2015/El Salvador & The Philippines' Partnership For Growth Initiatives

Below is the Executive Summary. Click here for the full report (PDF).

Executive Summary

The Partnership for Growth (PFG) aims to achieve accelerated, sustained, and broad-based economic growth in partner countries, including El Salvador and the Philippines, through bilateral agreements between the United States Government (USG) and the partnering countries’ national governments. Using principles set forth in President Barack Obama’s September 2010 Presidential Policy Directive on Global Development, the PFG requires rigorous, joint analyses of countries’ individual constraints to growth to develop joint action plans to address the most pressing of these constraints and to establish high-level mutual accountability for the goals and activities selected to alleviate them.

The countries of El Salvador, the Philippines, Tanzania, and Ghana were selected as the first group of countries in which the U.S. and partner governments would attempt to structure new PFG initiatives, with selection based, in part, on each of country’s record of accomplishment in implementing ongoing Millennium Challenge Compacts.

In November 2011, the USG and the Government of El Salvador (GOES) signed a Joint Country Action Plan (JCAP) that identified two primary constraints to Salvadoran economic growth and 20 goals aimed at easing those constraints. Each goal is associated with multiple lines of action (LOAs) to be undertaken by the GOES and the USG. It is believed that carrying out the agreed-upon LOAs will lead to goal achievement, which, in turn, will mitigate the effects of currently binding constraints and accelerate and sustain El Salvador’s rate of broad-based, inclusive economic growth.

That same month, the USG and the Government of the Philippines (GPH) also signed a Joint Country Action Plan (JCAP) that identified two primary constraints, each with three sub-constraints, to Philippine economic growth based on three interrelated themes of development intervention. Each constraint was accompanied by a set of goals, policies, and actions to relieve them. The agreed-upon actions are designed to lead to goal and policy achievement, which, in turn, will mitigate the effects of currently binding constraints and, therefore, accelerate and sustain the Philippines’ rate of broad-based, inclusive economic growth.

Purpose of Evaluation

Optimal Solutions Group, LLC (Optimal) was contracted to conduct a mid-term evaluation of the PFG initiative in El Salvador and the Philippines. According to the evaluation statement of work (SOW), this evaluation serves two purposes.

First, the evaluation analyzes whether the PFG process demonstrates improvements over pre-PFG assistance approaches. In particular, the evaluation was tasked with examining the extent to which the PFG’s whole-of-government approach (WGA) and constraints analysis (CA) led to a change in the way the USG delivered development assistance.

The second purpose of the evaluation consists of two parts:

(i) Evaluate whether PFG process demonstrates improvements over pre-PFG assistance approaches.

(ii) Evaluate:

a. whether PFG efforts have been developed in such a way as to allow for the eventual determination of their impact on addressing the identified constraints and desired outcomes.

b. the performance of certain initiatives to date to determine whether or not they are moving in the right direction, are considered necessary and sufficient to achieve PFG goals, and are contributing to national interests through the integration and coordination of work done by both governments.

This Cross-Cutting report serves as a compilation of the individual independent mid-term evaluations for El Salvador and the Philippines. The purpose of this report, which focuses on the first part of the evaluation list above, is to compare and contrast the findings and conclusions from the two mid-term evaluations, to identify commonalities, good practices and lessons learned that will inform the overall process and implementation of the PFG initiative.[1] The methodology used for the individual evaluations can be found in the country-specific reports.

This report is guided by the following three cross-cutting evaluation questions as outlined in the SOW.[2]

Cross-Cutting Questions:

1) What are the advantages and/or disadvantages of the PFG whole-of-government approach to development assistance?

2) To what extent has PFG affected the workload on national government and U.S. government staff, as compared to the workload created by traditional forms of development-assistance delivery?

3) What contributions has “non-assistance” made to the PFG process, and how can it be utilized moving forward?

Findings, Conclusions, and Recommendations

General Evaluation Findings

In general, the evaluation team found that PFG has aided in positive movement of policy reforms in El Salvador and the Philippines. The PFG initiative was viewed as positive within both countries studied. The whole of government approach has been lauded as one of the most important components of PFG, promoting effective decision making because all needed stakeholders are included in discussions concerning policy reform and implementation. Non-assistance tools have been leveraged in both PFG initiatives. PFG as an initiative experienced some challenges in its management, monitoring and evaluation, suggesting better guidance is needed during the design of PFG initiatives.

