Macroeconomic policy and choices are areas that are just beginning to open to societal engagement. While the ultimate decisions, like all development decisions, involve technical expertise, discussion with those who are affected offers multiple advantages. It helps clarify the causal links and assumptions underlying policy tradeoffs and choices; it leads to discussions about the institutional capacity needed to implement reforms, and alliances that will have to be built with different parts of society; it builds social consensus on the importance of the reform; it gives the reformers room to maneuver against narrower political interests; it educates all involved in the process; and it helps identify and develop needed compensatory mechanisms for the poorest and most adversely affected citizens.
Some progress has been made in demonstrating the value of information tools in the public domain as well as consultative processes. Progress on linking information collected to mechanisms of accountability to poor people and citizens' groups is just beginning. Sector reform loans and credits, as well as budget support loans and credits, assume that local capacity exists at all levels of civil society to collect and analyze information and engage effectively with governments to keep them accountable. None of the budget support loans/credits are directly supported by capacity-building operations. Except in Uganda, the capacity to conduct participatory poverty diagnostics so far has not been institutionalized at the national level, either in government or in local universities or other civil society organizations. Local and national capacity of civil society organizations to participate effectively in these new roles deserves urgent attention.
Public sector reform processes that focus on rationalizing and tracking public expenditures as well as modernizing financial management systems are critical first steps toward internal and public accountability. Public participation and public access to key information in forms that can be understood can further increase government accountability for improved performance.
Participatory processes in the development of national poverty reduction strategies, particularly in connection with the preparation of PRSPs in low-income countries, have become a central part of efforts to reach societal consensus on priorities for government expenditure as well as for policy reform. These processes can lay the foundation for public accountability to citizens. Since national processes and policies determine poor people's access to resources and opportunities, it is critical that these processes incorporate the four empowerment elements.
Improving National Governance —
Examples Classified by Major Empowerment Element
National government websites, Argentina
Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper processes in several countries
Poverty Reduction Support Credit, Uganda
Freedom of Information Act, Romania
Participatory Poverty Assessments, Uganda and Vietnam
Citizen report card on pro-poor services, the Philippines
|Programmatic Structural Adjustment Loan, Latvia||Social Partnership Agreement, Ireland||Programmatic Social Reform Loan, Peru|
Coal Sector Adjustment Loan, Russia
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