A simple dictionary meaning of governance is “what a government does”. But the matter is not that simple. Governance, in fact good governance, has attained an important place in the world polity of late. One of the reasons is the process of globalization which has really made the capital as well as labour an “off the shelf “international phenomena. International financing agencies have started financing for local level development projects making the monitoring of end use of funds integral to such financing—making good governance imperative.
The human civilization has come far from the subsistence level, self-dependent economy of Paleolithic period to metropolitan culture of modern day where money can buy anything – or almost anything. The world polity has traversed a considerable path from the time when the king was considered the representative of the God and could never err to today’s democratic setup. While the King’s will used to be the will of the God (and hence no questions could be asked), today’s governments are answerable to the people at large- at least theoretically. However, as a child we have been listening to the stories where the King wandered around in his state, disguised as a commoner. This was, probably, done to ‘evaluate’ the performance of the government functionaries and learn about the difficulties the common man might be facing. So ‘governance’ is not entirely a modern concept, it has only evolved into maturity now! Although, we also know about “Neros” who played flute while Rome is said to be burning! So, the continuum of”no governance”,” governance” and “good governance” was always there and will always be there!
Today the maturity of the society is gauged from the status of human rights which is further linked to equitable distribution of wealth, and to what extent the government is effective in ensuring that! Let it be clear that economic growth is one thing and equitable distribution of wealth is entirely another. There are societies and nations in the world where despite small sized economies distribution of wealth is much more equitable than so called developed economies. So, what is governance?
According to the World Bank, governance is “exercise of political authority and use of institutional resources to manage society’s problems”. It relates to decisions that define expectations, grant power and verify performance. Thus, three parameters of governance that are most important are:
- Exercise of political authority;
- Use of institutional resources; and
- Management of society’s problems.
But, governance is not limited to political authority. It is equally important for any organization/institution, in any sphere of life. So much so that we even talk of the concept relating to individuals, families, NGO’s and corporate entities…..although, usually it is discussed in relation to governments and political authority.
GOOD GOVERNANCE: The world leaders at the 2005 world summit concluded that good governance is integral to economic growth, eradication of poverty and hunger and sustainable development- citizens must be empowered to participate in meaningful ways in the decision making process. They have a right to information. Needless to say that in the age of paucity of funds, good governance becomes a must for the developing countries like India where teeming millions live under inhuman conditions of utmost poverty and deprivation. Unfortunately, it is in these very countries that public participation in decision making is scoffed at by the powers that be!
Measuring governance is a difficult exercise and there is always a danger of it being dubbed as a political exercise where different stake holders not only have a different view on different parameters but also accuse each other of being partisan/biased. World governance is a new field of study which has developed out of the need to make sure that the progress is made. To get the best odds for going in the right direction the progress needs to be evaluated over time and, even space! To facilitate this exercise world financial institutions have laid down some PARAMETERS OF GOOD GOVERNANCE:
Rules and regulations form the basis of any governance. The clarity in the rules defining responsibilities and accountability is a must. However only rules cannot ensure good governance; strict and prompt implementation is the key. In the absence of transparency and accountability, no implementation can be ensured.
World Bank and United Nations both have also crystallized important dimensions for measuring governance and comparing the performance of different nations. First we list the dimensions outlined by the World Bank in Association with World Bank Institute. These are:
- Voice and accountability
- Political stability and lack of violence
- Government effectiveness
- Regulatory quality
- Rule of law and
- Control of corruption
United Nations has also outlined that good governance is anti-corruption where authority and its institutions are accountable, effective and efficient, participatory, transparent, responsive, consensus oriented and equitable.
Looking at India, leaving aside a few years immediately after independence, efficacy of governance has left much to be desired. One important reason for that is adoption of bureaucratic structure and practices prevalent during British rule without any change. Whatever we may say, in the euphoria of independence we omitted to make the minimal requisite change in the system—that is of making the system responsive to the changed circumstances! This omission led to progressive decline in fairness and conscience in the administrative matters. Commitment to nation and rule of law declined but to vested personal interests increased progressively. While responsibilities and powers kept increasing, accountability kept being sidelined. Consequently, we notice that despite continued development during the last two decades, poverty, hunger, malnutrition and corruption have increased manifold.
It is a matter of satisfaction that during the last two decades the leadership of the nation has noticed this big gap and has taken steps to rectify the situation. Consequently, laws like RTI and RTS have been enacted. E-governance is also a positive step to ensure good governance. But as said earlier, more than the laws it is their effective implementation which is more important. Vested interests are too powerful and too well connected to let their misdeeds being exposed. The problem is exaggerated as political leadership and bureaucracy is mostly found hand in-glove.The civil society has, therefore, to remain always alert and ready to take on these vested interests conniving against the society and the nation. The prerequisite for effective good governance is strict and impartial implementation of these laws. Looking at last few years, the hope is lit that the people will be able to claim good governance as their right in the near future.