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8 African countries discuss effective public sector funding

A group of eight African nations, including Ethiopia, De mocratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Madagascar, Nigeria, Sierra Leone, Sudan, Rwanda and Tanzania, has identified efficient and accountable public sector as essent i als for effective delivery of services to the needy.

The group, comprising policy makers from the eight countries, made this observat ion at a meeting in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, Wednesday, to share lessons on how to improve the effectiveness of the public sector and to learn from each others’ ex p eriences.

According to the group, the public sector is the largest spender and employer in virtually every developing country and sets the policy environment for the rest of the economy.

The conference, tagged: “Lessons from a Decade of Public Sector Reform”, to be c losed by the Prime Minister of Ethiopia, Meles Zenawi, is co-hosted by the Norwe g ian Agency for Development Cooperation, the World Bank, and the Bank’s Independe n t Evaluation Group (IEG).

About one-sixth of World Bank projects in recent years have supported public sec tor reforms, because the quality of the public sector, accountability, effective n ess and efficiency in service delivery and transparency, are essential for a cou n try’s development.

“Our evaluative evidence shows that World Bank support for public sector reform in developing countries has helped to improve performance in key areas, such as p ublic financial management, which is the most common theme in bank support in re c ent years, and tax administration. But in other areas the support was less effec t ive,“ said Ali Khadr, Independent Evaluation Group’s (IEG) Senior Manager for Co u ntry Evaluation and Regional Relations.

“To realise the benefits in terms of improved delivery of public services and ac countability,” Khadr said public sector reforms need to make progress across the board, including in particularly difficult areas such as the civil service and t h e control of corruption.

The two-day conference provides a unique forum for African policy makers to enga ge representatives from the World Bank and other development partners in the suc c esses and failures of donor-supported public sector reforms in Africa.

According to a statement from the World Bank, the discussion in Addis Ababa enab led participants to learn from each other on what has worked well and what has n o t when designing and implementing public sector reforms.

According to IEG, among low-income countries that receive interest-free credits and grants from the World Bank’s International Development Association (IDA), 69 percent showed an improvement in the functioning of the public sector, albeit w i th considerable room for further progress.

“Capacity building projects, for example, have had a very mixed record. The key is ownership and leadership by government. It is rather fitting that this event i s taking place in Ethiopia, because this is one of the countries where the gover n ment has shown strong commitment to capacity building,” said Ken Ohashi, World B a nk Country Director for Ethiopia & Sudan.

Participants discussed how to apply five important lessons that were identified by a recent IEG evaluation, “Public Sector Reform — What Works and Why”.

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