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Shah, Anwar

Global Practice for Governance, The World Bank
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governance; public sector reform; budgetary accountability;
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Global Practice for Governance, The World Bank
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Last updated January 31, 2023

Publication Search Results

Now showing 1 - 10 of 35
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    Demanding to be Served : Holding Governments to Account for Improved Access
    (World Bank, Washington, DC, 2008-06) Shah, Anwar
    This paper presents an overview of the constitutional-legal provisions on access to services in developing countries and shows that rights to public services are not justice-able. It further documents the performance record to show that governments' response to such a weak accountability framework has been predictable - poor performance in service delivery with little accountability. The paper also shows that while there has not been a shortage of ideas on how to deal with this problem, most approaches have failed because they could not diagnose and deal with the underlying causes of government dysfunction. The paper presents an analytical perspective on understanding the causes of dysfunctional governance and the incentives and accountability regimes that have the potential to overcome this dysfunction. The paper also documents practices that have shown some promise in improving access. The paper then integrates ideas from successful practices with conceptual underpinnings for good governance and presents a citizen-centric (rights based) governance approach to access. It further explores how such a citizen empowerment and government accountability framework can be implemented in practice, especially in the context of developing countries, where most governments still operate in a command and control environment with little or no orientation to serve their people. It also presents ideas on how to overcome resistance to such reforms.
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    Fiscal Decentralization in Developing and Transition Economies: Progress, Problems, and the Promise
    (World Bank, Washington, D.C., 2004-04) Shah, Anwar
    The author discusses the revolution in public sector thinking that is transforming the public sectors of developing and transition countries. Countries are reconsidering their fiscal systems and searching for the right balance between central government control and decentralized governance. Political decentralization has advanced in most countries. Subnational expenditures in developing countries as a percentage of total public expenditures have also increased over the past two decades. However, the process is far from complete. In many countries, the central government is still involved in the delivery of local services, local governments have few sources of own-revenues, local governments have limited access to borrowing for capital projects, and the design of intergovernmental transfers does neither address regional fiscal equity nor convey appropriate incentives for fiscal discipline, improved service delivery performance, and accountability to citizens. Decentralized public governance can help realign public sector incentives through greater accountability to citizens, and attenuate the "democracy deficit" caused by globalization and the role of supranational institutions and regimes. However, this requires careful examination of the entire fiscal system. Elements of a comprehensive package of fiscal system reforms would include: (a) Clarifying roles of various levels of government in public service delivery; (b) Reassigning taxing responsibilities to ensure local revenue autonomy, accountability, and efficiency without endangering an internal common market; (c) Designing fiscal transfers to ensure regional fiscal equity and to create an enabling environment for innovative and competitive service delivery; (d) Facilitating responsible credit market access to subnational governments; (e) Designing institutional arrangements for intergovernmental fiscal relations to better coordinate policies; and (f) Aligning operational capacity with the authorizing environment through the "accountability for results" framework of public management.
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    Implementing Decentralized Local Governance: A Treacherous Road with Potholes, Detours, and Road Closures
    (World Bank, Washington, D.C., 2004-06) Shah, Anwar ; Thompson, Theresa
    During the past two decades, a silent revolution in public sector governance has swept across the globe aiming to move decision making for local public services closer to the people. The countries embracing and adapting to this silent revolution have had diverse motives and followed even more diverse approaches. This paper attempts to present a stylized view of the motivations and approaches used to strengthen local governance. The quest for the right balance, i.e. appropriate division of powers among different levels of government, is not always the primary reason for decentralizing. There is evidence that the decentralization decision may have more to do with short-term political considerations than the long-run benefits of decentralization. To take stock of progress worldwide, we take a comparative look at developments in political, fiscal and administrative decentralization for a selected group of countries. Most of the decentralization literature deals with normative issues regarding the assignment of responsibilities among different levels of government and the design of fiscal transfers. The process of decentralization has not received the attention it deserves as the best laid plans can fail due to implementation difficulties. We revisit major controversies regarding preferred approaches to obtaining a successful outcome. Key approaches examined are big push versus small steps; bottom up vs. top down; and uniform vs. asymmetric decentralization. Finally, Indonesia's 1999 big bang decentralization program is evaluated. The program should be commended for its achievements over a short period of time, however incentives are lacking for local governments to be accountable and responsive to their residents.
