Good governance and development

By: Fernando Fajardo June 05,2019 - 07:02 AM

In my class in economics and in public management and development, I often say that there is no development without good governance. I am saying this again now to our newly elected local and national government officials who are about to start their tasks by 1stof July.

What is development?

These days, some of you might have thought, for example, that development means having more high-rise condominiums, wide shopping malls, fast food restaurants, and large SUVs on the street. You might even think that the increasing urbanization is also development.

Those who are more knowledgeable know that there are two main competing school of thoughts on what development means. The first one, the traditional, says that there is development when there is economic growth, referring to the year-to-year increase in the country’s final output of goods and services, in total or in per capital basis.

The second is the belief that development is multi-dimensional and does not refer only to the economy. It also covers such areas as social, cultural, environmental, and political development issues in society.

In 1969, Dudley Seers asks: What are the necessary conditions for a universally acceptable aim, the realization of the potential of human personality? His answer suggested that development is present when a country experiences a reduction or elimination of poverty, inequality, and unemployment.

There were other suggestions. Edgar Owens in 1987, for example, said that development must be about people (human development) and not of things.

To this, Amartya Sen in 1999 added that development is about freedom or about the expansion of citizens’ capabilities. This refers to citizens having more access to the opportunities that are valuable to them in order to advance the richness of their lives, rather than the richness of the economy in which human beings live, which is only a part of it.

Now, what of is governance?

According to the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP), “governance” means the process of decision-making and the process by which decisions are implemented (or not). In that sense, governance can be bad or good, depending on the character, objectives, knowledge, experience, and ability of those who govern.

For governance to be good, ESCAP requires that it must have the following eight characteristics.

First is Participation. Participation by both men and women is a key cornerstone of good governance. Participation could be either direct or through legitimate intermediate institutions or representatives. It is important to point out that representative democracy does not necessarily mean that the concerns of the most vulnerable in society would be taken into consideration in decision-making. Participation needs to be informed and organized. This means freedom of association and expression on the one hand and an organized civil society on the other hand.

Second is the Rule of Law. Good governance requires fair legal frameworks that are enforced impartially. It also requires full protection of human rights, particularly those of minorities. Impartial enforcement of laws requires an independent judiciary and an impartial and incorruptible police force.

Third is Transparency. Transparency means that decisions taken and their enforcement are done in a manner that follows rules and regulations. It also means that information is freely available and directly accessible to those who will be affected by such decisions and their enforcement. It also means that enough information is provided in easily understandable forms and media.

Fourth is Responsiveness. Good governance requires that institutions and processes try to serve all stakeholders within a reasonable timeframe.

Fifth is Consensus Oriented. There are several actors and as many view points in a given society. Good governance requires mediation of the different 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. It also requires a broad and long-term perspective on what is needed for sustainable human development and how to achieve the goals of such development. This can only result from an understanding of the historical, cultural and social contexts of a given society or community.

Sixth is Equity and Inclusiveness. A society’s well-being depends on ensuring that all its members feel that they have a stake in it and do not feel excluded from the mainstream of society. This requires all groups, but particularly the most vulnerable, have opportunities to improve or maintain their well-being.

Seventh is Effectiveness and Efficiency. It means that processes and institutions produce results that meet the needs of society while making the best use of resources at their disposal. The concept of efficiency in the context of good governance also covers the sustainable use of natural resources and the protection of the environment.

Eight is Accountability. This is a key requirement of good governance. Not only governmental institutions but also the private sector and civil society organizations must be accountable to the public and to their institutional stakeholders. Who is accountable to whom varies depending on whether decisions or actions taken are internal or external to an organization or institution. In general, an organization or an institution is accountable to those who will be affected by its decisions or actions. Accountability cannot be enforced without transparency and the rule of law.

Now you have it dear incoming local and national government officials.

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