Posted by Suhas Joshi
In the latest in the series “Views from the Field”, Richard Alen
interviewed Suhas Joshi, FAD’s PFM Advisor in East Asia, who is based in
RA: What is your experience
of working as a PFM advisor around the world?
starts Anna Karenina with the sentence “Happy families are all alike, unhappy families
are unhappy in their own way”. In the same way countries are all alike in their
basic PFM requirements and issues but each is unique in its own problems and
issues. I have had the privilege of having sat on both sides of the donor table
- in India I used to deal with bilateral aid to India and now, for 13 years
with the Fund, I have delivered aid to Russia, West African states such as
Ghana, Liberia, Sierra Leone and Gambia, then 15 Pacific Island countries, and
now to Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam, Nepal, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Indonesia, Sri
Lanka, Myanmar and Maldives.
In his Theban
plays Sophocles says “There is nothing new under the sun”. In the same vein, I
see in all the countries where I have worked certain fundamental PFM issues
that remain the same. Yet diversity in location, size and capacity makes each country
and its problems different. This creates a challenge for practitioners at the
implementation stage - indeed a philosophical one. Often we tend to believe
that we, as TA providers, are guiding the reform process. But, as the Gita
tells us, we are not the “doers” – we are at best catalysts in the reform
process. As I saw from my experience in India, the main “doers” of reform are
the ministers and government officials in any country. They are busy performing
the routine functions of government about 90% of their time, failing which they
will lose their jobs. This leaves about 10% of their time to engage in the reform
process. If government officials have to implement several reforms at the same
time, their resources are further stretched, resulting in slow implementation.
Factor in a bureaucracy that is often either de-motivated or ambivalent, then none
of our efforts will bear fruit!
In sum, we need
to be realistic in our hopes and recognize that unless we have a high level
champion to provide motivation and guidance, the reform process will be slower
than expected, if indeed it will be implemented at all. Reform needs to be
combined with sustainable capacity development so that the “doers” can do
things themselves, and correctly, while we support them in meaningful ways.