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    Grant Financing of Metropolitan Areas : A Review of Principles and Worldwide Practices
    (World Bank, Washington, DC, 2012-03) Shah, Anwar
    In the new information age in the globalized and interconnected world, metropolitan areas hold the key to the future prosperity and growth of nations. This paper takes a closer look at grant-financing regimes faced by metropolitan areas and their role in facilitating or hindering improvements in economic and social outcomes of residents of metropolitan areas. A review of 42 large metropolitan areas worldwide shows that, with a few notable exceptions, metropolitan areas in general are hamstrung from playing their potential role in economic advancement. Metro areas have large economic bases and therefore little a priori needs for grant financing, yet they have strong dependence on central transfers. This is because of the highly constrained fiscal autonomy given to these areas, especially in developing countries, with the singular exception of metro areas in China. Such a strong reliance on transfers undermines local autonomy and local accountability. General purpose transfers are formula based , transparent and predictable yet they discriminate against metropolitan areas as they utilize a one size fit all (common formula) for all local governments -- large or small. Such formula typically incorporate equal per jurisdiction component that discriminates against large metropolitan areas. Compactness is rarely rewarded and the greater needs of metro areas for transportation, education, health, culture and welfare go unrecognized. Overall the emphasis in grant financing of metro areas deals with vertical fiscal gaps or project based specific purpose grants. To ensure that metropolitan areas can play their dual roles in improving economic and social outcomes for residents, it is important to strengthen their fiscal autonomy while at the same time enhancing their accountability to local residents. The paper argues that results based grant financing of social and transportation services and tournament based approaches to encourage inter-jurisdictional competition need to be given serious consideration to ensure metropolitan autonomy while strengthening citizen based accountability.
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    Bridging the Economic Divide within Nations : A Scorecard on the Performance of Regional Development Policies in Reducing Regional Income Disparities
    (World Bank, Washington, DC, 2001-11) Shankar, Raja ; Shah, Anwar
    Regional inequalities represent a continuing development challenge in most countries, especially those with large geographic areas. Globalization heightens these challenges because it places a premium on skills: since rich regions typically also have better educated and better skilled labor, the gulf between rich and poor regions widens. While central governments in unitary states are relatively unconstrained in their choice of policies for reducing regional disparities, in a federation the division of powers curtails federal flexibility in policy choice. Thus in federal states large regional disparities can represent serious threats, with the state's inability to deal with such inequities creating potential for disunity and, in extreme cases, for disintegration. Inequalities beyond a threshold may lead to calls for separation by both the richest and the poorest regions. While the poorest regional may consider the inequalities a manifestation of regional injustice, the richest regions may view the union with the poorest regions as holding them back in their drive toward prosperity. Under these circumstances, there is a presumption in development economics that decentralized fiscal arrangements would lead to ever widening regional inequalities. The authors provide an empirical test of this hypothesis. The authors conclude that regional development policies have failed in almost all countries, federal and unitary alike. Among 10 countries with high or substantial regional income inequality, only one (Thailand) has experienced convergence in regional incomes. Still, federal countries do better in restraining regional inequalities, because of the greater political risk these disparities pose for such countries. The authors classify countries by degree of convergence in regional incomes: a) Countries experiencing regional income divergence - Brazil, China, India, Indonesia, the Philippines, Romania, the Russian Federation, Sri Lanka, and Vietnam. b) Countries experiencing no significant change in regional income variation - Canada and Mexico. c) Countries experiencing regional income convergence - Chile, Pakistan, Thailand, the United States, and Uzbekistan. Regional development outcomes observed in these countries provide a revealing look at the impact of regional development policies. While countries experiencing divergence tend to focus on interventionist policies, those experiencing convergence have taken a hands-off approach to regional development and instead focused on promoting an economic union by removing barriers to factor mobility and ensuring minimum standards in basic services across the nation. In Chile, for example, convergence in regional incomes is largely attributable to liberalizing the economy and removing distortions so that regions could discover their own comparative advantage. In Pakistan and the United States convergence is attributable to greater factor mobility. Paradoxically, creating a level playing field helps disadvantaged regions more than do paternalistic protectionist policies.
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    Anti-Corruption Policies and Programs : A Framework for Evaluation
    (World Bank, Washington, DC, 2000-12) Huther, Jeff ; Shah, Anwar
    The anti-corruption strategy the World Bank announced in September 1997 defined corruption as the "use of public office for private gain" and called for the Bank to address corruption along four dimensions: 1) Preventing fraud and corruption in Bank projects; 2) Helping countries that request Bank assistance for fighting corruption; 3) Mainstreaming a concern about corruption in Bank work; and 4) Lending active support to international efforts to address corruption. The menu of possible actions to contain corruption (in both countries and Bank projects) is very large, so the authors develop a framework to help assign priorities, depending on views of what does and does not work in specific countries. Their framework, based on public officials' incentives for opportunistic behavior, distinguishes between highly corrupt and largely corruption-free societies. Certain conditions encourage public officials to seek or accept corruption: a) The expected gains from undertaking a corrupt act exceed the expected costs. b) Little weight is placed on the cost that corruption imposes on others. In a country with heavy corruption and poor governance, the priorities in anti-corruption efforts would then be to establish rule of law, strengthen institutions of participation and accountability, and limit government interventions to focus on core mandates. In a country with moderate corruption and fair governance, the priorities would be decentralization and economic reform, results-oriented management and evaluation, and the introduction of incentives for competitive delivery of public services. In a country with little corruption and strong governance, the priorities might be explicit anti-corruption agencies and programs, stronger financial management, increased public and government awareness, no-bribery pledges, efforts to fry the "big fish," and so on.
