October 19, 2017

Gabon’s Public Expenditure and Financial Accountability (PEFA) Assessment

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Posted by Gwénaëlle Suc, Anicette Koumba, Danielle Nyamat and Wilfried Nzamba Mangala[1].

The 2016 Gabon Public Expenditure and Financial Accountability (PEFA) report is now available online. This publication concludes a six-month process to assess the performance of the Gabonese public financial management (PFM) system using the 31 indicators which make up the PEFA framework. This is the first PEFA to be undertaken in the Central African Economic and Monetary Community (CEMAC) using the upgraded 2016 methodology.  This revised PEFA framework includes four new indicators, expands and refines existing indicators and recalibrates baseline standards for good performance in many areas.

This assessment was funded by the European Union and led by the IMF’s Fiscal Affairs Department (FAD) in close cooperation with the Gabonese authorities. Since the previous 2013 PEFA assessment, Gabon has implemented major PFM reforms. These include the adoption of a new organic budget law and introducing program budgeting. These reforms had a direct positive impact on the 2016 PEFA scores with a quarter of the indicators showing improvement mainly in the areas of policy-based budgeting and timeliness of fiscal reporting. Nevertheless, performance against several indicators still fell below the basic levels set by PEFA standards. In particular, in the areas of managing arrears, expenditure execution, internal and external control and audit, public procurement, public investment management, oversight of public entities and quality of fiscal reporting.

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October 12, 2017

Public Finance and Development Resource Round-Ups

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Posted by Mark Miller[1]

Followers of the IMF’s PFM blog may be interested in the Overseas Development Institute’s recently introduced monthly resources round-up that provides a commentary on the must-reads in the public finance and development world.

These round-ups have three objectives:

  1. To draw attention to some of the major research papers, articles and blogs relevant to people working on questions of public finance and development. As part of our work at ODI, we sift through many of these materials and so hope to serve the public good by sharing those pieces that interest us.
  2. To illustrate the relevance of public finance to other key issues the development community grapples with. Public finance issues often get described in ways that is difficult for a non-specialist audience to understand, but they matter to a whole range of questions on policy and building effective states. Our previous round-ups have looked at how India’s tax policy reforms have reduced internal trade barriers, commented on the impact of the global financial crisis for how finance ministries operated, and drew lessons from recent UK political debates on public-private partnerships for current development financing debates.
  3. To encourage and enliven debate on public finance issues. The round-ups reflect the views of the authors and not everyone will always agree with everything we write.  We believe this is a good thing as it encourages critical reflection on research being produced in this area. We would encourage people to comment or get in touch when they disagree.

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October 04, 2017

Brazil: Making the Spending Rule Work

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By Fabian Bornhorst and Teresa Curristine1

Brazil is emerging from a deep recession. While the country is expected to register positive growth in 2017, the crisis left deep scars in Brazil’s public finances. From 2013 to 2016, the primary budget balance, which excludes interest payments, tumbled from a surplus of 1.7 percent to a deficit of 2.5 percent of GDP, and public debt increased by almost 20 percentage points. The impact of the downturn was magnified by long-standing structural fiscal problems.

To restore fiscal health and boost the credibility of fiscal policy, the Brazilian government introduced important reforms. The central element is a new spending rule, which was included in the Brazilian Constitution in December 2016. This rule limits the growth of federal spending to the rate of inflation. But successful implementation of this rule will require structural reforms and institutional and procedural changes in the management of public finances.

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September 29, 2017

Building PFM Capabilities in Africa

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Posted by Neil Cole and Adil Ababou[1]

Through the Building PFM Capabilities in Africa programme, teams from seven African countries are participating in CABRI’s first application of the Problem-Driven Iterative Adaptation (PDIA) approach. Ministries of finance and budget teams from Gambia, Ghana, Lesotho, Liberia, Nigeria, Sierra Leone, and South Africa started the programme in April 2017. Over an 8-month period, the teams will tackle complex PFM problems that have plagued their PFM systems for many years. These problems range from spending ministries not adhering to approved budgets, high virements, and weak conceptualisation of infrastructure investments.