Advantages of the PFG Initiative

Findings

• PFG has contributed to positive changes in its approach to development assistance as compared to previous strategies.

• PFG has aided in the positive movement of policy reforms.

• Initial PFG planning through the constraints analysis activity laid a good foundation for the PFG initiative, although meeting agreements were sometimes challenging.

Conclusion

Overall, PFG in both countries was viewed as a positive initiative and a welcomed change in USG’s development strategy. Respondents perceived that there has been progress in economic growth, and the realization of positive policy reforms as a result of PFG in both El Salvador and the Philippines. However, the analytical process of both the constraints analysis and the JCAP, and the political process of attaining agreements on design of programs resulted in delays in the anticipated schedule for programming and other targeted initiatives.

Recommendations

For future PFG initiatives, it would be useful to have set guidelines and templates on how to design the PFG initiative in order to prevent delays or confusion in terms of what can and cannot be included in the initiative.

While PFG was deliberately set up not to focus on budget, budget implications as a result of the PFG initiative’s operational components should be considered during the design phase, and preferably both governments should make a commitment to apportioning funding towards such elements.

Cross-Cutting Question One: What are the advantages and/or disadvantages of the PFG whole-of-government approach to development assistance?

Findings

• The consultative and inclusive nature of the constraints analysis served as a foundation for fostering the whole-of government-approach.

• Within USG, the WGA has focused human and operational resources on the policy and programmatic objectives of PFG.

• WGA has enhanced understanding and cooperation among USG agencies.

• WGA has led to increased coordination between USG and partner countries, and ultimately increased efficiency.

• WGA requires a significant amount of time to be effective.

Conclusion

The WGA was viewed as a positive approach within the PFG initiative that improved the way development assistance is implemented. The WGA has led to increased coordination within USG, and the individual partner governments, and between the governments (USG and GOES, and USG and GPH). This increased coordination, while time consuming, has led to improved operational efficiency because when all relevant stakeholders gather to identify a solution, the outcome tends to be comprehensive and relevant. The WGA has also promoted better programing because of the increased buy-in of all stakeholders during project design and implementation. Some challenges of the WGA include: the increased staff time needed to effectively implement the WGA, and the fact that it is sometimes challenging to gather and coordinate all needed stakeholders, which could lead to implementation delays.

Recommendations

The evaluation team heard, but also witnessed WGA in action, and found it to be a very effective component of the PFG. The team recommends that this approach should be leveraged in future PFGs and similar development initiatives, with a major policy or institutional development component.

A bilateral management team to run the entire PFG initiative should be established at the onset. For the implementation of WGA (as well as other components of PFG) to be effective and sustainable, the evaluation team recommends that all PFG initiatives, develop a PFG bilateral governance structure. Such a structure exists at varying levels in the two PFG programs studied. Ideally, this management team should have two full time staff members who would be the PFG representatives/ coordinators for each country. The management team could spearhead collaboration activities, engage stakeholders in identifying non-assistance activities (discussed subsequently), promote PFG awareness programs and lead the monitory and evaluation unit. Such an entity would also be crucial to facilitating training of PFG staff on how to operationalize and monitor their projects, but also how to identify opportunities for coordination and non-assistance.

The evaluation team also recommends developing performance measurements that track the role of coordination activities in promoting effectiveness. Performance measurement components should be incorporated as part of the design and indicators that define WGA coordination activities in order to track how these activities can lead to enhanced effectiveness and efficiency.

Cross-Cutting Question Two: To what extent has Partnership for Growth affected the workload on national government and U.S. government staff, as compared to the workload created by traditional forms of development-assistance delivery?

Findings

• PFG has resulted in an overall increase in the workload of PFG staff in El Salvador, Philippines, and assigned staff in Washington D.C.

• There was no discernible difference in workload by gender.

• PFG has prompted a significant increase in workload specifically focused on coordination in El Salvador, and coordination and communication in the Philippines, both within and between governments.

• PFG has prompted a significant increase in work specifically for stakeholders involved in planning.

• Increased workload is associated with perceived effectiveness of PFG and WGA.

