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Actionable Governance Indicators

AGI Initiative

The World Bank's new Governance and Anti-Corruption Strategy explicitly endorses greater u se of "disaggregated and actionable governance indicators" (World Bank, 2007: 34-35). The April 2007 Development Committee Communiqué states that "effective implementation, including further development of actionable and dis-aggregated indicators, will now be critical to achieving the GAC strategy's desired results" (Washington, DC, 15 April, 2007).


The World Bank and other donors are placing increased emphasis on measuring results of their lending and other interventions. The development of new and scaling up of existing assessment tools for generating Actionable Governance Indicators (AGIs) relevant to donor activities is crucial both for enhancing the focus of both Bank staff and client country reformers on how effective their governance reform measures are, as well as for fostering greater learning from those programs of governance reform support.


Actionability, in short, implies greater clarity regarding the steps governments can take to improve their scores on an indicator, i.e. if the government successfully undertakes reforms in certain areas, relevant indicator(s) will respond in a favorable direction. Conversely, actionability is reduced to the extent that an indicator is sensitive to extraneous factors, i.e. if most observed changes in the indicator are explained by factors beyond the control of governments, it is not likely to be useful as an indicator for monitoring government’s progress in implementing public sector reforms.


Actionability does not require objective measurement, or preclude subjective or perceptions-based indicators. Subjective or perceptions-based indicators, however, may more often be generated in less-transparent ways. It is often unclear what information experts use to inform their subjective judgments. If we do not know the specific criteria experts are using in a subjective indicator, we do not know whether a country’s rating would improve even with implementation of a public sector reform project that is completely successful in achieving its objectives.


In general, indicators with narrower and more explicit definitions are more actionable. A measure of audit delay therefore would be more actionable than a broader indicator of the quality of budget systems. Audit delays, measured in months, is more actionable than a subjective ordinal measure of delays, because it is more explicit and less open to discretion in measurement.


Narrow and explicit definitions not only produce indicators that are more actionable, but also more contestable. Meaningful debate can be held on the appropriate scoring of an indicator that is narrowly and explicitly defined. The World Bank’s Doing Business web site has a feature allowing governments or other interested parties to submit pertinent information to appeal data that may be incorrect, for example on the number of procedures necessary to start a new business enterprise. In some cases, the Doing Business team has changed indicator values on the basis of such submissions. Such exchanges are possible because the indicators are narrowly and explicitly defined. By contrast, it would be nearly impossible to resolve disagreements over ratings on a broad indicator of corruption perceptions reflecting international experts’ judgments. Defining indicators more narrowly can minimize, if not eliminate, the ambiguity.

The AGI initiative aims to develop new and expand usage of existing AGIs in the Bank's support to governance reforms and to supplement these indicators with better access to existing AGI methodologies and data resources. Development of new AGI tools will cover gaps in priority areas such as Human Resource Management/Public Sector Management, sub-national governance and governance of service delivery in sectors. The AGIs are invaluable for country-focused operational work in order to identify "actionable" entry points for reforms, as well as to foster greater accountability for impacts in the Bank's support of governance reforms.

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