After several decades of poor economic performance in the post-Independence era, South Asia has experienced rapid growth over the last 20 years. This has been accompanied by impressive social gains. Despite these advances, South Asia has experienced deterioration in the quality of governance. This is reflected in outcomes such as poor quality public services; lack of access for the poor to social services and the rule of law; and high and pervasive levels of corruption with increased state capture by political vested interests. These outcomes reflect a failure to build strong systems of accountability and transparency.
The governance agenda for South Asia is enormous. SAPRI intends to be highly selective in developing its work programme for Good Governance.
There will be two major components to its work programme.
1. South Asia Governance Survey:
SAPRI proposes to undertake a governance survey of the South Asia region initially covering India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal and Sri Lanka.
The principal objectives of the Survey would be:-
• to create awareness among policy makers and civil society on the state of governance in the region.
•- to inform SAPRI’s governance work by identifying the strengths and weaknesses, as well as the factors that drive public accountability and transparency in each selected country
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• to support high level advocacy by SAPRI’s Chair and other members of the Board and Advisory Committees.
• to develop capacity in national policy institutions to conduct and analyse governance related surveys and disseminate the outcomes.
• to develop a South Asia policy research community that works on the regions governance challenges.
The Survey will comprehensively cover the major areas related to : Governance such as the elected bodies – Parliament, Provincial Associates, local government bodies ; the Executive including the public service ; the Justice Sector ; the intermediation of power ; political parties ; civil society organizations that mediate public accountability and the media.
2. Making Services Work for the Poor: South Asia’s Unfinished Agenda
South Asia continues to suffer from poor outcomes in education, health and infrastructure. While progress has been made in terms of first generation outcomes in enrollment, literacy and child and maternal mortality, systems are currently ill-suited to tackle the second-generation challenges relating to quality, learning, skill formation and non-communicable diseases. Monitoring of provider incentives and politics become much more important in achieving the latter objectives. Services for the poor can be improved by empowering them to monitor and discipline service providers and raise their voice in policy-making.
While collective action can strengthen service delivery, it is also now increasingly apparent that political drivers of accountability are fundamental for improved outcomes. Better community compacts and client power based on improved information are undoubtedly important. However, political failures dull the edge of collective action and the impact of better information.
Different countries and sectors require different relationships to be strengthened. Hence, a constellation of solutions is necessary, each matching a particular set of political and social conditions. However, better monitoring and evaluation assists in learning what works, where and why. This means that while one size does not fit all, there is considerable scope for piloting and learning. SAPRI’s work in this area would seek to differentiate itself from the activities of the many research institutes focusing on these issues in South Asia. It will focus on initiatives that improve accountability in service delivery; undertake rigorous evaluation of these initiatives (where it has not already been done); and then disseminate these ideas to both policy-makers and community organizations. The initiatives to be studied could include: citizen report cards; performance-based bonuses to service providers; community managed schools; and information campaigns. It is proposed that the initial focus should be on the education sector. A concept paper and funding proposal are being developed around these themes.
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