THE historical judgement on governments is harsh. It says that governments have many butchers and few shepherds. However there is increasing interest in good governance. What is good governance? It is generally understood in its narrow meanings. An attempt is made here to present some of its less-known features.
Accountability, transparency and equality before the law are well-known attributes of a good government. There is rightly more stress on corruption. What Senator Cato said about Rome then is true of Pakistan today: “Simple thieves lie in prison and in stock; public thieves walk abroad in gold and silk.”
Corruption leads to misallocation of resources. For example, it could lead to misallocation of investment and public infrastructure away from their most productive use. It can also lead to misallocation of talent as self-interested individuals seek rewards in occupations where returns are inflated by corrupt practices.
Is poverty of nations the cause or effect of corruption?
It is argued that systems which are more open to trade cause less corruption. Rent-seeking by public servants is minimised. The licensing regimes in our country used to generate a phenomenal amount of corruption.
A strong correlation is found between corruption, the level of income and the enforcement of property rights. Rich countries may not be totally free of corruption but the incidence of corruption is fairly low compared to poor countries. Is poverty of nations the cause or effect of corruption? Poverty has many causes. In the early stages of development, however, corruption can prove a big bane.
Enforcement of property rights is another big issue. The existence of laws does not necessarily lead to enforcement of laws. Pakistani court procedures, the expense involved, both legal and illegal, to secure rights, and delays in adjudicating cases, are unbearable.
Transparency in the government’s dealings is another crucial aspect in the context of good governance. Corruption takes place in the shadows, away from the public gaze. The need is to throw light on those dark corners. In this respect, the Right to Information Act 2013 of the government of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa is worth appreciating.
Moving to the larger context of good government, the standard economic notion is social welfare. The approach can be applied to policies, political processes and institutions. It provides an intellectual underpinning for ideas of government operating in the public interest. In the traditional welfare economic model, good government is largely identified with reference to efficiency and distribution.
Efficiency requires making a choice from a set of alternatives which is most feasible. Feasibility requires taking into account both technological feasibility, budget balance, and so on.
The welfare economic model can be thought of as generating ‘rules for good governance’ using systematic model of the economy and what drives human well-being. This approach displaced the classical approach to the issue which merely catalogued the functions of the government as protecting the society from violence and invasion, establishing an exact administration of justice and the duty of erecting and maintaining certain public works and institutions.
Good policies require good persons to devise and implement those policies. Where will a country get this rare breed from? The modern answer to this is democracy. Democracies are run by politicians. The argument in favour of democracy is that the main sanction for poor performance is electoral — those who perform badly will not be re-elected.
This is a fallacious argument particularly in a country like ours. Those who get elected strive to make more and more money out of their positions whether in government or in opposition, to get re-elected next time. Politics is a money game. How many mega scams of our politicians have we proved and punished? There is growing disenchantment with democracy even in the democratic West.
Governments have been variously characterised as democracies, dictatorships, plutocracies, aristocracies and ‘kakistocracies’. The latter refers to when the worst persons are in power. It is left to the imagination of readers in which category they place the government of Pakistan.
By A. Rauf K. Khattak, www.dawn.com , The writer is a former federal secretary.
(افتخار احمد , شطرنج، مہرے اور تماشائی،اقتباس ، jang.com.pk , August 12, 2017)
Good governance comes through strong and independent institutions of the state. These institutions need to be built, sustained and stronger than individuals. Unfortunately, a little effort has been made to build institutions on a stable footing in Pakistan since independence and individuals have taken precedence over institutions. Pakistan suffers from a number of crises but the crisis of good governance is on top because it is the core of all other problems.
Our country is suffering from weak institutional set-up, political instability, rampant corruption, lack of accountability and transparency and bad law and order situation. All these issues have seriously pushed off the country to an abysmal state of poor governance.
Every government looks down upon the policies of the previous government, throws those away and establishes new ones. Due to bad governance education, health, civic services, agricultural infrastructure are all in bad state. Even the most basic social needs of citizens are not fulfilled. Law and ordered situation is deteriorating and people are being robbed and killed in bright day light. People don’t feel safe and secure.
Places of worship have to be guarded for the fear of terrorism. This sorry state of law and order scare the investors away from the country thereby severely harming the economy.
One of the most damaging effects of bad governance is the prevalence of corruption that ultimately results in lawlessness and the biggest hindrance in the way of development. The absence of impartial and independent accountability has resulted in the growth of this monster. It has become a norm in our society rather than an exception.
Good Governance stands for poverty alleviation.
It has always been a favourite buzzword in our economic and social development circles.
Almost every democratic government has launched poverty reduction programs but all proved futile and ended in corruption. Accountability is a crucial point in good governance – the rulers and the institutions of the state are accountable to people. But, it is very hard to find it in Pakistan’s weak institutional set-up.
Merit or fairness is essential for good governance and the both support each other. But in our country merit is given least importance. Nepotism and favouritism are the order of the day. Our once very strong institutions like PIA, Pakistan Railway, Pakistan Steel etc. are now in state of paralyse. All the cities in any province is not getting equal share of development.
Developing one city in any province at the cost of basic facilities, like hospitals, schools and colleges, clean drinking water etc. , of the other cities is another example of bad governance. One city gets the road network, underpasses and overhead bridges and the others don’t have the basic road network. This disparity has created bad feelings among people living in small cities.
Similarly, unemployment, illiteracy are other aspects which speak volume about sorry state of governance. People at the helm of affairs need to understand that good governance is more than mere management. It is not only about decision making, policy formulating but also priority settings, implementation and getting results. Transparency, legitimacy, merit and the rule of law are the important pillars of good governance.
Politicians and other state officials in the power corridor make illegal appointments in various public offices. They could appoint inept people without merit on political grounds, for the sake of money, favouritism and nepotism.
The civil servants, police and NAB are not fully autonomous in their decree to work. All are under severe political pressure. None of them is granted full independence, to bring the criminals to justice and inquire the cases of big guns. These are powerful institutions, which need considerable attention to de-politicise their structures. These institutions should be given absolute autonomy to bring the corrupt people before the law.
Good governance is a prerequisite for social harmony, public order, political stability, economic prosperity and certainty about future. It delivers the fruit of progress and development evenly to all and sundry. Good governance is required at all levels of society and state. Government needs to focus seriously on this issue to accomplish satisfactory results. We must not allow the erosion of institutions through the idiosyncratic behaviour of rulers. No state is free of all crises but it is the quality of governance that ensures its survival through any crisis.
Rauf A Khattak , The writer is based in Lahore.
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