Bangladesh is one of the more successful developing countries in terms of accelerating growth, making growth pro-poor and improving the indicators of social progress. Over the past 10 years, the country has also managed to make progress in governance indicators; however global indicators suggest that improving governance should remain a key priority for the full realization of development aspirations. This includes the effectiveness of government, the transparency of authorities, and stability of political situations.
The country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) grew at an average 6 percent a year in the last decade; but recent work on the potential for economic growth indicates that 7.5 percent or higher would be needed for Bangladesh to be a middle income country by 2021. The key question here is: how can improving governance start to catch hold and help boost the prospects for even higher rates of economic growth? And, can continued economic growth be achieved without improving governance?
Recognizing the cross-cutting importance of governance in the overall development of Bangladesh, the World Bank’s Country Assistance Strategy (CAS) has identified governance as the fourth pillar of priority and offers a range of support to improve the quality of governance.
Presently, efforts underway on governance in Bangladesh are centered on three main themes:
1. Efforts are underway to improve core governance systems in areas such as public procurement, financial management, fiscal reporting, and watchdog institutions. The strategy is to enhance accountability by strengthening ‘core’ governance institutions including the Comptroller and Auditor General, Public Accounts Committee, Bangladesh Bank, Public Service Commission, Securities and Exchange Commission and the courts. One of the largest public financial management trust funds, Strengthening Public Expenditure Management Program (SPEMP) has been supporting the public financial management reforms successfully introducing multi-year budgeting, strengthening financial management systems and improving auditing capacity. The Bangladesh Local Governance Support Project (LGSP) has been supporting union parishads, the lowest tier of elected local government in Bangladesh, in providing services that meet community priorities. The project will focuses on capacity building, particularly regarding financial management and procurement.
2. Giving citizens greater access to public documents, the Right to Information (RTI) Act was passed in 2009 in a bid to increase transparency and change the culture of government officials and their interaction with citizens. The World Bank is working with Government of Bangladesh to develop a program for supporting several agencies to strengthen their compliance with the RTI Act and its rules and regulations on proactive disclosure.
3. The World Bank is also supporting catalytic reforms, through the development of a national identification database in Bangladesh. This will be a great national asset that can provide a platform for reducing fraud, and ultimately improving service delivery. The Bangladesh Identification System for Enhancing Access to Services (IDEA) Project supports the National Identification Wing in this ambitious ID card scheme.
The World Bank has undertaken a series of analytical reports to investigate the impact of governance issues in service delivery. A new financing proposal using a Program for Results instrument is also under preparation to support the government’s Enabling Open Government Program (EOGP) to improve the management of core public services. In light of the low revenue base, strengthening domestic tax mobilization is also a major objective of this program. The Governance Team also supports the World Bank’s advisory work to help teams involved in investments in the infrastructure sectors and private sector development efforts. These includes investments in health, education, sanitation, local government strengthening and safety net approaches, which are central to meeting the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and improving the quality and efficiency of social service provision to the poor. Through the provision of the DFID financed Joint Technical Advisory Program (JOTAP) a rich set of activities and studies have been undertaken to develop the advisory work, including:
- Bangladesh Poverty Assessment: Assessing a Decade of Progress in Reducing Poverty, 2000-2010
- Climatic Variability and Occupational Diversification in Bangladesh
- Steering Bangladesh in the right direction: A report based on Bangladesh Youth Leadership Summit 2011
- Best practice spectrum renewal and pricing: A review of international best practices and the lessons for the Government of Bangladesh