Sie sind hier

The Globalist

Newsfeed The Globalist abonnieren
Daily online magazine on the global economy, politics and culture
Aktualisiert: vor 10 Stunden 44 Minuten

How the World Bank Mismanaged the Reconstruction of Afghanistan

17. Mai 2018 - 0:01

By Frank Vogl

Vast inflows of donor cash, intended to bring about reconstruction, may instead have added significantly to Afghanistan’s corruption problems.

U.S. government investigators have found far-reaching mismanagement by the World Bank in its capacity as the administrator of the largest multi-country official fund to assist the Afghan government with its social expenditures and to reconstruct the country.

A report to the U.S. Congress, issued by the U.S. Special Inspector General for Afghan Reconstruction (SIGAR), found that billions of dollars held in the Afghan Reconstruction Trust Fund (ARTF), administered by the World Bank, are at risk.

Afghanistan Reconstruction Trust Fund (ARTF).

Donor Contributions Paid into the ARTF from 2002 to 2017 (in Millions). Source: Office of the U.S. Special Inspector General for Afghan Reconstruction (SIGAR) analysis of World Bank data.

The detailed report stresses inadequate project monitoring, poor information on programs to donor governments, often inadequate project evaluation reports and a host of other failings.

The SIGAR report also raises questions about both the World Bank’s management, especially in a war-riven country that is among the most corrupt in the world. This also has bearings on broader issues and policy approaches to development in countries in conflict.

Missing billions

The United States has provided $126 billion in reconstruction funding to Afghanistan. As SIGAR reports indicate, including its most recent quarterly report to the Congress, corruption continues to undermine many U.S. projects and programs.

Indeed, SIGAR has previously suggested that the vast inflows of donor cash may have added to the nation’s corruption problems.

An independent evaluation of the ARTF last year by U.S. AID, the largest single donor, was not only highly critical of the World Bank, but also of U.S. AID officials for not monitoring the Bank’s work far more closely in the past.

Security risks bar inspections

Some of the Bank’s problems stem from providing funds to programs in areas where the security dangers are so high that on-the-ground inspections are not possible. For that reason, it is for example not clear whether funds have gone to real or to “ghost” teachers in schools that the Afghan Reconstruction Trust Fund has supported.

The SIGAR study reports, for example, “A senior aide to Afghanistan’s President told us that the structure of the ARTF allows for ill-conceived projects to be funded because there is no repayment obligation and that dysfunctional projects are nearly impossible to eliminate.”

World Bank’s anti-corruption record

The World Bank has been given the opportunity to review the report and its response is largely defensive. At one point, it says it provides donors with all information on its ARTF work except where such information is restricted by Bank policies. This kind of “Kafkaesk” language only serves to damage the Bank’s image further.

While this report is important and will no doubt influence views in the U.S. Congress about the World Bank, which needs Congressional approval for its funding, the response is signed solely by the resident World Bank country director in Kabul – not by the Bank’s president Jim Kim.

He has too often stood aloof from the anti-corruption work that, in his public speeches, he claims is a Bank priority.

To be sure, the World Bank’s Integrity Vice Presidency does excellent work seeking to curb abuse in procurement, while its Governance Department has been effective in strengthening policies and anti-corruption knowledge.

Nevertheless, the World Bank’s anti-corruption commitment is undermined by some of its operational projects and programs in developing countries. The new SIGAR report should prompt Jim Kim to launch a major internal review of its management effectiveness in countries in conflict and in post-conflict with particular emphasis on curbing corruption.

Key questions not asked

International donors who have provided around $10 billion to the ARTF over the years are also to blame. They have not supervised the World Bank’s work sufficiently. And they have failed to ask the basic question: Is there any point to provide the ARTF with more cash?

Afghanistan is a cesspool of corruption and the provision of billions of dollars by foreign donor agencies to the Afghan government is enriching a few at the expense of the many. The World Bank, U.S. AID and other official donors have repeatedly ignored the lessons of the missing billions of dollars of funds in the country.

“Escaping the Fragility Trap,” is a new report by the LSE-Oxford Commission on State Fragility, Growth and Development, an international commission including former UK Prime Minister David Cameron, with the research directed by UK scholar Sir Paul Collier.

It argues that donors engaged in conflict countries and ones emerging from conflict need to be guided by some key basic approaches, including:

• being realistic, not idealistic;
• accepting that development demands small steps;
• pursuing long-term nation building strategies; and,
• involving citizens fully in all aspects of reconstruction and development.

Citizen engagement in the planning, the disbursement of funds and their monitoring and evaluation has not been the way chosen by most international donors.

Rather, as in the case of the World Bank and ARTF, they rely too heavily on international consultants. That is the wrong course. Collier and others have been saying this for years.

