durable capital goods). The usefulness of a particular site is expressed by its purchase price and in the amounts that tenants willingly pay as rent, for its access rights. Land is often considered as being a form of capital wealth, since it is traded similarly to other durable capital goods items. However it is not actually man-made, so rightly it does not fall within this category. Indeed, the land was originally a gift of nature (if not of God), for which all the people in the region should have equal rights for sharing in its opportunities for accessibility for residence, use and enjoyment.

However over many years, as communities became established and grew, the land has been traded as if it was an item of durable goods and today it is often treated as a form of capital investment. It is apparent that for a particular site, its current site-value greatly depends on location, size and to the population density in its region, as well as the amount of natural resources that it can steadily provide. Such bounty is manifest in the exploitation of its rivers, minerals, plants and animals of specific use or beauty. These are available only after local developments have made possible easy access to the particular locality. Consequently, much of the land value is created by man within his society, by his need and ability to reach it and take from it materials, growing plants and live creatures, as well as the opportunities its space provides for working near to population centers. These advantages should ethically and logically be justly returned to the community, as if for its general use within the government, as explained by Martin Adams (in “LAND” REF 2.).

However, due to our existing laws, the land is owned and formally registered and its value is traded, even though it can’t be moved to another place, like other kinds of capital goods. This right of ownership gives the landlord two big advantages over the rest of the community. He/she can determine how it may be used, or if it is to be held out of use for speculative reasons, until the city grows and the site becomes more valuable. Secondly the land owner enjoys the rent from a tenant or its equivalent (if he uses the land him/herself). Speculation in land values and its rental earnings are encouraged by the law, in treating a site of land as personal or private property as if it were an item of capital goods, even though this is not true, see Prof. Mason Gaffney and Fred Harrison: “The Corruption of Economics”, REF. 3.

Regarding taxation and local community spending, the municipal taxes we pay are partly used for improving the infrastructure. This means that the land becomes more useful and valuable without the landlord doing anything—he/she will always benefit from our present tax regime from which the land value grows when the status of unused municipal land is upgraded and it becomes more fitting for community development. When the news of an upgrade is leaked, after landlords and banks corruptly pay for this valuable information, speculation in land values is rife.

There are many advantages if the land values were taxed instead of the many different kinds of production-based activities such as earnings, purchases, capital gains, home and foreign company investments, etc, (with all their regulations, complications and loop-holes). The only people due to lose from this different regime of taxation are those who exploit the growing values of the land over the past years, when “mere” land ownership confers a financial benefit without the owner doing a scrap of work. Consequently, for a truly socially just kind of tax to apply there can only be one method–Land-Value Taxation.

Consider how land becomes valuable. Pioneers and new settlers in a region begin to specialize and this slowly improves their efficiency in producing specific kinds of goods. The land central to the new colony is the most valuable, due to its easy availability and the least necessary transport of its produce. After an initial start, a graduated distribution in land values is created by the community. It is not due only to the natural land resources. As the city expands, speculators in land values will deliberately hold potentially useful sites out of use, until planning and development have permitted their more intensive use and for their values to grow. Meanwhile there is fierce competition for access to the most suitable sites for housing, agriculture, manufacturing industries, transport byways, etc. The limited availability of the most useful land means that the high rents paid by tenants make their residence more costly and the provision of goods and services more expensive.

Entrepreneurs find it difficult or impossible to compete with the big organizations who have already taken full advantage of their more central sites. The greater cost of access, or the greater expense in transportation from less costly outlaying regions, discourages these later arrivals. It also creates unemployment, causing wages to be lowered by the land monopolists, who control the big producing organizations, and whose land was previously obtained when it was relatively cheap. Consequently this basic structure of our current macroeconomics system, works to limit opportunity and to create poverty, see above reference.

The most basic cause of our continuing poverty is the lack of properly paid work and the reason for this is the lack of opportunity of access to the land on which the work must be done. The useful land is monopolized by a landlord who either holds it out of use (for speculation in its rising value), or charges the tenant heavily for its right of access. In the case when the landlord is also the producer, he/she has a monopolistic control of the land and of the produce too, and can charge more for this access right than what an entrepreneur, who seeks greater opportunity, normally would be able to afford.

