Good governance in the 21st century | Greenwatch Dhaka | The leading online daily of Bangladesh

Good governance in the 21st century


Dr. Sinha MA Sayeed
Dhaka – ‘Good governance” is a term that has become a part of the lingo of a bulky range of institutions, development or else, and other actors within the cupolas of local, national, regional and international magnitudes, although what it means unerringly, however, has not so well been accepted and established. Even though, the outcome document of 2011 Busan High-Level Forum on Aid Effectiveness as well reflects these commitments. In a well-cited appraisal, past UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan strongly voiced that “good governance is perhaps the single most important factor in eradicating poverty and promoting development”. International Monetary Fund (IFM), World Bank and UN defined ‘good governance’ from their respective standpoints setting conceivable parameters, achievable or not, and so are the cases in case of EU states. More oscillations, edginess and eccentricities are discernable at/within the flows and fashions of such understanding in developing states.According to the UN, good governance symbolizes consensus orientation, rule of law, participatory mood and mode with a sustainable democratic order, accountability, effectiveness and efficiency, transparency, responsibility and responsiveness, equitability and Inclusiveness. The International Monetary Fund (IFM) affirmed in 1996 that “promoting good governance in all its aspects, including by ensuring the rule of law, improving the efficiency and accountability of the public sector, and tackling corruption, as essential elements of a framework within which economies can prosper. The IMF feels that corruption within economies is caused by the ineffective governance of the economy, either too much regulation or too little regulation. To receive loans from the IMF, countries must have certain good governance policies, as determined by the IMF, in place. The World Bank seems to be more concerned with the reform of economic and social resource control. In 1992, it underlined three aspects of society which they feel affect the nature of a country’s governance: type of political regime; process by which authority is exercised in the management of the economic and social resources, in order to development; and capacity of governments to formulate policies and have them effectively implemented. Thus the conceptual ambiguities, priorities and over-generalization are still hunting it.
Political scientist John Gerring in a 1999 article spelled out eight “criteria of conceptual goodness” that provide a useful framework. Four of these criteria are especially relevant here for our purposes:
First, “good governance” lacks parsimony. Unlike good concepts, good governance has endless definitions, and we always need the details of each to understand if we are talking about the same thing.
Second, “good governance” lacks differentiation. Well-governed countries often sound a lot like functioning liberal democracies, for instance, and it is not clear how they differ.
Third, “good governance” lacks coherence. Its many possible characteristics — from respect for human rights to efficient banking regulations — do not clearly belong together.
Fourth, and most important, “good governance” lacks theoretical utility. It confuses, rather than aids, in the formulation of theory and the related project of hypothesis testing therefore, determination of good governance in the light of certain standards and criteria may not be effective in reality.
Close studies show that the concept ‘good governance’ is a blend of two terms, one is good and other being governance. Speaking superlatively, here the term ‘governance’ is illuminated having an adjective ‘good’ before it and that’s why let us, first of all, be clear what does governance imply and what criteria(s) do make a governance a good governance ?
Governance is “the process of decision-making and the process by which decisions are implemented (or not implemented)”.Therefore, the term ‘governance’, irrespective of  the nature or scale exists and continues in any administration, public or private, starting from families engulfing institutions of local, national, regional and international magnitudes.
Whenever one talks of ‘good governance’, it simply denotes a kind of comparisons between or among effective and less effective governance(s) from the perspectives of  running an administration to achieve the goals within the period(s) stipulated or not. From such comparative studies and focuses emerge reasons for one’s moving forward and other(s) lagging behind and recommendations therein to be put into practice depending on time, space and dimension. Hence, the concept of good governance often emerges as a model to compare ineffective/less ineffective economies or political bodies with viable economies and political bodies. Point to be noted that good governance is about the processes for making and implementing decisions. It’s not about making ‘correct’ decisions, but about the best possible process for making those decisions.
In fact, good governance is an indeterminate term used in International development literature to describe how public institutions conduct public affairs and manage public resources. The concept, in the field of public administration, centers on the responsibility of governments and governing bodies to meet the needs of the masses as opposed to select groups in society. Because countries often described as “most successful” are Western liberal democratic states concentrated in Europe and the Americas and good governance standards often measure other state institutions against these states.
It is really a challenging initiative to frame a model for good governance since the overall circumstances and environs under which a state runs its administration cannot be equally applicable to another one. Not only this, there are lot of variations and diversities between a developed and developing state; even the notch of differences and actualities between two developed countries or two developing countries are also disparate. Despite all these, experts, theorists, model presenters etc. are spending time, money and energy at least to devise acceptable frame(s) containing a set of requirements that will be acting as a measuring rod as a whole.
Therefore, a a whole, good governance stands for accountability, transparency, rule of law, responsiveness, equitability and inclusiveness, effectiveness and efficiency, non-cronyism, non-philistinism, non-corruption, participatory environment ensuring the four Ds (Development, De-bureaucratization, Delegation and Democratization), consensus orientation and strategic vision.
Interestingly enough rise and traipse of the concept new public administration added further impetus to good governance. Today, therefore, NMP with all its essentials, debatable or not, such as Change and Responsiveness, Client Centricity, Structural Changes in Administration, Multi-disciplinary Nature of Public Administration; and Politics-Administration Dichotomy in a lesser mood and mode has emerged  as the most vital component of good governance. The overall focus on NPA movement that started from the Minnow-Brooke Conference at USA in 1968 under the leadership of political scientist Dwgit Waldo having necessary relevance, values, social equity client focus and management-workers relations seems to be to make administration to be less “generic” and more “public”, less “descriptive” and more “prescriptive”, less “institution-oriented” and more “client-oriented”, less “neutral” and more “normative” but should be no less scientific all the same.
Above all, the moot points of good governance are those who wield power sitting in the various seats of government. They are called civil servants since they are included in public administration through competitive examinations under the Public Service Commission. They get matured, experienced, knowledgeable, informed and updated through various kinds of trainings and lessons at various stages of service(s) under the leadership of various training centers at home and abroad and the most leading one is Public Administration Training Centre, also called highest centre of excellence. Mind-sets of such bodies of officers, civil servants, are condition precedent for making an administration a good administration, which is the other name of good governance. Here attention needs to be paid to the concept of ‘Bureaucracy’ but, to speak the truth, good governance coupled with new public administration hardly allow such stupidity as the word ‘cracy’ is very much negative in sense for the march and development of public administration facing the challenges of the 21s century.
Question crops up where is Bangladesh now standing? Reply is it is neither close to nor far away.  Let me affirm with a loud voice that Bangladesh Public Administration Training Centre (BPATC) under the able leadership of Rector AKM Abdul Awal Mujumdar has been moving onward in a positive mood and mode. Secretary for Public Administration Dr. Kamal Abdul Naser Chowdhury deserves to be praised for his overall watchdog like leadership in the field of public administration. Therefore, for more, let Minister for Public Administration Syed Asraful Islam and pointedly Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina be more attentive to all the training centers including BPATC.
(Dr. Sinha M. A. Sayeed, Chairman,Leadership Studies Foundation, member,International Political Science Association, writer and columnist at, Bangladesh)


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