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Nepalese Journal of Public Policy and Governance, Vol. xxv, No.

2, December, 2009

Towards Good Governance: A South Asian


Perspective
RB Jain

Abstract
South Asia has long been a neglected area of study, primarily because it has
been a region of great deprivation, want and misery, seemingly far from the
mainstream of international activity except occasionally in the news as a
theatre of politics in the Cold War era. It is also known as one of the most
misgoverned areas of the world. Indeed, as a well known Bangladeshi scholar Rehman
Sobhan has said: "South Asia is united by a common thread of
'misgovernance'. In recent years, however, the wave of democratization has
swept away some of the military/authoritarian and traditional polities in
the region, This change together with the endemic ethnic conflicts and
violence which have dogged practically every country of the region and the emergence of
India as a country moving towards a rapid economic and industrial growth
amongst other countries of South Asia have aroused the interest of scholars in this
region.
After discussing the various interpretation of the concept of "Good
Governance", the paper aims to discuss some of the important challenges
faced by the South Asian countries in revamping their administrative systems
in order to discern the emerging perspective of "good governance" in South
Asia, as distinct from its Western concept.

1. Introduction
In the last five decades of the twentieth
century, a large number of nations have
emerged as independent sovereign states
out of the clutches of the colonial rule.
The successor governments not only had
the responsibility of establishing identity
and legitimacy as unified and
independent nation- states, but also to
create a new system of policy and
decision-making and implementation for
socio-economic development leading to
corrections of inequalities and injustices
existing in the societies either because
of caste, ethnic, racial, sex, religious, or

land tenure discriminations. Public


Administration has become the critical
factor for success in achieving these
objectives. Within the realm of public
administration,
bureaucracy
has
emerged as the most important
instrument to plan, perform and deliver
public goods. Such a role of bureaucracy
is simply not going to whither away
despite the worldwide impact of the
modernists and the proponents of the
New Public Management to contract the
role of state and consequently of the
public bureaucracy in securing good
governance in these so called nations of
the Third World.

Towards good governance: A South Asian perspective

During these fifty years, many Third


World countries experienced societal
transformation and profound changes in
their socio-economic and political
domains through identity, management
and refinement. While earlier there was
a tendency on the part of the
bureaucracy to alienate from the large
sections of the population in the society,
later however, the bureaucracy had to
work with the people to be able to tackle
their complex developmental problems.
In some cases bureaucracy has proved a
tower of strength to the governments
and the processes of governance; in
some others it proved an obstacle
because of strange paradoxes. Most
developmental policies
in these
countries have eventually come to be
translated
into
action
through
bureaucracy at all levels of their
formulation,
implementation
and
evaluation.
Bureaucracy and Development has thus
emerged as a very vast field of study in
the discipline of public administration
having multiple dimensions. These have
extended to study and research in such
diverse, but inter-related subjects as
Legacy of Regime Transformation
Functions of bureaucracy; regulatory and
non-regulatory
Socio-economic background
Attitudinal characteristics
Politics-administration relationship and
Emergence of bureaucracy as an instrument
of political power, and
Efforts
towards
securing
Good
Governance

Each of these dimensions have received


a fair share of its understanding and
interpretation of the realities and
formulation of new paradigms for
further study and research not only in

individual national settings but also,


though sporadically, in cross-national
contexts too.

Good Governance: An Evolving


Concept
In its evolutionary process, the subdiscipline of bureaucracy, development
and administration has in the late 1980s
transcended from its limited theme of all
that was associated with the concept of
development administration to that of
the broader framework of governance
and later in 1990s to the philosophy and
actions inherent in the concept of good
governance. The notion of good
governance seems to have first appeared
in a 1989 World Bank Report on Africa,
which defines as the " exercise of
political power to manage a nations'
affairs Good governance included
some or all of the following features: an
efficient public service; an independent
judicial system and legal framework to
enforce contracts; the accountable
administration of public funds; an
independent public auditor, responsible
to a representative legislature; respect
for the law and human rights at all levels
of government; a pluralistic institutional
structure, and a free press" (World
Bank, 1989 quoted in Adrian Leftwich,
1993). The World Bank reconfirmed its
initial managerial approach by its 1992
statement
in
Governance
and
Development, which treats good
governance as 'synonymous with sound
development management "(World
Bank, 1992, p1).
In the later years in the last decade of
the twentieth century a number of
pronouncements
on
governance,

