Why Governance Matters: Perspectives from World Bank Management

CV MENA recently reached out to World Bank senior management to better understand their perspectives on governance — what it is and why it matters. We received responses from around the region, reflecting local, regional and international perspectives on the issue.

 

Steven Schonberger

Practice Manager, Water Global Practice: 

Governance matters because it is the basis for trust between government and the citizenry and amongst the citizenry.  When people believe that others are acting fairly, they become constructive participants and contributors to development.  When governance is “broken”, everyone believes they are justified in focusing only on their immediate, narrow personal interests — even at the expense of others — and the basic collective action needed to build a healthy and wealthy country is impossible.   Therefore, it is particularly important to build confidence in good governance amongst young people, who naturally tend toward collective action, and whose energy and impatience inevitably drive a country’s development.

Nadir Mohammed

Country Director, MNA Strategic Cooperation Department:

Governance matters for development and, in my opinion, it is the most pivotal determinant of development outcomes and the World Bank’s twin goals of eliminating extreme poverty and boosting shared prosperity. From my development experience in different parts of the world, I came to the realization that leadership (and vision) and governance structures explain most of the differences in economic progress of various countries. Even in my most recent experience in the GCC countries, which have similar endowments in terms of their human resource base and demographic characteristics, their development trajectories varied based on the two factors that I highlighted (and, of course, both are also linked). Governance in particular matters for many reasons. First, good public financial management (PFM) systems, effective public administration, transparent rules and regulations, modern procurement systems, rule of law, autonomy of regulators and state institutions, anti-corruption measures and legislation are all critical governance  elements for efficient and effective service delivery and better outcomes from public resources.

Second, citizens' trust in government, their attitude toward work and delivery, and accountability in the use of public resources largely depend on existing governance structures. Third, good governance is key for political stability and social cohesion, which are key prerequisites for economic progress. Fourth, poor governance not only impacts public services but also stifles competition in the private sector, deters foreign direct investment (FDI) and private initiatives because of fear of state capture. Fifth, good governance also correlates with peace.

There is evidence that conflict and civil war erupt in many countries because of the perception of unequal distribution of wealth and political power that emanate from weak governance structures (both in terms of rules and implementation of rules).

Neil Simon M. Gray,

Director, Budget, Performance Review and Strategic Planning: 

Governance in its broadest sense, right from voice through to accountability, is critical to ensuring that government (at all levels) and development partners are doing right by the poor and disadvantaged.  

As a senior Moroccan official recently said: “Since 2011, citizens speak up and speak up assertively.  This makes my work much more effective.  Example: I now know if a rural road is heading in the right direction, being correctly built and the funds properly used.  Communities make themselves heard, holding us responsible.”

Eileen Murray

Country Manager, Tunisia:

Good governance matters because it ensures the perspective of the common good is not forgotten in our development work, and also gives the common citizen some comfort of inclusiveness in the sense that their voices are being heard in terms of better transparency and good governance. The quality of governance has a demonstrable positive impact in the efficacy of public spending and development effectiveness. Results in primary education, health, water, or infrastructure are weaker and less sustainable in contexts where governance is poor, whereas good governance gives a sense of inclusion to those citizens who are the primary beneficiaries of these public services that the quality of the service rendered has improved.

Ferid Belhaj

Country Director, Iran, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, Syria: 

Governance matters for it is the only sustainable path to sustainable development. The rule of law, transparency in transactions, open and predictable due processes and accountability for all. All are one, forming the compounded and indivisible underpinning of governance. Without it, we, as the World Bank, a leading development institution, and the international community at large, would not be in any position to help achieve our goal of providing a credible way to prosperity, and a compelling argument for eradicating poverty.

Haleh Z. Bridi,

Director, Regional Programs and Partnerships: 

Formal and sustainable jobs, especially for youth and women in the MENA region, will be created through private investment. Yet, investment will go where it is protected, where checks and balances exist, where institutions function and where corruption is limited. Improving governance is therefore fundamental to restoring prosperity and bringing stability to the MENA region.

Steen Lau Jorgensen

Country Director, West Bank and Gaza:

Governance matters because without good governance there is poor service delivery, poor job creation and poor development in general.  That is also the problem though— that governance is often most visible when it is poor. When there is good governance, things work and get done — it is invisible.  So we need to keep reminding ourselves and our partners about the essential role of governance in delivering development solutions, even when we have made progress.  There is no development without good governance.

Gerard A. Byam

Director, Strategy and Operations,

MENA Vice Presidency: 

Governance matters because it is about accountability, which is at the core of ensuring the sustainability of our support.  The thrust of all of our efforts is to help governments to deliver effective services to their citizens.  To achieve and sustain the desired results, the institutions of service delivery must be accountable to the beneficiaries of those services.   That is why governance matters.

Franck Bousquet

Senior Regional Advisor,

MENA Vice Presidency: 

Governance is a critical issue that relates to several of the key areas of focus for the MENA region, such as improving service delivery, and fostering accountable and transparent institutions. It is important to note that citizens hold their governments accountable for delivering basic public services and promoting inclusive growth that crowds-in all sectors of society.

 

To this end, recent history in the region serves as a reminder that the alternative to inclusive governance is often social unrest and, in extreme cases, violent conflict. For this reason, focusing on governance and promoting greater citizen engagement is of paramount importance.