Jerusalem, May 20, 2011 - The World Bank reached out to donors, Palestinian government officials, civil society and NGOs this week to build on the findings of its recent report: “Improving Governance and Reducing Corruption” in West Bank and Gaza.
Governance weaknesses leading to corruption in the Palestinian Authority (PA) have been the subject of discussion among donors and the government’s constituents for some time. Despite the high profile this issue commands, very little analytical work has been done to date. The World Bank report fills this gap; it’s the first to comprehensively assess the institutional strengths and weaknesses of the Palestinian Authority, and identify the nature and real incidence of corruption in WB&G.
“Excellent report, excellent diagnostics and excellent timing,” said Geoff Prewitt, a senior governance advisor for the United Nations Development Programme, at a briefing for donors.
Country Director Mariam Sherman, at a workshop for PA officials, civil society, and major NGOs, said the report “lays out clear analytics, takes a comprehensive look at the facts on the ground, and provides a sound basis for the PA to set priorities for future governance reform.”
The report identified areas where the PA has made significant progress, singling out reforms in public financial management, government equity holdings, and the historically problematic petroleum commission. It found reforms underway but not yet finished in public procurement, public employments, and regulation of the private sector. And, it noted areas where improvements are still needed, specifically in land management, licensing and business services, and access to public information.
“We share a common goal to develop good governance and a democratic governance system based on accountability and transparency,” said Ali Jarbawi, the PA’s Minister of Planning.
“This is a Palestinian goal, a Palestinian desire.”Jarbawi noted that the Palestinian system is unique, and the absence of PA control in many of areas of the Palestinian territories makes governance, and reform, difficult. For example, he said, the PA didn’t have control of its land registry for almost 30 years, until 1995.“As a result of the environment we live in, there are setbacks,” he said. “The process of reform is not an incident. It is an accumulative process that takes a lot of effort, time and money.”
Mark Ahern, a senior public sector specialist and the task team leader for the report, said the study took care to focus on areas where the Palestinian Authority had direct control.“From the World Bank’s perspective, this is not just an academic exercise, it’s important in terms of development," said Ahern. “There is a direct correlation between good governance and the development outcomes we aspire to. You will find, around the world that good governance generally coincides with low infant mortality rates, higher per capita income and other important development indicators.”
The workshop participants also discussed the survey data featured in the report. The survey, of 3,000 Palestinian households, measured perceptions of corruption against actual experience when accessing public services. It found that although a high percentage of Palestinians surveyed thought citizens used wasta and bribery to access public services, very few actually did. As all previous studies of corruption in West Bank and Gaza have been perceptions based, this is a significant finding.
“That is positive,” said Jarbawi. “But we understand that perceptions are important too.”