Demanding to Be Served: Holding Governments to Account for Improved Access

33 Pages Posted: 20 Apr 2016

Date Written: June 1, 2008


This paper presents an overview of the constitutional-legal provisions on access to services in developing countries and shows that rights to public services are not justice-able. It further documents the performance record to show that governments'response to such a weak accountability framework has been predictable - poor performance in service delivery with little accountability. The paper also shows that while there has not been a shortage of ideas on how to deal with this problem, most approaches have failed because they could not diagnose and deal with the underlying causes of government dysfunction. The paper presents an analytical perspective on understanding the causes of dysfunctional governance and the incentives and accountability regimes that have the potential to overcome this dysfunction. The paper also documents practices that have shown some promise in improving access. The paper then integrates ideas from successful practices with conceptual underpinnings for good governance and presents a citizen-centric (rights based) governance approach to access. It further explores how such a citizen empowerment and government accountability framework can be implemented in practice, especially in the context of developing countries, where most governments still operate in a command and control environment with little or no orientation to serve their people. It also presents ideas on how to overcome resistance to such reforms.

Keywords: National Governance, Public Sector Corruption & Anticorruption Measures, Governance Indicators, Public Sector Expenditure Analysis & Management, Banks & Banking Reform

Suggested Citation

Shah, Anwar, Demanding to Be Served: Holding Governments to Account for Improved Access (June 1, 2008). World Bank Policy Research Working Paper Series, Vol. , pp. -, 2008. Available at SSRN:

Anwar Shah (Contact Author)

World Bank ( email )

1818 H Street, N.W.
Washington, DC 20433
United States

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