Podcast guest Lindsey Marchessault
On this week’s Democracy that Delivers podcast, Lindsey Marchessault from Open Contracting Partnership discusses opening up public contracting through disclosure and data engagement so that public money is spent honestly, fairly, and effectively. Marchessault talks about how this is done and the problems that open contracting is trying to address. She provides interesting examples of projects in countries such as Ukraine and Nigeria, and discusses the different roles played by government, the private sector, and civil society in developing impactful and sustainable change. Marchessault also discusses the kind of support and resources available for those who want to implement open contracting, and gives her advice on the most important first step in any open contracting initiative.
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When one thinks about Ukraine in the context of corruption, the picture typically does not look rosy. The headlines about corrupt oligarchs and continued graft easily come to mind – including recent revelations about the riches disclosed by top officials in their asset declarations. This wealth stands in stark contrast with the financial condition of most ordinary Ukrainians, causing public outcry. Not surprisingly, Ukraine was ranked 130th out of 167 in the latest Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index.
For the sixth consecutive year, internet freedom throughout the world has continued to decline. Although efforts to close the digital divide by bringing more people online has continued, 67%, or two-thirds of all internet users, fear the unprecedented penalties from living in countries with high levels of censorship. According to Freedom House’s latest report, Freedom on the Net Report 2016, Estonia, Iceland, and Canada are the most open countries when it comes to internet freedom, while China, Syria, and Iran are the most restrictive.
The 2016 report gathered information from 65 countries, measuring each individual country’s level of internet and digital freedom by using a variety of indicators. Since 2015, Turkey and Brazil have continued to move away from internet freedom, and just 14 countries registered overall improvements from the previous year.
In Ukraine, thousands of companies are still owned and operated by the government — a legacy of Soviet central planning that bleeds money from the already strained state budget. With the country in economic crisis, there have been renewed calls for Ukraine to speed up its privatization process and sell these firms to private owners who can restructure them and run them more efficiently.
Ukraine’s former Minister of Economic Development and Trade, Aivara Abromavicius, recently made a well-reasoned argument for faster privatization on the Atlantic Council’s blog. Similarly, the IMF has also urged Ukraine to speed up the pace of privatization.
However, focusing on the pace rather than the quality of privatization will likely result in a botched privatization process — which will undermine the little bit of faith Ukrainians have left in the free market and state institutions, potentially leading to the growth of populist movements and destabilizing the current government.
Ukrainian state-owned enterprises (SOEs) remain a drag on the national budget. They serve as incubators for corruption and gray market deals and in some cases serve as piggy banks for Ukrainian politicians. While I agree with Abromavicius that “simplicity, clarity, and transparency,” must be maintained in order to successfully privatize Ukrainian state owned enterprises, his concept of creating a simplified privatization procedure (without advisers) through an online auction of over 1,000 smaller SOEs will likely lead to public anger over a process that would surely enrich insiders.
Without independent advisors overseeing the due diligence process and hiring independent auditors, bidders will not have transparent access to information about the companies listed. This would, in effect, be like buying from an unrated seller on eBay with only a vague description of what is for sale – something that would not inspire confidence in potential buyers.
A lack of independent advisors–and the transparency and investor assurances they would bring to an auction—can lead to lower realized prices for the Ukrainian government, attracting only those bidders with inside knowledge of the true status of the enterprises for sale.
By Tasneem Ahmar, Director, Uks Research Center
Pakistan today has a large, vibrant and diverse media. Our media by and large enjoys freedom of expression. Barring a few “sensitive” topics that come under the rubric of “national interest,” “national security,” etc., Pakistani news media churns out content that can be heavily critical of the ruling party, leaders, and establishment.
Then what is wrong with Pakistani media? Why are some civil society organizations – including Uks Research Center – critical of how the media delivers news? In my opinion, it is the gender blindness, bias, or insensitivity that has been bothering us, and it seems that this will continue unless the decision-makers in the media make a conscious effort to reverse the tide.
Uks Research Center is a research, resource, and publication center dedicated to the cause of gender equality and women’s development. The word “Uks” is an Urdu term meaning “reflection,” and our team of professional media persons and research staff aims to promote the reflection of a neutral, balanced, and unbiased approach to women and women’s issues within and through the media.
Samriddhi wins an award at the Asia Liberty Forum in Kuala Lumpur.
By Sarita Sapkota, Samriddhi
In the annual Asia Liberty Forum in Malaysia this year, Atlas Network presented the Asia Liberty Award to Samriddhi for its ‘Econ-ity’ initiative. As part of Atlas’ Regional Liberty Awards, The Asia Liberty Award recognizes think tanks within the Atlas Network that have made important contributions to improving the landscape for enterprise and entrepreneurship in their regions. Through the award, Econ-ity was specially appreciated for the success it has brought about in advocating for and having an impact on energy sector reforms and investment policy reforms in the area of foreign investment in Nepal.
These reform efforts include pressuring the government to remove the minimum investment requirement in its recent foreign investment policies to allow small entrepreneurs to receive smaller investments and technology transfer from foreign companies as well as the establishment of a hydropower trade agreement with India that creates a more optimistic environment for investors in the sector. CIPE has been partnering with Samriddhi on several research and advocacy projects in both areas over the years.
This post has been updated on December 17, 2015.
What a difference a month can make! During Argentina’s first presidential candidate debate in October, Daniel Scioli, the Peronist government party candidate, appeared to be a shoo-in with voters. A month later at the November debate held at the University of Buenos Aires Law School the tables were completely turned. Mauricio Macri, representing the opposition voice of market friendly change had now become the favorite to win the election. What happened?
The role of the presidential debates—the first in Argentine history (see my previous post on the first debate which talks about this CIPE supported initiative)—is difficult to quantify. What we can see is that Scioli paid a heavy political price for not participating in October’s debate. The other candidates made constant references during the debate to the empty podium that referenced his absence. The press also excoriated Scioli’s last minute decision to not participate.