A wise and sensible government would recognize that this problem of poverty derives from lack of the opportunities to work and earn. It can be solved by the use of a tax system which encourages the proper use of land and which stops penalizing everything and everybody else. Such a tax system was proposed about 140 years ago by Henry George, a (North) American economist, but somehow most macro-economists seem never to have heard of him, in common with a whole lot of other experts. (I would guess that they even don’t want to know, which is even worse!) In “Progress and Poverty”, REF. 4, Henry George proposed a single tax on land values without other kinds of tax on earnings, sales of produce, services, capital-gains etc. This regime of land value tax (LVT) has 17 features which benefit almost everyone in the economy, except for landlords, tax collectors and banks, who/which do nothing productive and find that land dominance and its capitalistic exploitation have their own (unjust) rewards.

17 Aspects of LVT Affecting Government, Landowners, Communities and Ethics  

Four Advantages for Government: 

1. LVT, adds to the national income as do other taxation systems, but it should replace them. The author has shown in REF.5, that taxation of any kind is beneficial to the whole country, due to its national income providing for more work too, but that when the tax applies to land the topology and spread of its effects are about 3 times as beneficial as when the same amounts of income are taken directly from labor. 

2. The cost of collecting the LVT is less than for all the production-related taxes–tax avoidance becomes impossible, because the sites are visible to all and who owns each site is public knowledge. The army of tax collectors who are opposing a similar set of lawyers, are no longer busy with tax loopholes in the law, so the number of people more productively employed will grow and the penalty on the country of having complicated taxation is less. 

 3. Consumers pay less for their purchases due to lower production costs (see below). They can buy more goods and enjoy a raised standard of living. This creates greater satisfaction with the management of national affairs and more prosperity. 

4. The national economy stabilizes—it no longer experiences the 18-year business boom/bust cycle, due to periodic speculation in land values (see below). The withholding of unused land is eliminated see item 7, so there is less need for the complications of frequent land sales, with developers searching and buyers hunting for unused sites. 

Six Aspects Affecting Landowners: 

5. LVT is progressive—this tax depends on the site area as well as its position. The owners of the most potentially productive sites pay the most tax per unit of area. Urban sites provide the most usefulness and their owners will pay at greater rates, whilst big rural sites have less value and can be farmed appropriately, to meet their ability to provide useful produce. Smallholder farming closer to population centers becomes more practical, due to local markets and reduced distribution costs.  

6. The landowner pays his LVT regardless of how his site is used. A large proportion of the present ground-rent from the tenants (who do use the land properly), becomes transformed into the LVT, with the result that the land has less sales-value but retains a significant “rental” value. 

7. LVT stops speculation in land prices, because the withholding of land from its proper use is not worthwhile. 

8. The introduction of LVT initially reduces the sales price of sites, even though their rental value can grow over a longer term. As more sites become available, the competition for them is less fierce and entrepreneurs have more of a chance to get started.  

9. With LVT, landowners are unable to pass the tax on to their tenants as rent hikes, due to the reduced competition for access to the additional sites that come into use. 

10. Speculators in land values will want to foreclose on their mortgages and withdraw their money for reinvestment. Therefore LVT should be introduced gradually, to allow these speculators sufficient time to transfer their money to company-based shares etc., and simultaneously to meet the increased demand for produce (see below, items 12 and 13).  

Three Aspects Regarding Communities: 

11. With LVT, there is an incentive to use land for production, transport, or residence, rather than it being vacant and held unused. 

12. With LVT, greater working opportunities exist due to cheaper land and a greater number of available sites. Consumer goods become cheaper too, because entrepreneurs have less difficulty in starting-up their businesses, and because they pay less ground-rent–consequently demand grows, whilst unemployment and poverty decrease.   

13. Investment money is withdrawn from land and placed in durable capital goods. This means more advances in technology and cheaper goods too because the effectiveness of labor has been raised. 

Four Aspects About Ethics:  

14. The collection of taxes from productive effort and commerce is socially unjust. LVT replaces this national extortion by gathering the surplus rental income, which comes without any exertion from the landowner or by the banks–LVT is a natural system of national income-gathering. 

