Discussion about good governance, what it is and how it can measured has been ongoing for decades and has been made more robust by the empirical work done by the World Bank and other global institutions and think tanks.
As the World Bank itself says, there is a growing and accepted recognition of the link between good governance and successful development. Because of this, the demand and expectation that the quality of good governance be measured, has grown over time. The comparative information provided by the World Bank in its databases has grown considerably, and even though there are no surprises as to which countries are at the bottom and which are at the top, the information is invaluable, in spite of growing criticisms over issues of research methodology.
The World Bank says that ‘Governance consists of the traditions and institutions by which authority in a country is exercised. This includes the process by which governments are selected, monitored and replaced; the capacity of the government to effectively formulate and implement sound policies; and the respect of citizens and the state for the institutions that govern economic and social interactions among them’.
This brief article merely summarizes the World Bank’s Worldwide Governance Indicators six key dimensions of governance: Voice and Accountability, Political Stability and Lack of Violence, Government Effectiveness, Regulatory Quality, Rule of Law, and Control of Corruption used between 1996 and present.
I quote verbatim the World Bank’s definition for each of these indices. ‘Voice and accountability captures perceptions of the extent to which a country's citizens are able to participate in selecting their government, as well as freedom of expression, freedom of association, and a free media’. Therefore, this dimension looks at the extent to which citizens have a voice and the whether or not their voices are heard. It considers the level of transparency of the policy-making process, the quality of the electoral process and the extent to which public officials are held accountable for their actions- or non-action.
‘Political Stability and Absence of Violence/Terrorism measures perceptions of the likelihood of political instability and/or politically motivated violence, including terrorism’.
The World Bank explains further that this dimension, political stability and absence of violence, measures ‘Perceptions of the likelihood that the government will be destabilized or overthrown by unconstitutional or violent means, including politically-motivated violence and terrorism’.
‘Government effectiveness captures perceptions of the quality of public services, the quality of the civil service and the degree of its independence from political pressures, the quality of policy formulation and implementation, and the credibility of the government's commitment to such policies’. This includes areas such as the quality of the civil service and the extent of bureaucracy, the quality and extent of education available to citizens, the health care and transportation system and so on.
‘Regulatory quality captures perceptions of the ability of the government to formulate and implement sound policies and regulations that permit and promote private sector development’. These include ease of starting new businesses, investment freedom, level of burden of government regulations, environmental regulation, legal and regulatory frameworks, etcetera.
In “Rule of Law”, the World Bank includes several indicators, which measure ‘the extent to which agents have confidence in and abide by the rules of society. These include perceptions of the incidence of crime, the effectiveness and predictability of the judiciary, and the enforceability of contracts. Together, these indicators measure the success of a society in developing an environment in which fair and predictable. These rules form the basis for economic and social interactions, and importantly, the extent to which property rights are protected’.
‘Control of Corruption captures perceptions of the extent to which public power is exercised for private gain, including both petty and grand forms of corruption, as well as "capture" of the state by elites and private interests’. These include perceptions of public trust in their politicians, overall levels of corruption in government, levels of corruption between civil servants and citizens, diversion of public goods, the extent of corruption among members of the judiciary, and so on.
We will examine these further in subsequent discussions.