Some central questions in international development are how to measure progress, make sound cross-country comparisons, and build the case for political and economic reforms. Multilateral institutions such as the World Bank play the role of repositories of credible, accessible, and up-to-date information that serves as an international benchmark for progress. Access to information is the basis for evidence-based policymaking and can serve as a catalyst for necessary reforms.
The World Bank recently convened a conference to present research around its Doing Business index at my alma mater Georgetown University. The keynote speaker, Tim Besley of the London School of Economics, discussed the importance of World Bank data that is publicly available and internationally recognized as a reliable source of evidence-based policymaking.
The Doing Business Survey focuses on two main sets of indicators: regulations and legal institutions. The regulation indicators are the number of procedures, time, and cost involved in starting a business, to obtain a construction permit, getting access to electricity, registering property, paying taxes, and the ability to trade across international borders.
For the first time since its independence in 1947, Pakistan saw its first ever peaceful transition from one democratically elected government to another in 2013. While this was a remarkable success for Pakistani democracy, the country still lacked a process for holding civilian governments accountable for their electoral promises.
Working with economic think tank Policy Research Institute of Market Economy (PRIME), CIPE Pakistan initiated a project to monitor key economic promises made by the current government in its pre-election manifesto.
Through a consultative process, PRIME developed a scorecard to gauge the progress made by the government in the areas of economic revival, energy security, and social protection, focusing on 26 of the goals mentioned in the winning Pakistan Muslim League’s pre-election manifesto. Scores are based on a possible 10 points in each category, with the most thorough implementation earning the most points.
The first Scorecard report released on January 27 shows that the average score for the economic revival is 3.17 out of 10, energy security scored 4.16, and social protection scored 6. This report covered the period between June 2013-December 2013.
If knowledge is power, then ensuring access to information is a vital step in empowering civil society to participate in the policy making process. Creating an environment where information, both political and economic, is widely available is also the key to fostering a citizenry that will hold elected officials and economic agents accountable to the public. Without mechanisms that allow for the diffusion of information, individuals cannot effectively participate in democratic processes or be successful actors in any market economy.
A new toolkit from CIPE discusses important elements surrounding access to information and provides a number of examples of how partners have worked to build institutions that allow for greater sharing of knowledge. In addition, the publication identifies core objectives in the field of access to information in an effort to guide the design of information programs. Covering topics such as legal structures like freedom of information laws and alternative sources of information, the toolkit seeks to share key practices and lessons to improve the performance of such programs.
Download the toolkit here.
Frank Stroker is Research Assistant at CIPE.
As the world celebrates World Press Freedom Day, it is important to remember that access to information and free and unbiased reporting are vital elements for developing a democracy. According to the 2013 Press Freedom Index published by Reporters Without Borders, Syria is ranked 176th out of 179 countries. Since the beginning of the uprising in March 2011, Syrian authorities have restricted coverage of the unrest and continue to misreport the civil war on state-run TV stations.
My colleague Stephen Rosenlund wrote in his blog post A Bright Light on Syria’s Horizon about CIPE’s work with the Syrian Economic Forum (SEF), a think tank dedicated to building a free, pluralistic, and independent Syrian homeland that rests on a strong economy and ensures a life of freedom and dignity for all citizens. Despite the ongoing civil war and inability to establish a home office inside Syria, SEF has established a robust online presence through its website and social media pages allowing for the exchange of ideas and knowledge.
According to Freedom House’s Freedom of the Press 2013 report, Kyrgyzstan’s media environment remains ‘not free’ with little improvement in press freedom over the last ten years.
Though the situation is not as bleak as in the rest of Central Asia, when reporting on politically-sensitive issues in Kyrgyzstan, media outlets practice self-censorship to avoid threats or harassment. When reporting on economic topics, however, journalists often simply lack the skills or background to provide comprehensive analysis. As a result, the Kyrgyz public lacks information about important economic trends, events, and issues. As access to information is a crucial component of free societies, the poor information flow in Kyrgyzstan hinders the country’s democratic and market-economic transition.
Watch a video about RevistaPerspectiva.com (in English)
In Latin America, many citizens lack a clear understanding of democratic and free-market principles, and strong, charismatic leaders have exploited that knowledge gap. In several countries, notably Cuba, Venezuela, Argentina, and Ecuador, the government exerts significant influence over traditional media outlets through direct ownership, intimidation, or even censorship.
The trend is not a positive one for freedom of the press in the region as governments become more creative in finding ways to muzzle the media. And although some have tried to censor the internet, technological and social progress mean that information consumption in Latin America is increasingly linked to the internet and less to traditional media. The importance of cross-border journalism making use of digital platforms to communicate freely is becoming more and more important in this scenario.