Developed by the Building State Capability (BSC) program at Harvard University’s Center for International Development, the PDIA approach helps public organizations develop the capability to solve complex problems while engaged in the actual process of solving these problems. PDIA interventions typically involve creating teams of multiple agents to tackle locally nominated problems. The approach is based on the premise that there are no predetermined solutions to complex problems, and that only experimentation through small steps can lead to solving the problem. A review of PDIA by Richard Allen was published in the PFM Blog on September 22, Reforming PFM Institutions through PDIA.

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September 27, 2017

From the Editors

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Today, September 27th, marks the 10th birthday of the PFM Blog!

It seems only yesterday that the idea of a blog was first mooted in the IMF’s Fiscal Affairs Department (FAD). The idea was brand new then - the first external blog published by the IMF, and the first ever blog on Public Financial Management. The two originators and first editors were Michel Lazare and Bill Dorotinsky, enthusiasts both.  One of the first articles was a well-disguised piece on corruption with the intriguing title “You Know About Bono and U2: What about U4?” Contributors were roped in from around the corridors of FAD, sometimes following a hefty dose of arm-twisting!

The blog has gone from strength to strength. The statistics speak for themselves – more than 1,200 articles posted, 1.35 million viewers from 368 cities and 141 countries across the globe, an average 400 hits a day, reaching nearly 2,000 on some days. One change since 2007, when the blog’s authors were FAD-dominated, is that about 40 percent of articles are now written by contributors from outside the IMF. The blog now presents a global view of PFM. It provides a forum for government officials, practitioners, and managers to share and debate the latest thinking, reform theories, and experiences of PFM from around the world.

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September 22, 2017

Reforming PFM Institutions through PDIA

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Posted by Richard Allen[1]

A new book by Matt Andrews and two co-authors on “Building State Capability: Evidence, Analysis, Action[2] discusses the challenges of reforming systems of public administration and PFM in developing countries. A core message of the book is that reformers should focus much more on the political and institutional constraints to introducing new policies or projects, rather than (only) on the technical aspects of reform.

Many countries and donor organizations have promoted reforms that look like the “international best practices” of modern states, but such reforms have frequently been unsuccessful. The authors propose a different approach which emphasizes locally customized “best fit” solutions, combined with experimentation and a broad-based dialog among the development partners and other actors in the reform process. They give this approach the ungainly title of “problem-driven iterative adaptation” (PDIA), which originates from earlier writings by Andrews. The PDIA methodology has been presented by the authors in courses at Harvard University’s Center for International Development.

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September 21, 2017

IMF Announces New Online PFM Course

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The Fiscal Affairs Department and the Institute for Capacity Development of the IMF are pleased to announce the launch of the online course1 on Public Financial Management.

Target Audience: All government officials, including from development agencies, are welcome to register2. The course is particularly relevant for mid- to senior-level officials in ministries of finance, treasuries, debt management offices, ministries of economy, or financial planning divisions in line ministries. It is also targeted at officials involved in capacity strengthening functions related to public financial management (PFM). The training is designed for participants who have already a basic understanding of PFM systems and builds on that knowledge at an intermediate level. 

Requirements and Qualifications: Basic understanding of PFM systems would be helpful. Access to a computer with a reliable Internet connection with Google Chrome web browser is essential. 

Course Description: This online course, presented by the IMF’s Fiscal Affairs Department, provides an overview of PFM systems, institutions, and capacity building in developing and emerging market economies. It focuses on PFM issues based on the IMF’s operational and analytical perspectives, in support of macroeconomic stability, economic growth, and achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The training covers a wide range of topics, and treats PFM as an integrated system rather than a collection of specialties. As such, it focuses on PFM priorities, reform objectives and implementation risks. The course is built on conceptual and practical approaches, and includes testimonies from ministers of finance, practitioners, and other stakeholders from many countries. 

