A NOTE FROM THE PUBLISHER
In this issue, we return to the important topic of public financial management. The procedures through which revenues are raised and expenditures are allocated and implemented are among the most important functions that any government performs. According to the most recent World Bank data, governments throughout the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region spent approximately $407 billion dollars in 2007 in delivering their policy, regulatory and service functions. The way in which this money is spent has huge implications for their broader development trajectory. For example, a one percent efficiency gain in Egypt’s budget for 2009 would yield $637 million dollars—enough resources to build 40,000 schools, pave 4,500 kilometers of highway, or recruit an additional 600,000 doctors. It is therefore not surprising that issues of public financial management, or PFM, have been at the heart of governance reform programs in virtually all of the countries in the region.
The World Bank has recently completed a major study of this experience titled, Public Financial Management Reform in the Middle East and North Africa: An Overview of Regional Experience. This report combines a general overview and comparison of the region with other regions utilizing Public Expenditure and Financial Accountability (PEFA) data with a series of more detailed country cases of how such reforms were actually implemented in practice. The Bank assessment reviews both the types of reforms that were implemented, including which ones have tended to be more successful and which ones have not, as well as the lessons learned from implementing such reforms. Its findings should be required reading for any governments contemplating reforms in this area.
We are also privileged to have another government newsmaker interview with Jordan’s new Minister for Public Sector Development, Imad Fakhoury, who also oversees the portfolio for megaprojects within Jordan. H.E. Mr. Fakhoury brings an impressive c.v. that includes a Masters Degree in Engineering from Case Western University; an M.B.A. from the Kellogg School at Northwestern University, and a Masters Degree in Public Policy from Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government. He is currently overseeing a major effort to reform and restructure Jordan’s public sector, and his insights on this task are both interesting and informative.
This issue of Governance News & Notes also marks a transition of sorts, in that there have been some important changes within the World Bank’s team working on issues of governance, public management and service delivery in MENA. Robert Beschel, who helped oversee the Bank’s governance practice in this region for the past six years, has recently gone on external service assignment. He is now working as Deputy Director for Policy within the Prime Minister’s Office in Kuwait. Bob has played a major role in helping to shape both the Bank’s governance practice and in helping Bank clients to take forward a variety of public sector reform initiatives throughout the region. We wish him the best in his new assignment.
It is our pleasure to also welcome in the new manager responsible for heading up this important agenda, Guenter Heidenhof. A German national, Guenter brings a broad range of experience in legal and administrative reform stretching across three continents. Earlier in his professional career, he was deeply involved in supporting the integration of the German Democratic Republic within the broader Federal Republic of Germany. He then went on to a highly successful career promoting public sector reform in both Africa and Asia. His most recent assignment involved serving as the Bank’s Governance Advisor in India, where he was responsible for helping to place the governance agenda at the core of the Bank’s operations and strengthening the integration of governance concerns within the Bank’s sectoral programs. In an interview in this edition of Governance News & Notes, Guenter shares some of the lessons he learned from this experience and his goals and objectives for the Bank’s evolving work on governance issues in MENA.