Editor’s Note

Hisham WALY

Practice Manager
Governance Global Practice / MENA, World Bank

 

The Allegory of Good and Bad Government is a series of three fresco panels painted in the Sala Dei Nove (Salon of Nine or Council Room) in Siena, Italy by Ambrogio Lorenzetti around 1338. The series consists of six different scenes: the Allegory of Good Government; the Allegory of Bad Government; the Effects of Bad Government in the City; the Effects of Bad Government in the Country; the Effects of Good Government in the City; and the Effects of Good Government in the Country.  The fresco panels depict the effects of good versus bad governance in a society as we are introduced to how life would look like under good governance (with peaceful and thriving cities and countryside) and the opposite under bad governance (with tyranny, disorder and degeneration). This has inspired the cover story of this issue of Connecting Voices (see drawing on page 62), where we examine the impact of corruption on development.

 

There is increasing evidence that the costs of corruption are enormous whether at the economic, social, environmental or political level. We have seen many examples of corrupt politicians who use their power to divert scarce public resources to unnecessary purchases, projects and initiatives to benefit themselves and their cronies instead of their constituencies. We have also seen government officials deliberately not enforce environmental regulations to enable a few to exploit rare, sometimes non-renewable, natural resources and destroy the environment. Whether it is petty, grand or political corruption, the media and watchdogs in many developing countries share examples of it on a daily basis. They wonder why strategies to address the root causes of corruption are not successful in terms of design, implementation, monitoring and impact.

 

In the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region of the World Bank, for many years we recognized that corruption is a symptom of a deeper governance problem. Thus, we designed and implemented reforms to promote governance and institutional reforms.  Some of these reforms focused mostly on the state, resulting in a top-down approach generally aimed at formal institutions. However, based on experience and research, we realized that in order to help build and maintain effective, responsive, accountable, resilient and peaceful states, a foundation of a strong state-society relationship (or social contract) that is based on trust is crucial.

 

The key question becomes what are the factors associated with building trust?  A background paper for the 2007 Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) “Global Forum on Reinventing Government” states that trust in government requires “rule of law, an independent judiciary, free, fair and regular elections, legitimate parliamentary processes, a healthy civil society, fighting corruption and appearances of corruption, local governance and decentralization, and finally, e-governance”.

 

In this context, building trust is a complex endeavor. For instance, a report titled “Interventions to Increase Levels of Trust in Society” (Carter, 2013) notes that building trust between citizens and the state is both a major challenge and an important potential benefit of reforms aimed at shaping the social contract (McNeil, Mary and Carmen Malena. 2010).  States that promote transparency and accountability but fail to respond adequately to citizen demands can intensify grievances, thereby compounding fragility. Thus, some quick results are needed to restore confidence in low-trust contexts (WDR, 2010).

 

In the cover story of this issue of Connecting Voices magazine, we interview a number of anti-corruption experts in the World Bank and beyond to reflect on many of these factors and answer a number of questions relating to the relevance of anticorruption efforts for sustained development and building resilient institutions. We look at what have we learned about corruption and anti-corruption in the past 20 years, including the role of transparency and accountability; and the importance of taking a broader approach to anti-corruption, including strengthening institutions and building capacity among citizens and policy makers alike.  In addition, we examine the importance of different stakeholders in the fight against corruption.

 

On a personal note, this will be my last Editor’s Note as I will be leaving the World Bank’s MENA region to the Africa Region on October 1, 2016 as Governance Practice Manager (we interview the new MENA Governance Practice Manager, Renaud Seligmann, on page 129.) It is a bittersweet feeling to leave MENA as I will miss its people and the amazing governance team, but I am also quite excited about moving to the Africa region for a new set of opportunities.