Delivery of Public Services in MENA not meeting Citizens’ Needs

‘Morocco World News’ back in April 2015 together with others and notably ‘bqdoha’  last July published articles based on reports released by the World Bank that have shown that the delivery of essential public services in the countries of the MENA “is failing to meet the needs of citizens and continues to be a source of widespread dissatisfaction.”

The WB report, titled “Trust, Voice and Incentives, learning from local success stories in service delivery in the Middle East and North Africa,” identified a relationship between poor public services and a weak external and internal accountability of those responsible for such shortcomings whilst in positions of authority.

Quoting data from the 2013 Gallup World Poll, the report said that on average about half of respondents in the MENA region, compared with about 30% in Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean, expressed their dissatisfaction with education and health care services in their respective countries.

Furthermore, the ‘2010-2011 ‘Arab Barometer’, a research project that produces scientifically reliable data on the politically-relevant attitudes of citizens of the MENA organized through a partnership between Princeton University, the University of Michigan, and the Arab Reform Initiative found that about two-thirds of their respondents perceived as “bad” or “very bad” the performance of their government in improving basic health services and that the former (government) should do better in ensuring service delivery and fighting corruption.

Respondents expressed little trust in their government’s involvement in the social sectors.  Moreover, they are less likely than citizens of other regions to seek accountability and tell public officials what they think, the report added.

“Young people in particular are too often let down by schools that do not prepare them for the jobs market,” said Hafez Ghanem, World Bank Vice President for the Middle East and North Africa Region.

“The problem is not a lack of resources but the wrong motivation, as public servants are not judged by their ability to meet the needs of citizens.  Breaking the cycle of poor performance will be essential for rebuilding the relationship between citizens and governments and allowing the region’s youth to reach their full potential.”

The World Bank said that political institutions in most MENA countries lack accountability mechanisms, with citizens unable to obtain adequate information, voice demands, or incentivize policy makers and public servants through formal channels.

The report added that citizens in the MENA region have few opportunities to provide feedback on performance quality and to seek accountability.

Accountability institutions such as justice sector services, independent audit agencies, and ombudsmen are underdeveloped in the MENA region.

This makes it even difficult for citizens to submit complaints, hold public servants and service providers accountable, and obtain their rights.  More specifically, these find : “Although they have excelled at building schools, constructing hospitals, and training staff, the region’s societies have fallen short in fostering the accountability and values needed to motivate public servants and service providers to deliver quality services,” the report said.

The report has also identified local success stories come from few countries and from localities that were able to find better ways to provide services to their communities with limited resources.

Moreover, countries of the GCC have very high levels of trust in their government when compared with the rest of the MENA.  More than 80% of respondents in Jordan, Kuwait, and Qatar expressed trust in their national government, whereas less than half of respondents in Iraq, Lebanon, the West Bank and Gaza expressed trust in their governments, according to Gallup World Poll, 2013.  The GCC countries score “very satisfactory” on the Corruption Perceptions Index, do have stronger institutions, and in general enjoy very favourable citizen evaluations of their governments’ performance, notes the report.