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Lives in the Balance

Improving Accountability for Public Spending in Developing Countries

Charles C. Griffin, David de Ferranti, Courtney Tolmie, Justin Jacinto, Graeme Ramshaw, and Chinyere Bun

Publication Year: 2010

Because of its potential impact, and, in some cases, the harm it has brought, foreign aid is under the microscope. Donor countries, who don't want simply to give money away; recipient nations, who need to make the most of what they have and get; and analysts, policymakers, and writers are all scrutinizing how much is spent and where it goes. Perhaps more important, aid is only a small part of what developing country governments spend. Their own resources finance 80 percent or more of health and education spending except in the most aid-dependent countries. Lives in the Balance investigates a vital aspect of this landscape —how best to ensure that public spending, including aid money, gets to the right destination.

The development of democratic institutions and the spread of cheap communications technology in developing countries make it possible for the "demand-side" —citizens and civil society institutions —to advocate for improved transparency, stronger accountability, better priorities, reduced corruption, and more emphasis on helping the poor. Securing real reform will depend not only on knowledge of how the recipient government operates, but also how to work with partner entities —the media, the private sector, other organizations, and legislators —to raise awareness and compel change.

Published by: Brookings Institution Press

Front Cover

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Copyright Information

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Table of Contents

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Preface: A Story about This Book

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pp. xi-xviii

An experienced World Bank economist takes on the assignment of preparing a public expenditure review for a country in Sub-Saharan Africa. The previous one, prepared three years earlier, focused on infrastructure and maintenance. The economist, based in Washington, develops a work plan with an economist based in the local World Bank office. Between them, they spend 40 weeks...

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pp. xix-xxi

Transformational moments are always much easier to see in hindsight than in foresight. But we believe that we are in a transformational moment. This book has had more than a three-year gestation as we tried to understand what feels like a sea change in the potential for public accountability around the world. So many factors are now lining up. Many more coun-...

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The Process of Government Accountability: An Anecdote and an Agenda

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pp. 1-17

In a study of the effectiveness of education spending programs, the National Center for Economic Research (CIEN) in Guatemala looked at why increased school spending was not being converted into improved education results. Only half of school-age Guatemalan children com-plete primary school, and reading and math skills are at dismally low ...

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Major Issues and Tools in Public Expenditure Management

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pp. 18-50

This chapter summarizes the main issues in public expenditure in lowand middle-income countries based on roughly 60 public expenditure reviews conducted by the World Bank between 2000 and 2007. The World Bank has been conducting public expenditure reviews for lowand middle-income countries since the 1980s, analyzing the level and pattern of public expenditure, assessing the effectiveness and equity of public spending, and identifying...

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The Political Dimension of Public Accountability

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pp. 51-65

Chapter 2 provided a diagnosis of public expenditure and financial man-agement in developing countries, identifying progress and challenges. Despite substantial investment of time and resources by the international expenditure and financial management in many developing countries remains generally disappointing, especially at the subnational level....

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Transparency and Accountability in Budgets and Expenditure Management

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pp. 66-85

Chapter 2 suggests that national budgeting and expenditure management have fallen short of best practices but that the push to decentral-ize decisions to increase accountability to citizens could be risky under current control environments. On the positive side, chapter 3 argues that the democracy movement that has swept the world over the past ...

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Independent Monitoring Organizations at Work

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pp. 87-110

Citizens face significant challenges in trying to monitor government actions, as the Open Budget Initiative data reported in chapter 4 demonstrate. But the emergence of more open societies argues for a complementary form of monitoring by civil society organizations that we have called independent monitoring organizations. Although bottom-up account-...

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Strengthening Independent Monitoring Organizations

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pp. 111-135

Chapter 5 gave examples of how independent monitoring organizations can play a role in developing policy and improving government programs and operations. When people organize to improve public services, they can have a positive impact—lowering costs for street lights, ensuring delivery of textbooks to schools, or improving service delivery ...

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Conclusion: Bringing Everyone to the Same Page

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pp. 136-145

This final chapter looks at what all the key players—donors, govern-ments, independent monitoring organizations—can do to strengthen independent monitoring organizations and increase their impact. But first a little background and some additional insight into the story preface...


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pp. 147-156


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pp. 157-174

Back Cover

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E-ISBN-13: 9780815701774
E-ISBN-10: 0815701772

Page Count: 174
Publication Year: 2010

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Developing countries -- Appropriations and expenditures -- Evaluation.
  • Government spending policy -- Developing countries.
  • Government accountability -- Developing countries.
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