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Blog post of the month: Strengthening governance is top-of-mind for opinion leaders in developing countries

Jing Guo's picture

Each month People, Spaces, Deliberation shares the blog post that generated the most interest and discussion. For April 2017, the featured blog post is "Strengthening governance is top-of-mind for opinion leaders in developing countries" by Jing Guo.

Capable, efficient, and accountable government institutions are essential for a country’s sustainable development. The most recent polls of opinion leaders in World Bank client countries confirmed that addressing governance is now at the top of countries’ development priorities.  
The World Bank Group annually surveys nearly 10,000 influencers in 40+ countries across the globe to assess their views on development issues, including opinions about public sector governance and reform.  In the past five years, the survey reached more than 35,000 opinion leaders working in government, parliament, private sector, civil society, media, and academia in more than 120 developing countries.
Data from the most recent 2016 survey indicate that public sector governance/reform (i.e., government effectiveness, public financial management, public expenditure, and fiscal system reform) is regarded as the most important development priority across 45 countries by a plurality of opinion leaders (34%), surpassing education (30%) and job creation (22%). (1)
The chart below shows that concerns over governance have grown substantially among opinion leaders since 2012.
Chart 1


While public sector governance/reform is top-of-mind for opinion leaders across developing countries, good governance is especially critical for the world’s most fragile states. The following chart illustrates the level of attention paid to public sector governance/reform in countries where development outcomes are affected by fragility, conflict, and violence.

Among the 23 fragile and conflict-afflicted states/situations surveyed between 2014 and 2016, over a quarter of the respondents (26%) across these countries reported that public sector governance/reform is their countries’ most pressing development area.

The following map shows the perceived importance of governance in individual fragile state/situation.

Chart 2

When asked about WBG-supported reforms, a plurality of opinion leaders in the 2016 survey identified inefficient government institutions as the greatest obstacle hindering reform efforts. A quarter of survey respondents also blamed inadequate government capacity for failed or slow reforms in their countries. In comparison, it is noteworthy that emphasis on civil society participation in reforms has dwindled over the past few years (coming down from 32% in 2013 to 24% this year).
Chart 3

In addition to the surveys with opinion leaders, the World Bank Group also systematically tracks views of its website visitors on key development issues.

In 2016, public sector governance/reform (23%) was rated as the 4rd most important development priority out of thirty one development areas by World Bank web visitors from developing countries, following education, anti-corruption, and poverty reduction. While the web visitors placed slightly less emphasis on public sector governance/reform compared to opinion leaders (34%), survey data still confirm that web visitors do see governance/reform as a top development area in their countries. Survey findings also reveal that anti-corruption is regarded as significantly more critical by the general public (40%) than opinion leaders (17%).


(1) A total of 36 development areas were provided as response options to the respondents. Each respondent could choose up to three areas as their most important development priorities.

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Submitted by Ed Bourque on

If you enlarge the notion of what governance is beyond corruption, to include capacity gaps in the public and private sector, you quickly see its influence on failure or success in just about every sector.

Submitted by Camillus Kassala on

I wonder whether we would get the same results if local communities in rural and suburban areas were asked the same questions. Perhaps they would need to be asked more concrete questions! The point here is: the sociology of knowledge/experiential reasoning is at work. perhaps the World Bank needs to assume the bottom-up approach and feed into the higher echelons the responses of the communities who are the grassroots!

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