31 May 2011

How to make a government planning process from scratch

The Southern Sudan experience provides useful insight into appropriate approaches to developing planning and budgeting systems in other post-con¬flict settings. Above all, it injects a note of realism about what can be achieved. The key policy lessons are as follows: 
1. A strong technical lead by an integrated Ministry of Finance is essential. Although international technical assistance can provide support to system design and management, it is not a replacement for the leadership role and decision-making capacity of Government. 
2. When designing post-conflict support programmes, efforts are needed to fully understand the levels of local capacity, and the systems used prior to and during the conflict, so that starting points are realistic. 
3. For system development to be fully grounded, it needs to be aligned with the rate of improvement of local capacity. This means accepting that process development can take years, and that best practice, however desirable, cannot always be achieved overnight. 
The Ministry of Finance received continuous technical assistance throughout the development process, including long-term TA based in the Ministry, short-term consultants for training and quality assurance, and logistical and financial support for workshops. Although this support played a key role in the design and development of the systems, decision-making and strategic direction always belonged to the Ministry of Finance. In addition, the gradual recruitment of technical staff meant that the Ministry was increasingly able to manage systems itself, although with back-up support. Key providers of support included the UNDP’s ‘Support to Economic Planning’ project, Overseas Development Institute (ODI) fellows, USAID and more recently the ODI’s Budget Strengthening Initiative.
From a new ODI briefing paper by Fiona Davies and Gregory Smith.

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