Course Objectives: Upon completion of this course, participants should be able to:

  • Understand why PFM is an important tool to implement public policies.
  • Describe and analyze the budget cycle, and its main components.
  • Identify the linkages between the components of PFM systems and improved economic and fiscal performance.
  • Evaluate a simple medium-term budget framework, a cash management plan, and a public investment management reform strategy.
  • Recognize tools for effective management of fiscal risks, components of fiscal transparency, reliable fiscal reports, and internal and external audits.
  • Identify issues relevant to theprioritization and sequencing of PFM reforms, and the challenges faced in implementing such reforms.
  • Understand the role of local conditions and political institutions in designing and implementing reforms.

 Apply by October 16, 2017.

We are looking forward to your participation in the course.


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This course has benefited from the generous support of USAID.

1Participation in all IMF online courses is free of charge, and there are no limits on the number of participants per country or agency. Please use this link to register for any course. For the full catalog of 2017 online courses, please click here.

2At this stage the course will be open to government officials and donor agencies. The course will be open to the public in a later offering planned for March/April 2018.

September 15, 2017

How Peer Learning Can Advance Fiscal Transparency

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Posted by Juan Pablo Guerrero[1]

When it comes to learning, few methods surpass learning from experience. Practice, trials and errors, help people become experts. Unfortunately, such learning by trial and error can be an expensive way to design public policy, in terms of institutional resources, as well as in terms of social and political implications. For the introduction of new policy practices, a second-best method can involve learning from peers. A peer who deals with similar tasks and institutional objectives, such as advancing fiscal transparency, might very well find comparable obstacles and lessons along the way. The shared experience of peers incorporates crucial elements of teaching, such as methodology, approaches and lessons learned. At the same time, the peer-to-peer rapport gives significant value and credibility to the experiences shared and exchanged.

With the above in mind, the Global Initiative for Fiscal Transparency (GIFT) network has invested strongly in peer-to-peer learning activities since 2014. GIFT is a multi-stakeholder action-network which aims to achieve sustained, measurable improvements in fiscal transparency, public participation and accountability in countries around the world. The network aims to advance incentives, norms, peer-learning, technical assistance, and new technologies. Its 37 members, called stewards, see in GIFT meetings an opportunity to exchange their experiences on a wide range of topics, and to learn from others.[2] 

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September 12, 2017

Why Medium-Term Budget Frameworks Under-Perform in Africa

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Posted by Taz Chaponda and Richard Allen[1]

Medium-term budget frameworks (MTBFs) have established a strong track record in advanced countries, but how do they fare in countries with much weaker budgeting and governance systems? To what extent do they contribute to the preparation of macro-economic and fiscal projections that are more reliable, budgets that are more credible, and more broadly to better fiscal policies? 

To examine these questions, a new IMF Working Paper focuses on the performance of MTBFs in six countries––Kenya, Namibia, South Africa, Tanzania, Uganda, and Zambia. More than 15 years ago, these countries, and many others in sub-Saharan Africa embarked on a program of budgetary reform, an important element of which was an MTBF. The working paper assesses the effectiveness of MTBFs in achieving improved fiscal discipline, resource allocation, and certainty of funding, as well as wider economic and social development goals.

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September 08, 2017

Transforming Reports into Modern Social Communication  

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Posted by Esther Palacio[1]

Traditional reports are losing their effectiveness and efficiency in the modern IT-dependent world, as more friendly forms of communication appear. We are talking here primarily about reports written by government agencies or think tanks, or by international finance agencies or donors, or by other public sector bodies. How should we take advantage of the new technologies and transform long and often unread reports into modern social communications that strengthen the impact of policy and technical advice? 

Reports are written with the intention to communicate. Nevertheless, in the modern era, most people rely on the traditional media and the social media. Few people have the time or inclination to read long reports. As a result, excellent reports containing important messages, analysis and data, risk not reaching their target audience, and often have little impact in practice. Moreover, the authors of reports rarely think through the key messages that need to be communicated to a wider audience, and who are the members of that audience.

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