About a year ago, Frank Fukuyama released an article entitled “What is governance?” in the Governance journal that became an “instant classic” in the field. Within a month it had elicited over 15 responses from prominent scholars on the Governance blog, not to mention commentary posted elsewhere—including this blog. It already has over 40 google citations, including articles in Spanish, Italian and Portuguese. And a month ago, Governance journal published two more commentaries on Fukuyama’s original article (by Robert Rotberg and Craig Boardman), reinvigorating the debate.
Public Sector and Governance
Laura Tuck, Vice President for the Europe and Central Asia region of the World Bank, discusses her recent trip to Albania, during which she had broad ranging discussions with the government and other partners on the country's growth and development.
On June 5, 2014, the World Bank will host a Global Webinar on the Future of Digital Government from 9:00 a.m. to 10:30 a.m. EDT. You can join us by signing up here. You can also follow the webinar through the World Bank ICT Twitter page, using the hashtag #digigov.
The standard definition of political instability is the propensity of a government collapse either because of conflicts or rampant competition between various political parties. Also, the occurrence of a government change increases the likelihood of subsequent changes. Political instability tends to be persistent.
Economic growth and political stability are deeply interconnected. On the one hand, the uncertainty associated with an unstable political environment may reduce investment and the pace of economic development. On the other hand, poor economic performance may lead to government collapse and political unrest. However, political stability can be achieved through oppression or through having a political party in place that does not have to compete to be re-elected. In these cases, political stability is a double edged sword. While the peaceful environment that political stability may offer is a desideratum, it could easily become a breeding ground for cronyism with impunity. Such is the dilemma that many countries with a fragile political order have to face.
Political stability is by no means the norm in human history. Democratic regimes, like all political regimes, are fragile. Irrespective of political regimes, if a country does not need to worry about conflicts and radical changes of regimes, the people can concentrate on working, saving, and investing. The recent empirical literature on corruption has identified a long list of variables that correlate significantly with corruption. Among the factors found to reduce corruption are decades-long tradition of democracy and political stability. In today’s world, however, there are many countries that combine one of these two robust determinants of corruption with the opposite of the other: politically stable autocracies or newly formed and unstable democracies.
Some see political stability as a condition that not only precludes any form of change, but also demoralizes the public. Innovation and ingenuity take a backseat. Many seek change in all sectors of life--politics, business, culture--in order to have a brighter future through better opportunities. Of course change is always risky. Yet it is necessary. Political stability can take the form of complacency and stagnation that does not allow competition. The principles of competition do not only apply to business. Competition can be applied in everything – political systems, education, business, innovation, even arts. Political stability in this case refers to the lack of real competition for the governing elite. The ‘politically stable’ system enforces stringent barriers to personal freedoms. Similarly, other freedoms such as freedom of press, freedom of religion, access to the internet, and political dissent are also truncated. This breeds abuse of power and corruption.
Vietnam, for example, is controlled entirely by the ruling party. The economy is one of the most volatile in Asia. What once was thought of being a promising economy has recently been in distress. Vietnam’s macro economy was relatively stable in the 1997-2006 period, with low inflation, a 7 to 9 percent total output expansion annually and a moderate level of trade deficit. But Vietnam could not weather the adverse impact from the 1997-98 Asian financial turmoil, which partly curbed the FDI flow into its economy. Starting in late 2006, both public and private sector firms began to experience structural problems, rising inefficiency, and waste of resources. The daunting problem of inflation recurred, peaking at an annualized 23 percent level for that year.
How can we best promote the use of Internet by private companies – particularly small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) – in Africa? This question is of growing significance on a continent where most of the population is under 20 years of age and – compared to the previous generation – increasingly accessing information through digital channels as a result of the rapid expansion of mobile broadband services.
This question is also crucial in terms of growth and competitiveness in the context of the growing economic globalization, where customers and business partners use information and communication technologies in a much more intensive manner.
Last week, we invited Jennifer Bussell from UC Berkeley to present her fascinating study on corruption, politics and public service reforms in the digital age. The study is based in India and draws on a wealth of qualitative and quantitative data collected in 2009 from 20 subnational states, investigating how pre-existing institutional conditions influence e-Governance reforms.
Public service reforms in the digital age constitute a new era of relations between the citizen and the state. However, scholars have argued that much of the discourse on e-Government has been normative, with fairly optimistic predictions, and wanting deeper moorings in public management theory (Coursey & Norris, 2008; Heeks & Bailur, 2007; Yildiz, 2007).
The recent rapid expansion of multi-stakeholders initiatives (MSI) promoting improved governance raises critical questions about the role of these mechanisms in addressing problems of government transparency, responsiveness, and accountability, specifically whether and how they generate on-the-ground impact.
HOW DO WE THINK MSIs CONTRIBUTE TO CHANGE? MSIs, like other efforts to promote change, are built around a theory of change (TOC) about how they will contribute to the achievement of their goals. These proposed causal pathways may be explicitly stated or implicit. How do MSIs in the governance sphere articulate their role in contributing to change? Do they base their theories of change on questionable assumptions, or lack a change hypothesis altogether? TOCs also reflect a specific understanding of the challenge they seek to address. It should not be surprising that a technical framing of governance problems would lead to a technocratic approach to a solution. For example, the framing in OGP of ‘open’ government, with little explicit emphasis on democratic governance, may contribute to an emphasis on open data, e-government, and other technical aspects of governance, which are unlikely to address the core political dynamics that underlie governance deficits.
Over the last few years, social media has revolutionized the way people and institutions communicate and interact. Today, the big question for governments around the world is how to use innovative IT tools to engage diasporas in an ongoing, sustainable, result-oriented and cost-effective dialogue. Here are a few ways that social media helps facilitate that dialogue.
The Governance Partnership Facility (GPF), a multi-donor trust fund, has released its 2013 Annual Report. The GPF was created in 2008 as a partnership between the World Bank and leading donors from the UK, Australia, Norway, and the Netherlands, in the field of governance with the aim of facilitating the implementation of the Bank’s Governance and Anti-Corruption (GAC) strategy.