Good Governance

Good Governance

For forms of government let fools contest – whatever is administered best is best. Alexander Pope’s statement signifies that the search for good governance seemingly is an endless one. Ensuring goodness’ in governance and raising its level – intensity-wise and coverage-wise – has been an aspiration of the people and a persistent demand of the articulate sections in any society. It has been an eternal challenge to rulers since the very dawn of ‘State’, irrespective of its nature, structure and form.

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What Is Good Governance?

In the vocabulary of public administration “good governance” is a recent entrant within a context. It has three dimensions and one can comprehend the concept much better by understanding these dimensions:

Good governance as an attempt to widen the scope of public administration by going beyond formal government:

The first connotation in terms of widening the scope of public administration has been very well explained by Rosenau. Writing in the context of contemporary global politics he explicates the term “governance” in the following way:

“Governance is a more encompassing phenomenon than government. It embraces governmental institutions, but in also subsumes informal, non-governmental mechanisms whereby those persons and organisations within its purview move ahead, satisfy their needs, and fulfill their wants. Governance is thus a system of rule that is as dependent on inter subjective meaning as on formally sanctioned constitution, and charter…… it is possible to conceive of governance without government — of regulatory mechanisms in a sphere of activity which function effectively even though they are not endowed with formal authority”.

A straightforward definition of governance is : The capacity to get things done without the legal competence to command that they be done. The concept of “governance”, thus, frees administrative studies from conventional formalism. At the same time, it opens up possibilities of drawing on society’s alternative collective, problem-solving fora and devices. Governance, so conceived, is more a network of multiple agencies and organisations than a fixed “government” agency or department.

Governance, in this context, stands for establishment, operation and networking of social institutions. Concretely, it manifests itself in formal rules and regulations, decision-making procedures, and programmatic activities that serve to define social practices. In real life, there are many forms of community organisations or voluntary, collective self-help approaches through which a group of people organise themselves to achieve common purposes, such as irrigation, water distribution, resolution of local disputes and community defence. Governance, in this context, is a way of crafting social institutions as a matter of public concern. to get things done through formally constituted governments is not, therefore, the only way available for collective problem solving.

Good governance as an externally dictated term to prescribe aid conditionality:

The second meaning of governance is closely linked to international aid-conditionality. Referring to the background conditions of the good governance’ conditions of the good governance’ concept, Leftwich points out that contemporary western aid and overseas development policy have three defining features. First, the aim of aid has been to promote open, market-friendly and competitive es. This policy was embodied in the new conditionality of structural adjustment added lending, developed in the 1980’s. Later, in the 1990s, two further features have to structural adjustment. These are support for democratization and improvement of human rights records, and insistence on what has come to be called “good governance”

Development assistance to the Third World countries in the post Cold War era has, thus, been, subject to the new politics of ‘good governance’. In 1989, the concept of governance was 10 me first time highlighted in a World Bank document on Sub-Saharan Africa. By good governance was meant, at that time, sound development management. Four key dimensions identified in this context were : Public sector management, Accountability, Legal framework for development and Information and transparency.

The Bank document on sub-Saharan Africa had this to say: “Improving governance would begin with an assessment of the institutional environment with emphasis on the key governance elements of accountability, rule of law, openness and transparency which determines the patrimonial profile of the country: high when all other factors are absent and ‘low when they are present”.

As the Bank’s document, entitled Governance and Development (1992), puts it “governance is defined as the manner in which power is exercised in the management of a country’s economic and social resources for development”. From its lending experience in many developing countries, the Bank came to realise that “good governance is central to creating and sustaining an environment which fosters strong and equitable development, and it is an essential complement to sound economic policies”. ) Three distinct aspects are identified in the conceptualization of governance’:

  1. The form of political regime ( parliamentary or presidential, military of civilian, and authoritarian or democratic).
  2. The process by the which authority is exercised in the management of a country’s economic and social resources; and
  3. The capacity of governments to design, formulate and implement policies, and in general, to discharge government functions. The first aspect, it is admitted, falls outside the Bank’s mandate. The focus of “governance” is, therefore, basically on the second and third aspects.

