Good governance is an indeterminate term used in the international development literature to describe how public institutions conduct public affairs and manage public resources. Governance is “the process of decision-making and the process by which decisions are implemented (or not implemented)”.
If governance includes the exercise of authority in managing the resources of a country, then good governance is about making sure that this exercise of power helps improve quality of life enjoyed by all citizens. If your government is not providing the quality of life that you think you and your fellow citizens deserve, it most likely has to do with good governance – or a lack thereof.
How to determine whether governance is good?
Accountability: How easy is it for you as a citizen to keep track of whether governments followed through on promises made during elections? Is it clear what was promised, where the money is coming from when it will be done, who is responsible? Is this information available publicly, on the website, in the municipality? Is someone responsible for reporting what has not been finalized according to agreed plans?
Effectiveness: Is the government delivering services such as education, and health care to citizens in accordance with the needs and available budget? Is it collecting revenues honestly, investing those resources wisely and managing public goods for the benefit of all?
Fairness: Do you trust your government? Do you trust the institutions or the individuals running them? Are they fair, reliable, stable and accountable? Are they free of corruption, and do they help build trust between citizens and the government?
Now, why does it matter?
If a state practices good governance, it is likely to be:
- Among the most developed countries – There is a high correlation between the quality of governance and per capita income. And statistical analysis has proven that good governance improves economic performance rather than vice-versa. The concrete example is Singapore, which by transforming into one of the least corrupt places in the world, is fast becoming one of the world’s booming economies.
- Using resources wisely for the benefit of all – For example Nigeria and Botswana are both rich in mineral resources, diamonds and oil but have completely different development paths; whereas Botswana’s real per capita income increased six fold from 1970-74 to 2000-2004, that of Nigeria scarcely reached gains of 25 percent and was, in fact, negative between 1970-1999 notwithstanding $231 billion gains made by the Nigerian petroleum industry.
- Making you happier – There is a direct connection in the OECD countries between trust in the national government and life satisfaction or perceived well-being. In the World Happiness report, good governance is recognized as one of the four pillars of sustainable development since it “signifies the ability of people to help shape their own lives and to reap the happiness that comes with political participation and freedom.”
In the era of Open Governments there should be plenty of opportunities, but making them work for citizens will require effort. Delivering on commitments is a real challenge for people and governments. Only about two per cent of people can work entirely without supervision, says Brian Tracy in “Eat that Frog” I think we can assume the same goes for governments.
Olatorera Consultancy Limited provides business development services to high net-worth individuals and companies looking to grow, enter or do business in Africa.