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August 2013

August 21, 2013

Guinea – A Decade of Public Financial Management Reforms

Posted By Abdoul Wane[1]

In this latest in the series of blog posts by IMF area department country teams, IMF Resident Representative Abdul Wane reviews the mixed progress of PFM reform in Guinea.

Against the backdrop of economic fragility and fiscal challenges, Guinea’s medium-term programs supported by Fund arrangements over the last decade aimed to reduce financial imbalances. The growth objectives were predicated on greater fiscal discipline and an improved quality of public spending. Fiscal consolidation was to be supported by tax policy and tax administration reforms and a gradual shift in budget allocations toward priority spending, including investment. To address these challenges structural measures in Fund programs – as well as program conditionality - focused largely on PFM reforms (Figure 1 below). The 2001 PRGF request included three structural performance criteria (PC) of which two were on PFM reforms. Likewise, the 2007 PRGF request included six PCs on PFM out of a total of nine PCs.

However, since Guinea never implemented fully a program supported by the IMF, several measures had to be reprogrammed in successor programs. The sluggish implementation of reforms partly reflects Guinea’s political and institutional fragility. Vested interests stalled the reform agendas, in the absence of checks and balances. Important structural measures could not be implemented fully or were reversed because of insufficient political support, and control systems were bypassed under the watch of the political leadership. As a result, overall performance in PFM reforms has been feeble as periods of regression followed episodes of progress.

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August 15, 2013

The Long and Winding……..Fight Against Corruption

Posted by Chris Iles

Corruption is a global scourge.  In the public sector it can be defined as the diversion of public resources or the misuse of public authority for personal gain. It threatens political, social and economic stability, and undermines economic growth and development by distorting the delivery of public goods and services. Transparency International calls it one of the major threats facing society and has worked hard to focus international attention on reducing corruption in the public sphere. Preventing corruption has become a key policy priority for donors, especially in fragile or conflict-affected countries.

A recent paper[1] by Norway’s U4 Anti-corruption Resource Centre reviews how much we know about the effectiveness of different anti-corruption interventions.  The answer seems to be “not much”.  The paper reviews the fairly scant literature on the impact on corruption of various reforms such as direct budgetary support, PFM technical assistance, using donor systems and applying international norms. Evidence presented by the reviewed literature suggests that most anti-corruption measures are of disputable benefit.

The notable outlier seems to be PFM reform; there is, according to the study, (relatively) strong evidence that PFM reforms have a substantial anti-corruption impact. This is gratifying for PFM practitioners but also somewhat surprising since reducing corruption is not the explicit goal of PFM reform.

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August 03, 2013

PPPs on the Balance Sheet, Please!

Posted by Tim Irwin

Public-private partnerships create a practical problem for public financial management, because their fiscal costs are deferred. Instead of paying for a project during its construction, the government starts to pay only when construction is complete, which may be four or five years after any deal is signed. That means that the main tool of public financial management—budget scrutiny—can’t be used to ensure that PPPs are affordable and a better use of public money than the alternatives. For PPPs with long construction periods, even the analysis of medium-term spending plans doesn’t help.

So what can be done to ensure that the budgetary implications of PPPs are properly considered?

The World Bank Group has just published an Operational Note on managing fiscal commitments from PPPs that helps answer this question. It looks at how these fiscal commitments can be assessed and monitored, whether they are commitments to pay for the availability of a service or to protect a PPP company from certain risks. The Note gives examples of the tasks that can be carried out by different government agencies, such as budget departments, debt-management offices, and PPP units. And it considers the kinds of rules that can be put in legislation to help ensure that the right assessment and monitoring occurs.

However, the Operational Note does not take a position on whether or not PPPs should be put on the government’s balance sheet. Budgeting and Reporting for Public-Private Partnerships by Katja Funke, Isabel Rial, and me argues that they typically should be.

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