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    Sponsoring a Race to the Top : The Case for Results-Based Intergovernmental Finance for Merit Goods
    (World Bank, Washington, DC, 2010-01) Shah, Anwar
    Intergovernmental finance is a significant source of sub-national finance in most countries. In both industrial and developing countries, formula based "manna from heaven" general purpose transfers dominate but co-exist with highly intrusive micro-managed "command and control" specific purpose transfers. Both these types of transfers undermine political and fiscal accountability. Reforms to bring in design elements that incorporate incentives for results-based accountability are resisted by both donors and recipients alike. This is because the donors perceive such reforms as attempts at chipping away at their powers and recipients fear such programs will be intrusive. This paper presents conceptual and practical underpinnings of grant designs that could further simplicity, objectivity, and local autonomy objectives while furthering citizen-centric results-based accountability. The paper further highlights a few notable recent initiatives in both industrial and developing countries that embrace such directions for reform. The paper concludes that results-based intergovernmental finance offers significant potential to minimize tradeoffs between local autonomy and accountability while furthering access to merit goods.
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    Making Federalism Work : The 18th Constitutional Amendment
    (World Bank, Washington, DC, 2012-11) Shah, Anwar
    The almost unanimous passage of a landmark consensus constitutional amendment "the 18th Constitutional Amendment" restored Pakistan's constitution to its original intent of a decentralized federation of four provinces as envisaged in the 1956 and 1973 constitutions. This amendment was hailed by policy makers and academics alike as a major step forward in reforming the multi-order governance in Pakistan. This paper takes a closer look at the provisions of this amendment and highlights both the potentials and pitfalls of the new constitutional order for good governance in Pakistan. The paper concludes that the amendment must be seen as a first yet small and incomplete step in reforming multi-order governance in Pakistan. A large unfinished reform agenda remains to be charted.
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    Public Services and Expenditure Need Equalization : Reflections on Principles and Worldwide Comparative Practices
    (World Bank, Washington, DC, 2012-03) Shah, Anwar
    This paper reviews the conceptual challenges as well as lessons from worldwide experiences in implementing public services and expenditure need compensation in fiscal equalization transfers with a view to developing guidance for practitioners. The paper concludes that while in theory a strong case for a comprehensive fiscal equalization can be made, in practice fiscal need equalization as part of a comprehensive equalization program introduces significant complexity. This works against the simplicity, transparency and general acceptability of the program. This does not imply that fiscal need equalization should be abandoned in the interest of simplicity and transparency. Instead simplicity, transparency and local autonomy are preserved by having fiscal need equalization through public service oriented (specific purpose block transfers) output based fiscal transfers that impose no spending requirements for any functions or objects of expenditures. Such transfers contrast with traditional earmarked transfers, which impose conditions on spending for specific purposes or objects of expenditure and subsequent verification/certification of such expenditures. Such output-based block transfers would further enhance citizen based accountability for results and thereby offer potential for enhancing public confidence and trust in government operations.
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    Autonomy with Equity and Accountability : Toward a More Transparent, Objective, Predictable and Simpler (TOPS) System of Central Financing of Provincial-Local Expenditures in Indonesia
    (World Bank, Washington, DC, 2012-03) Shah, Anwar
    During the past decade, Indonesia has transformed itself from centralized governance to decentralized local governance. Local governments were given extensive expenditure responsibilities while keeping the tax system centralized. To finance decentralized provincial-local expenditures, Indonesia implemented a new system of intergovernmental finance. This paper provides a review of the equity and efficiency implications of the current system of central-provincial-local transfers. It finds that the system of intergovernmental finance represents one of the most complex systems ever implemented by any government in the world. The system is primarily focused on a gap-filling approach to provincial-local finance to ensure revenue adequacy and local autonomy but without accountability to local residents for service delivery performance. This is done through a great degree of academic rigor using highly complex procedures. The complexity leads to a lack of transparency, inequity and uncertainty in allocation as well as creating incentives for jurisdictional fragmentation and reducing own-tax effort. Simpler alternatives are available that have the potential to address equity objectives while also enhancing efficiency and citizen-based accountability. Such alternatives would represent a move away from complex gap filling and special allocation approaches to simple, output based transfers to finance operating expenditures. These would be complemented by capital grants to deal with infrastructure deficiencies, and fiscal capacity equalization as a residual program with an explicit standard to ensure that all local jurisdictions have adequate means to deliver reasonably comparable levels of public services at reasonably comparable levels of tax burdens across the country. The paper argues that such an alternative system of intergoveernmental finance would preserve autonomy, while enhancing equity, simplicity, objectivity, transparency and accountability.