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Testing Governance Options in Pakistan

Testing governance options in Pakistan

Should women and poor people be directly involved in local decision-making , or is it enough to let them ratify how village resources are allocated by voting? Do these participatory mechanisms matter at all in the way public goods such as roads, water systems or cooperative businesses are distributed, designed and maintained?

These are some of the questions Ghazala Mansuri keeps in the back of her head as she waits for the results of village census and household surveys to roll in.

Mansuri and her colleagues have set up a rigorous research program to test different governance scenarios in 140 villages distributed all over Pakistan. The research is part of the third Pakistan Poverty Alleviation Fund project, supported by the World Bank’s South Asia Region. A $225,000 grant from the Governance Partnership Facility (GPF) is helping Mansuri reach more ambitious research goals by covering the costs of additional surveys. (Her research is one of many innovative projects funded under the GPF’s Window 3 grants).

The field experiment assigned villages randomly to different groups.

  Inclusion No inclusion
Ratification A B
No ratification C D

Taking out a piece of paper, Mansuri boiled it down to a simple chart, with ‘D’ representing business as usual, when no special efforts are made either to include women and poor people in decision-making or give them a vote to ratify the decisions of village organizations.

Each village was given significant $30,000 grants and the discretion to allocate the funds to any local public good and/or livelihood activities.

As of March 2010, a baseline household survey is being conducted in the field and village organizations are being organized. “In three to five months, when village organizations have finalized their village development pklans, we will be able to see whose preferences are reflected in their choice of activities,” says Mansuri. District officials and influential people have also been interviewed. And poverty and infrastructure data have been carefully mapped.

This will allow Mansuri and her team to zero in on the geographical distribution of public goods. “We’re trying to go beyond “Roads were provided” or “A water system was built.” We will be able to identify precisely who the beneficiaries are by seeing precisely where public good were delivered within the village. Was the road dug to benefit the village leader or it is serving under-privileged neighborhoods? Did the participatory process have an impact on such outcomes?”.

Mansuri is not placing bets on which governance model will win at the end of the day. “I’m not interested in who’s going to win but I’m interested in learning,” she says. “Do these empowerment mechanisms have repercussions, good or bad?”

Looking at evidence she is compiling for a separate book, Mansuri is fairly confident that unequal villages tend to do less well than more egalitarian ones. Where land and power are badly distributed, women and lower-caste people tend to benefit less. But in the universe of unequal villages, there are perhaps mechanisms for “tamping down these tendencies,” she says. Because donors don’t impose land or wealth redistribution as a condition for development aid, it’s important to find governance measures that can work at the margins of imperfect political systems to improve development programs.

“Including women or poor people may cause conflict or upset the power structure – who knows. We have a lot to learn. It will teach us broadly how quotas and voting affect development decisions and more immediately, what the Pakistan Poverty Alleviation Fund should require from partner organizations when village groups are organized”.

--published March 23, 2010

For more information about the Governance Partnership Facility, please contact the GPF Secretariat at gpf@worldbank.org.




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