15. Previous bribery and corruption for gaining privileged information about land, cease. Before, this was due to the leaking of news of municipal plans for housing and industrial development, causing shockwaves in local land prices (and municipal workers’ and lawyers’ bank accounts!) 

16. The improved use of the more central land of cities reduces the environmental damage due to unused sites being dumping-grounds, and the smaller amount of fossil-fuel use (with its air-pollution), when traveling between home and workplace. 

17. Because the LVT eliminates the advantage that landlords currently hold over our society, LVT provides a greater equality of opportunity to earn a living. Entrepreneurs can operate in a natural way– to provide more jobs because their production costs are reduced. Then untaxed earnings will correspond more closely to the value that the labor puts into the product or service. Consequently, after LVT has been properly and fully introduced as a single tax, it will eliminate poverty and improve business ethics. 


1. Adam Smith, 1776: “The Wealth of Nations”, UK

2. Martin Adams, 2015: “LAND– A New Paradigm for a Thriving World”, North Atlantic Books, California, USA

3. Mason Gaffney and Fred Harrison, 2005: “The Corruption of Economics”, Shepheard-Walwyn, London, UK

4. Henry George: “Progress and Poverty” 1897, reprinted 1978 by the Schalkenbach Foundation, New York, USA

5. David Harold Chester, 2015: “Consequential Macroeconomics—Rationalizing About How Our Social System Works”, Lambert Academic Publishing, Saarbüchen, Germany

Sylvester Odhiambo Obong'o
December 01, 2021

Citizen focused service delivery is a primary responsibility of any democratically elected government. However, from utility supplies such as electricity and water to other services such as roads, health and education, many African governments are finding it extremely hard to meet citizens expectations.

In Kenya, the cost of electricity is way above average compared to other countries. According to a report by a Task Force set up by the President, the high cost of electricity in Kenya is attributed to skewed contracts signed with independent power producers who charge astronomical rates for supplying power to the national grid and system loses due to inefficiencies. Prices of fuel has also sky rocketed in recent months with a parliamentary committee finding out that, over 50% of the price of fuel in Kenya is attributed to taxes and unfair coalition among the players in the oil industry. The story is not different in other sectors of the economy where the Government is a key player. The COVID-19 relief supplies and assistance to government was hit by massive cases of corruption in the central agency charged with supply of medical equipment.

So is efficient citizen focused service delivery a major priority of the Government, YES is the answer, but this is still largely at a rhetoric level. There are a number of fundamental issues that must be dealt with in the super structure- to ensure that services are delivered efficiently. Political power negotiation process in Kenya entails sharing of not only political offices (Ministerial) but also top public service offices. Primary, focus on service delivery is therefore lost even before governments are sworn in.

In my paper on Particularistic Exchanges... EXAMINING HOW PATRONAGE APPOINTMENTS MAY
HAVE INCREASED RESISTANCE TO PUBLIC SECTOR REFORMS - I noted thus: (International Public Management Review Vol. 14, Iss. 1, 2013)

"It is through the ability to control state positions that rulers in developing countries are able to manipulate state resources in clientelistic or corrupt ways. Hence, politically mediated access to public resources has been a key mechanism for purchasing allegiance and maintaining support for many African rulers (Mwenda and Tangiri 2005).

Studies in several developing countries show that using the state and its resources has constituted a vital form of consolidating power (Kemahlioglu 2005). Patronage can therefore be described as the glue that holds modern clientelism together (Gordin 2001). It is also important to note that political patronage is the necessary condition and often
plays a critical role in the emergence corruption and clientelism in many developing countries. .."

There cannot be a citizen focused service delivery- without an efficient and effective public service which plays its primary role of "the protector of public interest" What I have alluded to above is that citizen focused service delivery in Kenya has mainly been hampered by vested interests of the people put in charge to supply the services!! Nevertheless, the government remains a key player - citizen focused service delivery a key campaign promise and in spite of fairly good institutional frameworks- the people put in charge often do not work towards the achievement of the stated aspirations.

Obong'o S. O. PhD