Nepalese Journal of Public Policy and Governance, Vol. xxv, No.2, December, 2009

democracy and development followed,


which sought to establish their interrelationships and inter-dependence.
These were supported not only by all
major Western democracies like the
British, French, German, US and Nordic
countries, but also by the main
international development institutions,
and
a
variety
of cooperative,
intergovernmental
and
regional
organizations, such as the Organization
for
Economic
Cooperation
and
Development (OECD), the Organization
for African Unity (OAU), the European
Communities and the Commonwealth,
as also by almost all aid-giving
agencies. Incidentally, India is perhaps
the sole example of a Third World
country, maintaining and emphasizing
this relationship in its policies on
development long before this became
currency amongst the Western countries
and their sponsored institutions or
agencies.
However, all these agencies and
organizations did not have identical
views or interpretation of the
relationship
between
governance,
democracy and development. While
some were emphatic on the democracy,
others stressed on administration, or
administrative
development
for
achieving the goals of development
administration, and yet others laid the
condition of human rights as either
necessary or desirable components of
development. However, despite these
differences in approach, a common
underlying
assumption
of
good
governance has been thought of
consisting of three main components, or
levels, ranging from the most to the least

inclusive: systemic, political and


administrative (Leftwich, 1993, p1).
From the systemic point of view, the
concept of governance signifies more
than its institutional or decision-making
interpretation to include both internal
and external political and economic
power and the inter-relationship
between the two to indicate the rules by
which the productive and distributive
life of a society is governed. From the
political point of view, good governance
implies a state enjoying both legitimacy
and authority derived from a democratic
mandate and would normally involve a
pluralist polity with representative
government and a commitment to
protect human rights. From the narrow
perspective of administration, good
governance means an efficient, open,
accountable and audited public service
which has the bureaucratic competence
to help design and implement
appropriate public policies and at the
same time an independent judicial
system to uphold the law (Leftwich,
1993).
However,
with the
advent of
liberalization and
global market
economy since the 1980s the above
interpretation of good governance had
undergone further modification to mean
a democratic capitalist regime, presided
over by a minimal state which is also the
part of the wider governance of the New
World
Order.
Translated
into
administrative terms it would be
interpreted to mean not only a
diminishing role of the bureaucracy, but
a
continuous
process
of
debureaucratization and a competition
(and cooperation) between the private
and public sector, with increasing role

Towards good governance: A South Asian perspective

and participation by non-state voluntary


sector the so called NGOs in the process
of society's development (Jain, 1995).
The role of civil society in activating
and
perseverance
of
Good
Governance is now being perceived by
scholars to be very crucial and has
received a great momentum in the last
one decade.

Democracy, Development
Good Governance

and

There has been a considerable debate


and argument in the context of Third
World countries whether democracy
should precede development or the other
way round. There had been a very
strong argument amongst the scholars
and policy makers in many developing
countries of Asia, Africa, and Latin
America (with only rare exceptions) that
the
'premature'
introduction
of
democracy may actually hamper
development in its early stages when
there is a crucial choice between rapid
development and democratic processes,
and when there is the greatest need for
effective state action or direction. It was
felt that since the early stages of
development
require
capital
accumulation for infrastructure and
investment before advanced welfare
systems can be adopted. An argument
was convincingly made out that
democratic systems were likely to
curtail processes of accumulation in
favor of consumption. However some
critics argued that democracy and
development are both compatible and
functional for each other. If there was a
trade-off between development and
democracy, they claim a slightly lower

rate of growth is an acceptable price to


pay for a democratic polity, civil
liberties and a good human rights record
(Leftwich, 1993, p1).
The empirical literature on the subject
suggests that there is no necessary
relationship between democracy and
development nor, more generally,
between any regime type and economic
performance. It is a more complex
relationship which starts from the hard
fact that both democratic and nondemocratic Third World regimes have
been able to generate high levels of
economic development. From Costa
Rica to China and from Botswana to
Thailand, the state has played an active
role in influencing economic behavior
and has often had a significant material
stake in the economy itself. Thus it is
not the regime type but the kind and
character of the state and its associated
politics that have been decisive in
influencing developmental performance.
This in turn highlights the primacy of
politics, not simply governance as a
central determinant of development
(Leftwich, p432).
A further argument can be made that
apart from the primacy of politics in the
process of governance, cultural values,
norms, customs
and
ideological
orientations of the Third World
countries have direct relevance for good
governance, which have to be
systematically identified and applied,
while administrative norms and values
borrowed from another culture have to
be modified to suit the local values and
cultural systems. Democratic politics
has sometimes been viewed as a
struggle
between
politics
and
bureaucracy, which is not necessarily so.

