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About the Study

An analytical framework was used to design a series of surveys of the views of public officials concerning their institutional environment and to analyze the information that was generated in 15 countries. The survey results help to map the strengths and weaknesses of a public sector and can identify potential pay-offs from reform interventions.

The need for an analytical framework emerged from the lessons of past experience in the World Bank. The Operations Evaluation Department reported that during 1980-97, only one-third of the Bank's closed civil service reform interventions had successful outcomes. [World Bank (1999)] Other reviews of the Bank's public sector reform efforts have identified shortcomings of the Bank's approach in this area, pointing out the risks of a narrow and 'technocratic' view of what is needed for public sector reform, and of a reliance on 'best practice' models that have not been feasible in the particular country setting. The Bank's most recent strategy for reforming public institutions has identified that for the approach to be effective:

Reforming Public Institutions & Strengthening Governance: A World Bank Strategy Paper identifies:

"... we need to work with our partners to understand and address the broad range of incentives and pressures - both inside and outside of government - that affect public sector performance."

" We need to start with a thorough understanding of what exists on the ground and emphasize good fit rather than any one-size-fits-all notion of best practice. And we need to work with our clients and other partners to develop and apply analytic tools effectively."

The analytical framework used here was designed to address both these needs. The analysis rests on the premise that a public official's performance is significantly a function of the incentives provided by their institutional environment. It recognizes that incentive systems are different in different countries - and even differ between types of organizations in a country. Recognizing this, it offers a method for designing surveys that uncover the sanctions and rewards that drive behavior from those who are subject to them - the public officials themselves.

Surveys were designed to elicit a contextual description of the public sector. This includes characteristics of respondents including their reasons for joining the public sector and the length of time worked in government. The surveys were also designed to capture data that would allow the construction of indicators that correspond both to the institutional environment and to some key dimensions of public sector performance.

The framework for analyzing survey data offers an approach for validating the assumption that officials' performance does depend on institutional environment. It then allows some assessment of which aspects of institutional environment are impacting on performance. Finally, it identifies those reform actions that are most likely to result in higher performance, given in the country's existing public sector conditions.

The surveys and analyses were financed under the Bank-Netherlands Partnership Program (BNPP). Surveys of public officials funded by the BNPP have been completed in Albania, Argentina, Bangladesh, Bolivia, Bulgaria, Guyana, Indonesia, Kenya, and Moldova. Surveys are in progress in and India. This program has provided funds for data analysis of a separate survey of public officials in Armenia. The survey instruments were based on a model designed in collaboration with Professor Bert Rockman of the University of Pittsburgh. World Bank staff working on a particular country tailored this basic questionnaire according to country-specific background and issues in public sector reform.

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