Recounting its wide experience, the Bank document narrates vividly the problems of “governance”. For instance, despite technical soundness, programmes and projects have often failed to produce desired results. Laws are not enforced properly and there are often delays in implementation. Privatised production and market-led growth do not succeed unless investors face clear rules and institutions. In the absence of proper accounting systems, budgetary policies cannot be implemented or monitored. Many a time, procurement systems encourage corruption and distort public investment priorities. Again, failure to involve beneficiaries and other affected in the design and implementation of projects has often led to substantial erosion of their sustainability.

Against this background of malgovernance, the Bank has attempted to focus on some of the key dimensions of governance’, such as public sector management, accountability, the legal framework for development, and information and transparency, as already stated.

Economic, human and institutional development are considered important in bringing about sound development management. The conditionalities of “good governance” are thus carefully spelt out, and as the Bank document sums up:

“Governance is a continuum, and not necessarily unidirectional: it does not automatically improve over time. It is a plant that needs constant tending. Citizens need to demand good governance. Their ability to do so is enhanced by literacy, education, and employment opportunities. Governments need to prove responsive to those demands. Neither of these can be taken for granted. Change occurs sometimes in response to external or internal threats. It also occurs through pressures for different interest groups, some of which may be in the form of populist demands. Although lenders and aid agencies ad other outsiders can contribute resources and ideas to improve governance, for change to be effective it must be rooted firmly in the societies concerned and cannot be imposed from outside”.

More pronounced political meaning of governance’ appeared in the policy directives of the OECD countries, laying down conditionality for receiving economic assistance. The OECD documents sought to link development assistance, with Participatory development, Human rights, and Demo-cratisation.

The key components of governance’ were identified as: Legitimacy of government. Accountability of political and official elements of government respect for human rights and the rule of Law ( including individual and group rights and security, a legal frame work for economic and social activity, and participation).

What emerges out of the combined efforts of the aid giving countries and the international funding agencies is that entitlement to aid would depend on the degree to which a client country would be having a liberal democratic state in a pluralist society.

Good Governance as a fresh look towards state- society relationship:

The third meaning of “governance” is implied in the explanatory ideal, as governance highlights the importance of rule of law, human rights, participatory development and democratisation. As against the managerial stance of governance, the ethical-normative dimension links governance’ to some of the older issues in political theory. State, as the ancient Greeks said, stands for good life. It is not enough that administration is run on sound managerial lines. The equity and legitimacy aspects are as important, or perhaps more important, than good management. The governing process should provide opportunities for the people of actively participate in decision-making, and the fruits of government must be universally shared and not captured by an influential minority. People’s perception about how the governing process is going on serves as the barometer of legitimacy of governance. Empowerment is thus a precondition of good governance.

So for as the first and third aspect of “governance” are concerned, it has been commented that the character of concept of ‘good governance’ is a salutary departure from the overly formalistic conventional public administration. In today’s complex world of governing, government alone is not capable of coping with myriad problems. A degree of networking with other societal organisational will enhance the capacity of governance in the society as a whole. Also, this will facilitate development of ‘social capital’ in terms of social groups’ agreed involvement and cosharing of problem-solving. Again, to the extent governance would be bringing in transparency, openness, rule of law and human rights observance, this will facilitate strengthening of democracy.

Only the second aspect to tie up good governance’ with aid-giving has been critically reviewed by many commentators. One set of arguments has been that the World Bank is seeking to politicise’ the otherwise technical issue of financial aid to the third world countries. How does one measure good governance’ is a simplistic notion, as there are diverse ways of governing in multi-cultural contexts. Good governance, as the critics point out, seems in a rehash of the one-best way principle of classical administrative theory resurrected natively the contemporary world situation that demands more open-endedness in governance than rigidity of any kind.

Nevertheless, public administration has been widened and deepened through the introduction of the concept of governance’.

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