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Opinions Thu, 23 Dec 2021

Governance and dividends of good governance

“…As we all know, Infrastructure is not just a matter of roads, schools, and power grids. It is equally a question of strengthening democratic governance and the rule of law. Without accountability, not only of the government to its people but of the people to each other, there is no hope for a viable democratic State….” (Ban Ki-moon, Feb. 2009, Remarks to the UN Security Council on Timor-Leste).

Since the early 1990s, Africa has been experiencing a major groundswell of political change with the people of the continent taking resolute steps to demand participatory and democratic systems of governance. After being gripped by a serious crisis of governance for much of their post-independence history, nearly all African countries have recently begun to initiate radical political and institutional changes.

While a number of countries are still going through a period of civil strife and armed confrontation, it has become increasingly apparent that the region as a whole is engaged in searching for appropriate ways and means of establishing a democratic political foundation and the necessary environment for the promotion of Good Governance.

Tremendous efforts are being made to create more open pluralist and participatory political orders and to develop effective, transparent, accountable, and responsive institutions of governance.

In this regard, this paper attempts to assess amongst other things progress towards achieving Good Governance in various Countries in Sub-Saharan Africa. Over the years, Leaders of the World and other Regional Bodies have noted public mismanagement, governmental inefficiency, erratic and corrupt official practices and breakdown in the administration of justice, and political instability as major causes of the continent’s economic and social predicament.

It had identified the quest for good governance as the most formidable challenge facing Africa and urged all concerned to find ways and means of reversing the trend towards declining governability and institutional decay.

Governance – what is it?

1. 1 the preserve of a government, of which there may be several levels; national, provincial or state, indigenous, urban or local.

2. Organisational governance comprises activities of organizations that is usually accountable to a board of directors.

3. And finally, Local or Community governance includes activities at a local level where the organizing body may not assume a legal form and where there may not be a formally constituted governing body.

Why good governance?

Good Governance could be taken to mean the efficient and effective management of public resources and problems in dealing with the critical needs of society.

Good governance and sound public sector management constitute the major mechanisms of social transformation and the cornerstones of successful economies. Although the private sector and civil society are engaged in important aspects of governance, it is the institutions of the state, which define the political rules for the overall management of a country and its affairs.

The role of governance in creating enabling environment for its citizens to thrive, establishing law and order, managing macroeconomic stability, building physical and financial infrastructure, delivering essential services, and protecting the vulnerable among others is critically important for peace, stability, and economic prosperity.

In fact, the need for a capable, effective and efficient system of governance has never been stronger than today where the world is characterized by increased economic globalization and a highly complex and competitive environment.

Policymakers and Academicians agree that good governance matters for economic development. Scholars have discovered that high-quality institutions have the power, over the long run, to raise per capita incomes and promote growth in all parts of the world. And the “development dividend” paid by good governance is large.

Researchers estimate that when governance is improved by one standard deviation, incomes rise about three-fold in the long run and infant mortality declined by two-thirds. Because such a one standard deviation improvement constitutes just a fraction of the difference between the worst and best performers, it is within reach.

Consider, for example, that on the dimension of rule of law one standard deviation is all that separates Somalia from Côte d’Ivoire, Côte d’Ivoire from El Salvador, El Salvador from Italy and Botswana, and Botswana from the United Kingdom. On the control of corruption, to take another example, one standard deviation divides Equatorial Guinea from Burundi, Burundi from Lithuania, Lithuania from Chile, and Chile from Finland.

On voice and accountability, one standard deviation separates Burma and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea from Tajikistan and Chad, Chad from Fiji and Singapore, Singapore from the Republic of Korea and Botswana, and Botswana from Denmark.

Leaders of wealthy Countries and major players of Global Economic Incorporated have consistently identified the quest for good governance as the most formidable challenge facing developing countries and urged all concerned to find ways and means of reversing the trend towards declining governability and institutional decay.

Acknowledging past errors, African leaders and their partners at various World summits and Global fora have resolved to make governance apparatus operate better and efficiently and to create and reorganize institutional structures to support and facilitate the core public activities that are crucial to sustained economic and social development.

Indeed, the promotion of good governance and rule of law have been the core benchmark used by rich nations (especially G8 and OECD countries) and other International development finance organizations such as the World Bank Group, IMF, AFDB, etc.

This assistance usually comes in the form of debt forgiveness, interest-free loans, grants, aids, multi-donor budgetary support amongst others.

Again, The IMF and other Global Institutes like the World Bank place great emphasis on good governance when providing policy advice, financial support, and technical assistance to its member countries.

The Institutions’ approach to combating corruption emphasizes prevention, concentrating on measures to strengthen governance and limiting the scope for corruption. The IMF also has strong measures in place to ensure the integrity of its own organization.

Ghana and other developing countries’ debt cancellation deal sealed in Gleneagles G8 Summit in 2005, Former US President Bush’s $500 million Millennium Challenge Account seed money for developing countries are a few of the good governance dividends chalked by developing countries.

In reporting about the progress made in the search for good governance in the sub-region, it is helpful to identify a number of generally agreed-upon signposts or indicators that define the core elements of good governance.

In doing this, it must be realized that the process of selecting indicators to measure good governance is fraught with difficulties. Conceptually, it is almost impossible to reduce the complex social, cultural, political, legal, economic, and other interactions that make up a modern society to a few indicators that measure good governance.

Also, there is a wide range of views about what constitutes good governance, some important aspects of which are culturally determined. Given this complexity, the only viable alternative is to identify minimum core characteristics of good governance that are least controversial and may be taken to represent the consensus of the international comity of nations.

In the following, an attempt has been made to identify a cluster of indicators and outline what needs to be monitored at the core minimum to establish progress towards good governance. Also, it is important to note that the concept of governance comprises two distinct but inextricably intertwined dimensions.

One is political and relates to the commitment of the system to participation, equity, and legitimacy. The other is technical and relates to issues of efficiency of the public management system. In the selection of indicators, an attempt has been made to strike a balance between these two dimensions of governance.
Columnist: Bright Ackah