Nepalese Journal of Public Policy and Governance, Vol. xxv, No.2, December, 2009

The collusion between the two actors is


implicit in the corporatist interpretations
of modern politics. Third World
countries have provided an equally
receptive
environment
for
the
development of bureaucratic power even
beyond the 'over developed' conditions
in which it was bequeathed by the
colonial powers to the newly
independent state.
The growing involvement of state in the
direct management of economy in
society, the absence of alternative
centers of expertise, the colonial
hangover of bureaucratic dominance and
the frequent fusion of party and state in
single party systems have given rise to
familiar concerns about the capacity of
non-bureaucratic political institutions to
fulfill the requirements of political
democracy. All these concerns have led
to a most crucial dilemma for societies
during the decades of 1960s and 1970s:
whether the bureaucratic organization
has any advantage despite the costs of
maintaining it in terms of its own
dysfunctional potential and the political
vigilance required; and the concomitant
search for de-bureaucratization and
alternatives to the administrative state
(Asmerom and Jain, 1993)? This
dilemma seems to have resolved in the
late 1980s in favor of accepting
bureaucracy as an important tool of
governance, but not the predominant
force in the process of good governance.
From a developmental viewpoint, the
general but simplistic appeal for better
'governance' as a condition of
development is virtuous but nave, since
a competent administration is not simply
a product of 'institution building' or
improved training, but of politics. And if

the politics do not give rise to the kind


of state which can generate, sustain and
protect an effective and independent
capacity for governance, then there will
be
no
positive
developmental
consequences (Leftwich, 1993, p436).

South Asia: A Region United by


Poor Governance
South Asia as a region includes eight
nations along with 7 SAARC states
(India, Pakistan. Nepal, Sri Lanka,
Bhutan, Bangladesh, Maldives, and
Afghanistan). It comprises roughly 1.5
billion people that are nearly one fourth
of the global population. It is more than
3 times the total population of EU (25
states) living in half of Chinas land
area. Here is the largest concentration of
the worlds poor numbering 500 million,
or South Asias one third. There are
contrasting estimates of income also.
South Asias 5% enjoy high middle
class living which, as per purchasing
power parity, vie with the EU average.
However, income inequality is not the
main problem of South Asia. It is only
one symptom of the greatest disease of
extreme poverty that this region has
been suffering from since the late
nineteen forties when the British
colonial rule was formally over (Masud
and Shamsul, 2004).
South Asia has long been a neglected
area of study, primarily because it has
been a region of great deprivation, want
and misery, seemingly far from the
mainstream of international activity
except occasionally in the news as a
theatre of politics in the cold war era. It
is also known as one of the most
misgoverned areas of the world. Indeed,

Towards good governance: A South Asian perspective

as the Bangladeshi scholar Sobhan


Rehman has said: South Asia is united
by a common thread of misgovernance" (Rehman, 2000). In recent
years,
however,
the
wave
of
democratization has swept away some
of the
military/authoritarian and
traditional polities in the region. This
change together with the endemic ethnic
conflicts and violence which have
dogged practically every country of the
region and the competition for nuclear
supremacy between the two largest
countries of South Asia have aroused
the interest of scholars in this region.,
and institutions like Word Bank have
pleaded for governance reforms in all
the countries of this region.
The states of South Asia, however, are
at different levels of political
development. While India and Sri Lanka
are seasoned democracies, Bangladesh
has had democracy interrupted by
periods of military rule. Pakistan has
faced military rule for long periods and
has only recently emerged from military
rule to a republican democracy. A new
pattern of military involvement in
politics, which one scholar calls power
without accountability is emerging
both in Pakistan and Bangladesh, a trend
that bodes ill for their infant and fragile
democracies (Ghosal, 2008). Nepals
short-lived democracy beginning in the
early years of the decade of nineteen
fifties as Constitutional Monarchy was
interrupted by monarchical intervention
with the help of the army, and having
suffered great political turmoil and
instability in the last few years is now
ultimately experiencing a nascent
democratic Republic having finally
abolished the monarchical system.