Now SIGAR is calling on the World Bank to reform. The Bank’s response so far is bureaucratic and in a country like Afghanistan that may amount to more wasted aid funds.

It is time World Bank chief Kim engaged and challenged international donors and his own staff to comprehensively rethink the role of aid in fragile states. There is no better starting point than the findings of the commission on development approaches in fragile states.

The post How the World Bank Mismanaged the Reconstruction of Afghanistan appeared first on The Globalist.

Kategorien: english

Mapping Social Cohesion in Asia

4. April 2018 - 0:01

By Peter Walkenhorst

How does cohesion develop in Asian societies? And which factors determine its strength?

The economic and political rise of Asia is undeniable. It extends well beyond the resurgence of China.

At the same time, societal challenges are also increasing in the region. Almost all Asian societies find themselves in a state of upheaval, as they are undergoing profound transformation processes.

Urbanization is advancing almost everywhere. A new middle class is emerging, as traditions and values are changing due to increasing mobility, education and prosperity. In many places, socio-economic inequality has become more prevalent.

Because of these developments, there are tensions and conflicts in numerous Asian countries that threaten social cohesion and political stability. The question of how the cohesion of societies can be advanced is therefore becoming increasingly important in Asia.

What holds Asian societies together?

Against this backdrop, a new study, commissioned by the Bertelsmann Stiftung, presents for the first time comparative empirical data on social cohesion in 22 societies in South, Southeast and East Asia (SSEA).

To measure social cohesion in these countries, the study employed the “Social Cohesion Radar” (SCR), a multidimensional measuring instrument that integrates different facets of cohesion.

In this context, social cohesion is understood as the quality of social cooperation and togetherness in a territorially delimited community. More specifically, a highly cohesive society is characterized by three elements: Resilient social relationships, a positive emotional connectedness between its members and the community as well as a pronounced focus on the common good.

Overall, the findings show that that social cohesion is strongest in the economically most advanced societies. However, there are also less developed countries with a high level of social cohesion.

Hong Kong and Singapore are in the lead, followed by Thailand and Bhutan. In the overall index of all societies surveyed over the entire period under study (see Figure), a moderate level of cohesion was found in Japan, South Korea, China and most of the ASEAN countries, while the South Asian countries register the lowest levels.

Key factors for social cohesion

Economic development, prosperity, human development (especially education and life expectancy) and gender equality are key factors fostering social cohesion in the region. Conversely, extreme poverty has the strongest negative impact, followed by discrimination against women.

Social cohesion itself affects a number of important developments. It promotes economic productivity, reduces unemployment and provides prospects for a better life in the future. Moreover, cohesive societies are more effective in allocating resources to promote public goods.

For the Asian societies investigated, it is thus true that economic and social modernization and social cohesion are not mutually exclusive. On the contrary, successful modernization strengthens social cohesion.

But there are exceptions to this rule: There are also less developed, relatively isolated countries like Bhutan that have a high degree of social cohesion.

Another intriguing finding is that a lower level of political freedom often correlates with a higher level of social cohesion. Conversely, social cohesion promotes the restriction of civil liberties and can strengthen the stability of authoritarian regimes.

Accordingly, civil liberties and opportunities for participation are not necessarily prerequisites for high social cohesion, as the examples of Hong Kong and Singapore show. Rather, what matters is whether people regard the respective political regime as legitimate and effective.

This is no surprise. After all, democracy promotes the articulation of specific and sometimes highly antagonistic interests and opinions. In some circumstances, this can lead to societal polarizations that are detrimental to social cohesion. This is especially true when there are no intermediary institutions that can successfully mediate these conflicts.

This is what is happening in many of Asia’s young and still unstable democracies. They are struggling with political and social instability, widespread corruption and the failure of state institutions.

At the same time, many citizens in the established democracies of Japan, South Korea and Taiwan appear to be more critical of their governments than people living in authoritarian regimes. They have higher expectations of their governments and are therefore more likely to be disappointed, even though their governments tend to perform better than those of non-democratic countries in terms of economic development and social justice.

No silver bullet for social cohesion

In conclusion, there is no silver bullet that leads to consistently strong social cohesion in this region. Rather, different constellations and factors contribute to a more or less cohesive society. In principle, however, policy approaches promoting inclusive economic development, poverty alleviation and gender equality offer the greatest prospects of success.

Ultimately, this points to the Janus-faced nature of social cohesion in the South, Southeast and East Asia region: On the one hand, it can function as the glue that holds a society together, allowing for economic progress and an inclusive development policy. On the other hand, social cohesion can serve as a foundation for authoritarian political systems.

This finding, ambivalent as it is, can help us better understand social cohesion in Asia and non-Western societies.

Editor’s note: The views and opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official position of the Bertelsmann Stiftung.

The post Mapping Social Cohesion in Asia appeared first on The Globalist.

Kategorien: english