“Good governance is perhaps the single most important factor in eradicating poverty and promoting development.”
(Kofi Annan; Former Secretary General of the UN)
The terms “governance” and “good governance” are being increasingly used in development literature nowadays with bad governance being termed as the root cause of all the ailments within societies around the world. Major donors and international financial institutions also base their aid and loan programmes on the condition that reforms to ensure “good governance” will be undertaken. Since governance is the process of decision-making and the implementation thereupon, therefore, in essence, governance is the act related to decisions that define expectations, grant power or verify performance. It consists of either a separate process or part of management or leadership processes, typically administered by a government.
The concept of “governance” is not new; it is as old as human civilization itself. Since the dawn of the civilization, man has been striving hard to manage his affairs systematically. The desire to become systematic, to the point and precise has spurred the humans to develop a variety of disciplines. However, with the march of civilization, these disciplines failed to keep pace with the human driving force. Resultantly new avenues are sought for ensuring good governance.
Good governance is a dynamic interaction between people, structures, processes and traditions that support the exercise of legitimate authority in provision of sound leadership, direction, oversight and control of an entity. It is all about the processes for making and implementing decisions. It’s not about making ‘correct’ decisions, but about the best possible process for making those decisions to ensure that the purposes are achieved, and that there is proper accounting for the conduct of affairs, the use of resources, and the results of activities.
The notion of good governance first appeared in a 1989 World Bank Report on Africa, which defines it as the “exercise of political power to manage nations’ affairs. Good governance includes some or all of these features: an efficient public service; an independent judicial system and legal framework to enforce contracts; accountable administration of public funds; an independent public auditor responsible to a representative legislature; respect for the law and human rights at all levels of government; a pluralistic institutional structure; and a free press.”
According to World Bank’s definition, good governance is epitomised by “predictable, open and enlightened policymaking (that is, transparent processes); a bureaucracy imbued with a professional ethos; and executive arm of government accountable for its actions; and a strong civil society participating in public affairs; and all behaving under the rule of law.”
The European Union (EU) on the other hand defines “good governance” as “the management of affairs in a transparent, accountable, participative and equitable manner, showing due regard for human rights and the rule of law.”
Good governance has 8 major characteristics; it is participatory, consensus-oriented, accountable, transparent, responsive, effective and efficient, equitable and inclusive and follows the rule of law. It assures that corruption is minimized, the views of minorities are taken into account and that the voices of the most vulnerable in society are heard in decision-making. It is also responsive to the present and future needs of a society.
Participation by both men and women — either direct or through legitimate intermediate institutions or representatives — is a cornerstone of good governance. Participation needs to be informed and organized which means that there must be the freedom of association and expression on the one hand and an organized civil society on the other.
2. Rule of Law
Good governance requires also fair legal frameworks that are enforced impartially, which, in turn, hinges on an independent judiciary and an impartial and incorruptible police force. It also requires full protection of human rights, particularly those of minorities.
Transparency means that the process of making decisions and their implementation thereupon must be done in a manner that follows rules and regulations of the land. It also means that information is freely available and directly accessible to those who will be affected by such decisions and their enforcement.
Good governance requires that institutions and processes try to serve all stakeholders within a reasonable timeframe.
There are several actors and as many viewpoints in a society. Good governance requires mediation of these varied interests in society to reach a broad consensus on what is in the best interest of the whole community and how this can be achieved. A broad and long-term perspective on what is needed for sustainable human development and how to achieve the goals of such development is also inevitable.
6. Equity and Inclusiveness
A society’s wellbeing depends on the inclusiveness phenomenon which ensures that all the members of society feel that they have a stake in it and do not feel themselves completely detached from the mainstream of society. This requires that all groups, particularly the most vulnerable, have opportunities to improve or maintain their wellbeing.
7. Effectiveness and Efficiency
Good governance means that processes and institutions produce results consummate to the needs of the society while making the best use of available resources. The concept of efficiency in the context of good governance also covers the sustainable use of natural resources and the protection of the environment.
Accountability is a key requirement of good governance. Not only governmental institutions but the private sector and civil society organizations must also be accountable to the public and to their institutional stakeholders. Who is accountable to who varies depending on whether decisions or actions taken are internal or external to an organization or institution. In general, a government is accountable to those who will be affected by its decisions or actions as well as the applicable rules of law. Accountability cannot be enforced sans transparency and the rule of law.
Governance in Pakistan
Good governance is a constant process that decides the destiny of a country. It’s a principal component that is indispensable to taking the country to the pinnacle of glory in the world community. But, in case of Pakistan, unfortunately, the case has not been so.
Former Governor State Bank of Pakistan, Dr Ishrat Husain, in an article entitled “Governance Reforms in Pakistan” wrote that Pakistan inherited a well- functioning structure of judiciary, civil service and military but a relatively weak legislative oversight at the time of its independence. Over time the domination of civil service and military in the affairs of the state disrupted the evolution of the democratic political process and further weakened the legislative organ of the state. The judicial arm, with few exceptions, plodded along sanctifying the dominant role of the military and the civil service.
The institutions inherited from the British Raj, were quite relevant to the requirements of the rulers of those times. Following independence, those requirements expanded in scope and content while the level of expectations from the public and their elected representatives was also heightened. But these inherited institutions failed to adapt themselves to the new challenges of development and social changes and respond to the heightened expectations and aspirations of a free people. The “business as usual” mode of functioning, the approach and attitudes of the incumbents holding top and middle level positions in the bureaucracy and manning these institutions did not endear them to the political leaders or to the general public.
How to Reform?
All definitions of governance, would insist on the elimination or absence of corruption if a country is to have good governance. The presence of corruption in the working of government would imply that the government is not working according to the norms of good governance and is compromising on an important criterion which would honour any standard set in order to have good governance. Therefore, the governance reform agenda should be designed to restructure government and revitalize institutions in order to enable them to deliver the core functions of the state. The restructuring should lower transaction costs and provide access without frictions by curtailing arbitrary exercise of discretionary powers, reducing over-taxation, minimizing corruption, cronyism and collusion and ensuring public order and security of life and property.
Good governance is needed for the smooth running of public institutions. It is also essential for maintaining the sovereignty of the country. If a country is poorly governed and there is a political instability, its enemies find opportunities in this situation and try to undermine it as is the case with Pakistan.
In a good governed country, economy is strong and all the departments of the country function smoothly. It enables the rulers to strengthen the country’s security. Today, when the phenomenon of globalization is gaining a lot of ground; only good governance can assist us in reaping its fruits.