Bhutan until recently largely controlled


by the King is gradually incorporating
certain elements of a constitutional
democratic system in its governance.
Maldives Island has just shifted itself
from an absolute rule to a popularly
elected democratic system. Afghanistan
after recovering from the rule of Taliban
is gradually trying to strengthen its
fragile democratic republican system
against the frequent onslaughts of the
Taliban and militants, who are still
active in certain parts of Afghanistan. In
addition, however a new factor which
seems to be emerging as common
characteristic of all South Asian
countries is the phenomenon of growing
militancy and terrorism, which is
currently dodging all nations in the
region, and has made a crucial dent in
their capacity of governance.
Political and Party systems in South
Asia have not followed any uniform
pattern of evolution or development.
Despite the fact that except for Nepal,
other countries in South Asia viz. India,
Sri Lanka, Pakistan, and Bangladesh
have shared long common historical
traditions and colonial legacies, each of
the country in the region has adopted its
own political system without any
common political or party features
mostly present in most Western polities.
The political parties and their nature,
role and ideology also vary amongst the
nations of South Asia. All of South
Asian governments have, however, not
been able to ensure large number of
communities of their rights. South Asian
societies face similar problems of highhandedness by governments, especially,
concerning ethnic
and
religious
minorities along with the excluded and

Nepalese Journal of Public Policy and Governance, Vol. xxv, No.2, December, 2009

poor
populations.
Political
and
administrative corruption is another
prominent characteristic of all the South
Asian governments, which prevent these
nations to utilize their maximum
capacity to develop.

Good Governance: A South Asian


Perspective
As argued by O. P. Dwivedi, Good is
a value-laden term which involves a
comparison between two things or
systems by using some standard of
measure. A government or a system of
governance is considered good if it
exhibits
certain
fundamental
characteristics suggested by the United
Nations Development Program (UNDP),
which offers the most comprehensive
definition and an idealistic model of
good governance: Good governance is,
among other things, participatory,
transparent, and accountable governance
system (Dwivedi qouted in Jain, 2007,
p170). It is also effective and equitable.
And it promotes the rule of law. Good
governance ensures that political, social
and economic priorities are based on
broad consensus in society and that the
voices of the poorest and the vulnerable
are heard in decision-making over the
allocation of development resources
(ibid, p107). From the above, the
following characteristics of good
governance can be suggested: (a) public
participation (b) rule of law (c)
transparency; (d) responsiveness (e)
consensus among different and differing
interests (f) equity assured to all
individuals (g) effective, efficient,
responsible and accountable public
institutions and the statecraft. (h)

strategic vision of the leaders towards


broad range long-term perspectives on
sustainable human development; (i)
stewardship of governance where
governing elites dedicate their lives for
service to the public, and where
amoralism does not reign supreme.
Good governance and sustainable
human development, especially for
developing nations, also requires
conscientious attempts at eliminating
poverty, sustaining livelihoods, fulfilling
basic
needs,
and
offering
an
administrative system, which is clean
and open. It is important that these
characteristics are not only enshrined in
a constitutional document but also are
practiced (Dwivedi, 1987).
Based on the above, Dwivedi suggests
following FOUR models of Good
Governance:
1) the Public Service Model of Good
Government,
2) Judicial Model,
3) the New Public Management Model of
Good Governance, and
4) the Deontological or Spiritual Model of
Good Government.

These models, individually, do not


represent a comprehensive and an
accurate description of bringing better
governance; rather they provide a useful
means to consider various options for
further analysis. The first three models
seem to emphasize on the end results.
However, as ends and means both are
the two sides of the same coin, and a
solid interconnection between the two
ensures the preservation of good
administration, while the fourth, a
morality-driven model strengthens those
broad principles that ought to govern
our governmental conduct, because they

Towards good governance: A South Asian perspective

mark the direction towards which those


who govern must channel their acts if
they are to serve humanity. Spirituality,
deriving from such foundations thus
provides an important base to the
governing process. Confidence and trust
in liberal-democracy can be safeguarded
only when the governing process
exhibits a higher moral tone, deriving
from the breadth of ethical and spiritual
sensitivity (ibid).
In the light of foregoing analysis, a
number of questions arise; Are the
West-originated theory and practice of
governanceit
basic
concepts,
assumptions and valuesrelevant for
the South Asian nations? Should not
consideration be given to various
indigenously developed alternatives
more suited to tackle the satisfaction of
peoples basic needs, the eradication of
poverty and the protection of human
dignity? Is not the current crisis of
governance faced by the South Asian
nations precisely a consequence of the
inability of the West to incorporate the
substance of the West to incorporate the
substance of other non-Western
developmental experiences into the
prevailing conceptual mould (Dwivdi,
1987)?
Thus before another paradigm of good
governance emerges in the West (along
with the notion that any problem can be
solved by providing a detailed blueprint,
promising a little foreign aid, and
insisting on changing the existing
political equation on the part of a
recipient nation), has not the time come
to focus on results instead of keep on
creating grand visions because such
grand visions keep on multiplying as

