There is a huge difference between government and the governance; the former is a physical entity while the latter is qualitative and normative in nature. There can be a government but what determines its efficacy and effectiveness in improving the lives of its citizens is its governance.
Governance means to exercise power and authority with an aim to regulate public life in larger interest of the masses. It’s not enough as the power and authority is to be exercised with great care and those authorized to use this power should also be accountable to the public. Good governance involves role of the government only in core strategic and sovereign functions. It means that the people should be left to govern themselves through institutions which gain strength from the government initiatives and policies. Corporatization, privatization, deregulation and contracting out are the manifestations of new public management concept in this regard.
Good governance is, therefore, creating an environment of coordination, fostering equitable development and sound economic policies. It means that form of governance should be open; coupled with transparency, accountability, access to information and empowerment. It should also cater for human rights, gender equality, minorities’ rights, support for democratization of institutions and equal opportunities for all.
One of the daunting task for realization of all this is to ensure freedom to take bold decisions in consultations with all stakeholders, right from policy development agenda to policy adoption and implementation followed by objective evaluation. For this, the prerequisite is availability of reliable data, research in the relevant fields by respective bodies, and also establishment of research institutions at different levels for taking sound decisions.
Common man directly relates the level of governance with the resolution of his problems and facilitation by the government agencies in providing basic amenities. Whatever be the policy, it is to be seen whether it has a trickle-down effect. But, in the absence of local government system, it becomes quite difficult to get the desired results, even from the best devised policy. Whenever the people are provided chances to participate in local government system, the results have, invariably, been in the interests of the people and a lot of development work took place even in remote areas.
Now, the problem faced by policy makers is to proportionately use scant resources against ever-increasing population, and break the inertia of state institutions to use available resources effectively and efficiently. Due to this, Pakistan heavily relies on external money as our tax base is not as broad as it should be; even if seen in the context of regional tax to GDP ratio. It, therefore, necessitates that steps be taken with utmost care and will to increase the tax base. At the same time, good governance needs an integrated approach and harmony in every action of the government. Broadening of tax base will remain a far cry if the government on one hand gives tax amnesty and on the other hand, harps to generate revenue without taking substantial steps in the long run.
Current situation has posed serious challenges not only to policymakers but to public administrators as well. It is time to think proactively in improving governance and taking all stakeholders on board. The role of civil society, media, and people at large, is crucial in creating awareness and sense of ownership to help improve the situation. It will lead to participation of the people in governing themselves and also strengthening of institutions.
The access to information, the right of every citizen, enhances peoples’ confidence and it is a part of journey towards democratizing the institutions. Sans actual access to information, transparency in governance is impossible, as the civil society works as a watchdog in protecting citizens’ rights. The rule of law, transparency, accountability and ownership are possible only through public participation for larger interests and creation of a lasting partnership between the state and the society. Therefore, wider participation brings legitimacy in laws and those are voluntarily adhered to by public for their own benefit. The approach to enact laws and punish wrongdoers will not work until it is embedded in reforming society and bringing laws in to social values. Good governance is a wholesome approach that cannot be separated from the belief and values of a society. Healthy competition and responsibility rests with the state institutions which enjoy the support of the society and it can be further strengthened by legitimate participation.