Development outcomes, whether in service delivery, conflict, fiscal policy, or public sector reform, depend on citizens’ ability to act in concert to hold politicians accountable for serving their collective interests. As Philip Keefer, a lead research economist in the Bank’s research department argued, citizens who can’t organize also can’t act collectively.
“That poses risks to citizens and donors alike, as bad governance can lead to violence and civil conflict, hurt fiscal stability and derail meaningful reforms that would improve people’s living standards,” said World Bank Research Director Asli Demirguc-Kunt.
Keefer spoke earlier this month at the Policy Research Talks, a monthly event held by the research department to foster a dialogue between researchers and operational colleagues. He discussed how one particular type of citizen organization, the programmatic political party, affects development outcomes, especially in public sector reform, a key issue for donors.
The World Bank alone allocates around one-sixth of its lending and advisory resources to help countries improve their financial and personnel management systems. Yet those reforms are notoriously difficult to implement. In many countries, politicians have little interest in reforming the civil service, budget planning and other basic systems that are essential to the political oversight of bureaucratic performance.
Drawing on his analysis of 439 World Bank public sector reform loans in 109 countries, Keefer shows that public sector reforms are 30 percent more likely to succeed in a country with programmatic parties, which have credible stances on broad public policies, than a country with none.