each international institution tries to


broaden its idealism and scope of
activities in the field of human
development (Einhorn, 2001, p13)?
Here I am in complete agreement with
Professor Dwivedis view that the new
century demands a new thinking to face
the greatest dilemma before the
humanity: how come a small group of
nations keep on progressing while the
majority remains poor and deprived!
Before one contemplates to install good
governance (exported from the West),
let the most basic and fundamental
requisite is taken care of by a concerted
efforts of the rich nations and the leaders
of the South Asian nations: how to
stamp out starvation, destitution,
inequality, oppression and terrorism
(Einhorn, 2001) The framework
suggested above, if applied with care
and local support might help to usher in
an era of good governance'.
In the light of the above discussion, let
us now ponder over the kind of
framework of good governance that may
be considered appropriate for South
Asian nations. A World Bank Report on
Governance in South Asia has
recommended a number of measures for
the global community to help establish
good governance in South Asia. These
are:
(httm://www.eias.org/publications/briefi
ng/1999/weakdev.pdf.pdf):
1.

2.

Increase the level of surveillance on


South Asian states on the issues of
governance through human intelligence
network, research cooperation and
interaction with civil society think
tanks, academics and scholars.
Initiate to become active policy

Nepalese Journal of Public Policy and Governance, Vol. xxv, No.2, December, 2009

3.

4.

5.

6.

dialogue partners of South Asian


governments, NGOs, local government
institutions, press and political parties.
Reforms rather than projects should be
the development priority for South
Asia.
Donors need adopt people-centric,
empowerment approach to development
and remain aware of the deception and
diversion tactics of governments.
Trade, aid, transaction and immigrationall should be tied to compliance
requirement.
Research to be intensified that is
primarily based on local knowledge.

Apart from the above measures for


consideration
and
guidance
of
international community or that and/or
the donor nations and institutions, it is
essential that the strategies suggested
below should be kept in mind by the
leaders and policy makers of the South
Asian nations in order to develop a
perspective of good governance,
appropriate to their individual countries.

Strategies
towards
Governance in South Asia

Good

In the perspective of these developments


around the world and in India, the
fundamental question that arises is to
devise the strategies that would be
conducive for the developing nations,
particularly India, to strive towards
sustainable development. Besides the
institutional and structural innovations
that make for a system of good
governance,
a
corruption
free
sustainable development requires a
moral
determination
(ibid).
Recognition of that moral determination
in governance marks the direction in
which those who govern must channel
their efforts toward the common good if
they are to justly serve the society. That

direction calls for individual moral


responsibility
and
accountability,
sacrifice, compassion, justice and an
honest effort to achieve the common
good. Ultimately, it is the moral
determination which provides the
foundation for good governance.
(i) Adopting a Normative Model of
Good Governance
Thus the need of the hour at present
seems to be to adopt a normative model
of Good Management Approach
incorporating
both
the
politicoadministrative as well as the moral
dimensions of good governance. This
should, include (a) A more strategic or
result-oriented (efficiency, effectiveness
and service quality ) orientation to
decision-making (b) Replacement of
highly
centralized
organizational
structures
with
decentralized
management environment integrating
with the new Rural, Urban and
Municipal Institutions, where decisions
on resource allocation and service
delivery are taken close to the point of
delivery. (c) Flexibility to explore
alternatives to direct public provision
which might provide more cost effective
policy outcomes (d) Focusing attention
on the matching of authority and
responsibility as a key to improving
performance, including mechanism of
explicit performance contracting (e)
Creating of competitive environments
within and between public service
organizations. (f) Strengthening of
strategic capacities at the Center to steer
government to respond to external
changes and diverse interests quickly,
flexibly and at least costs (g) Greater
accountability and transparency through
requirements to report on results and