Conclusion

The PFG initiative has prompted a significant increase in both intra- and inter-governmental coordination, a finding that aligned with data gathered in discussing WGA previously. It may be too early to assess the effectiveness of PFG, but survey results suggested that staff in USG, GOES, and GPH who invested a significant amount of time into PFG also believed that PFG is a significant improvement over former development assistance practices. Thus, increased workload seems to have translated into increased efficiency.

Recommendation

• Leverage the recommended management team to assist in rebalancing the workload of PFG staff across the Initiative.

Cross-Cutting Question Three: What contributions has “non-assistance” made to the PFG process, and how can it be utilized moving forward?

Findings

• The most frequently cited form of non-assistance involved the diplomatic engagement, primarily of USG Leadership—Ambassador and USAID Mission Directors.

• The concept of non-assistance is unclear to many PFG stakeholders, outside of leadership.

• Overall, non-assistance efforts have led to largely positive results.

Conclusion

In both El Salvador and the Philippines, USG embassy leadership provided the clearest examples of the successful use of non-assistance. However, the value of promoting PFG goals through non-assistance tools, attained and pending, was not always evident. Opportunities exist to leverage non-assistance activities to promote a positive adjustment of expectations for the investor community, foreign and domestic, and citizens.

Recommendations

• PFG participants need to become more knowledgeable about the diversity of forms non-assistance takes and its value should be conveyed to both PFG staff and beneficiaries.

• Improve reporting and public awareness on non-assistance activities.

• Increase staffing (and budget) on assignments geared toward identifying, working on, and publicizing non-assistance activities.

Additional Findings and Recommendations

Findings

• PFG initiatives did not always follow the constraints analysis.

• The JCAP was instrumental for the design phases of the PFG initiative, but varied in its use once implementation begun.

• Evaluating some components (non-project activities) of the PFG initiative can be challenging.

• The timeline of PFG initiative’s initiation should be taken into account for management and M&E purposes.

• The scorecard process is commendable and should be continued. However, both PFG initiatives shared challenges with the scorecard process:

• El Salvador PFG

• El Salvador PFG Goal leads were not fully aware of three long-term indicators and how constraint-level indicators align with goal-level indicators, and feed into the scorecard process.

• The scorecard process is largely negotiated and not entirely fact-based.

• Philippines PFG

• The annual PFG scorecards indicate macro-level progress in the Philippines that is less indicative of PFG progress.

• Stakeholders from both PFG initiatives felt that, in some instances, better indicators could have been selected to monitor PFG, but they did not readily provide alternatives.

Conclusion

The strategies employed by both countries evaluated differed in terms of how the PFG initiative should actually be implemented. El Salvador solely focusied on the identified constraints; while the Philippines expanded the strategy to include constraints outside of those determined as binding. Further, some elements of the JCAP were not followed in the Philippines. While the PFG initiatives in El Salvador and the Philippines have made positive strides in their respective initiatives, challenges remain in how the initiative should be managed and implemented.

Recommendations

• Incorporate into the guiding documentation (in this case the JCAP) how to incorporate changes, as needed, in strategy during implementation to enable appropriate tracking and eventual determination of PFG impact.

• Review and update outdated elements of the JCAP at midterm, given that one of the key goals of PFG is to have a rigorous monitoring system for tracking progress and impact.

• Require and develop more robust M&E systems for all PFG projects, and institute training, as needed, to promote systematic tracking.

• Goal-level implementation teams and work plans should be developed at the onset of PFG, but can also be incorporated at mid-term for already established PFG initiatives.

• Identify means of tracking non-project related PFG activities.

• The scorecard presentation process should be used as an innovative learning event.

Overall Takeaways

Overall, the PFG initiatives studied have been effective in implementing a new approach to conducting development. Improvements in economic growth and promotion of policy reforms have been perceived in both countries studied, as a result of PFG. Both country initiatives made positive strides in promoting the core principles of PFG. The WGA was viewed as the most effective component of PFG throughout and should be encouraged for moving forward.

In terms of areas of improvement, future PFG initiatives could use better guidance in the design of the initiatives, possibly leveraging the already existing initiatives. Management, monitoring and evaluation should be more rigorous and systematized to ensure adequate measurement of effectiveness and ultimately impact of the PFG initiatives.

 

FOOTNOTES

1. Partnership for Growth Mid-term Evaluation Report: El Salvador and The Philippines, pg. 18

2. Evaluation Statement of Work, 2013. pgs. 9–10