10

Towards good governance: A South Asian perspective

their full costs (h) Service wide


budgeting and management systems to
support and encourage these changes
and (i) The most important task to break
the growing nexus of bureaucrats,
politicians and criminals leading not
only to a breakdown of the total system
but also to a sense of cynicism amongst
the citizenry (j) Adapting of innovations
and evolving suitable mechanism to
eliminate corruption at both political and
administrative levels and strengthen
citizens grievance redressal system (k)
Improving the system of delivery at the
cutting edge of administration by
replacing
the
existing
archaic
bureaucratic procedures by absorbing
some appropriate precepts inherent in
the philosophy of New Public
Management
and
(l)
Making
improvements
in
the
working
atmosphere
of
the
government
institutions and offices to reflect a new
work
culture
and
a
changed
administrative behavior incorporating
the
principles
of
transparency,
responsiveness,
accountability,
participative
and
citizen-friendly
management.
(ii) Public-Private Sector Synergy for
Capacity Building
There is no doubt that the process of
globalization and the simultaneous rapid
economic and technological changes
have greatly affected the pattern of
governance in modern times. Scholars
have argued that the actual pattern of
governance
in
internationalized
environments can be related to the
respective governance capacity of public
and private actors, which hinges in turn
on the strategic constellation underlying
the provision of public goods. The

specific strategic constellations varies


along three dimensions namely, the
congruence between the scope of the
underlying
problem
and
the
organizational structures of the related
actors; the type of good problem; and
the institutional context. For their part,
each of these combines a number of
factors (Knill and Lehmkuh, 2002). The
relationship between public and private
actors is not free from conflict; neither is
it paralyzed by conflict. In essence,
there is a dynamic, synergetic
relationship, with public and private
contributions reinforcing each other
over time. However, such mutual
dependencies between public and
private actors and their concept to cope
with specific problems are apparent only
in the implementation of certain
regulatory arrangements and do not take
into account the problems related to
accountability and the democratic
legitimacy of regulatory structures.
Thus, a crucial question becomes
important: how is it possible to ensure
that private governance activities are
kept responsive to wider societal
interests (ibid 57-58)? The question of
accountability, therefore, becomes a key
factor and an issue of good governance.
(iii) Transparency and Accountability
as Basic Requisites for Good
Governance
If the concept of accountability refers to
the degree to which public servants and
others in non-governmental sectors
providing
public
programs
are
responsive to those they serve, then
there is a need for multi-dimensional
methods to measure how different
institutional arrangements advantage
different forms of responsiveness. The

Nepalese Journal of Public Policy and Governance, Vol. xxv, No.2, December, 2009

traditional measures of accountability


that rely upon line or top-down
measures do not necessarily provide a
good guide to the accountability culture
as a whole. As service delivery systems
move to more complex forms of agency,
accountability at other levels must be
expected to undergo a dynamic process
of evolution, adaptation, and in some
cases--crisis. It is clearly not enough to
bemoan the decline of a parliament or
the weakness of the consumer.
Institutional development must fit each
case. Vertical strength can be improved
with stronger roles for parliamentary
committees, ombudsmen, and so on.
Tools
for
greater
horizontal
accountability will need to be different
for competitive systems and for those
using more collaborative methods. In
both cases, a focus upon the role of
reflexive feedback or improvisation
offers a means to reopen the
organizational process box without the
perils of re-regulation. This new domain
of accountability will take some time to
develop its own regime of measures,
standards and rules. Perhaps the most
important step needed is the recognition
that
multi
dimensionality
of
accountability means both multiple
measure and new mandates (Considine,
2002).
(iv) Adoption of IT and the Concept of
E -Governance
The
revolution
in
information
technology has brought into focus its
adoption for good governance. There is
a talk of e-governance all over the
world. E-governance implies a smoother
interface between government and
citizen. While it cannot entirely replace
manual governance, even its limited

11

applications are good enough to affect


day to day living. It can fulfill roughly
speaking, the four purposes for which
citizens generally interact with the
government (i) paying bills, taxes, user
fees and so on (ii) registration
formalities, whether of a child's birth or
a house purchase or a driving license.
(In Tamil Nadu for instance, one can
download 72 application forms), (iii)
seeking information, and (iv) lodging
complaints. E-governance can reduce
distances to nothing, linking remote
villages to government offices in the
cities, can reduce staff, cut costs, check
leaks in the governing system, and can
make the citizen-government interaction
smooth, without queues and the tyranny
of clerks. But it must be remembered
that E-governance is only a tool for
good governance. It can't succeed
independent of responsive officers, and
it has to be owned by the political
leadership. Otherwise it will only be a
bureaucrat's game (India Today, 2000).
How to rebuild the system of
governance on these new premises
without the majority of population even
being literate is a real challenge for all
concerned with new innovations in the
performance of the government in India.
(v) The Citizen-oriented Paradigm of
Good Governance
The corporate millennium has brought
into focus a new concept of governance
based on the interests of the shareholders i.e. the citizens, which has
signaled the role of transparency,
accountability
and
merit-based
management and a sense of morality and
ethics that rests on the principle of
"concern for others." An ethical
organization, more so a government not

12

Towards good governance: A South Asian perspective

only stands for people with a set of


values, but a positive attitude which
generates a culture within the
organization in which every member
feels a sense of loyalty and belonging
and the leaders are responsible for
initiating dialogues across a wide range
of levels and functions so as to
operationalize values in practical
policies.
Modernization of government and
public administration involves a
redefinition
of
government
responsibilities. The state system of the
21st century will have to see a
redistribution
of
duties
and
responsibilities between government,
business and society. The guiding
principles are the idea of the
empowering state, which leaves more
space for society and individual
commitment. The internal structures of
government administration should also
become part of this developmental
process. This would require introduction
of modern management techniques with
quality control, budgeting and costbenefit analyses. In future, public
authorities are meant to be resultsoriented in providing public services,
Modern management and e-government
are two central means of achieving
fundamental
changes
in
public
administration. The goal is an
administration that does more and costs
less. E-government projects are not only
modernizing public agencies and
authorities,
but
also
making
administrative
procedures
more
transparent for ordinary citizens, which
in turn also makes new demands on
personnel to be more accountable
(Fieldman and Khademian, 2001).

(vi) Combating Corruption for Good


Governance
From the foregoing discussion, it is
more than evident that the concept of
quality governance is premised on a
corruption free administrative system.
Combating corruption for sustainable
development calls for (a) reducing
opportunities and incentives for corrupt
behavior and increasing the sense of
accountability on the part of public
officials
and
(b)
effective
implementation
of
anti-corruption
measures, which would imply that
measures should be logically consistent
with regard to the phasing of a time
table for speedy investigation and
conviction;
a
strong
political
commitment to implement the strategies
and enforcing anti-corruption measures;
and peoples active participation from
below in
the
enforcement
of
administrative, legal and judicial
measures, thus mobilizing the public
against corruption in public life.
Apart from the above fundamental
conditions, it must be emphasized that
fighting corruption requires: (a)
formation of a national coordinating
body that should be responsible for
devising and following up on a strategy
against corruption, along with a citizens
oversight board (b) the existence of a
high powered independent prosecuting
body to investigate and prosecute all
such known cases of corruption (c) and
the setting up of special courts for trying
such cases at a stretch so that the cases
come to their legitimate conclusion
without any delay (d) thoroughly
overhauling and reforming the system of
electoral laws and economic regulations
minimizing the temptation to indulge in

Nepalese Journal of Public Policy and Governance, Vol. xxv, No.2, December, 2009

corruption practice (e) enactment of an


appropriate legislation to limit the
number of Ministries and Departments
both at the Centre and the states so that
the temptation of expanding ministries
only for political gains could be
minimized and (e) by providing
specialized technical assistance to anticorruption agencies organizing highlevel anti-corruption workshops or
strategic
consulting
or
hiring
international investigations to track
down ill-gotten deposits overseas.
At the same time, it is also important
that international institutions should take
steps to encourage participatory
approaches in developing countries in
order to build consensus for anti corruption drives and associated
reforms. Civil society is likely to be a
major ally in resisting corruption. More
and more it is this ally that seeks
concrete support from more developed
Western countries and international
agencies
in
actively
combating
corruption (Kaufman,1997, p 130 and
Jain, 2002). International cooperation
can help national leaders develop
political resolve, and international action
can convey the useful truth that we are
all involved in the problem of corruption
and that we must find solutions together.

Intra-Regional and International


Cooperation
in
Fighting
Terrorism
One of the essential pre-condition for
ushering in an era of good governance
in South Asian nations is to build,
strengthen and enhance the capacity of
political and administrative structures in
each of the nations to be able to fight

13

terrorism at its door. Apart from


strengthening the internal security
system, the nations of South Asian
region not only have to come to terms to
forge
intra-cooperation
among
themselves by sharing information, help
and cooperation in purging terrorists,
extradition, built in technological
innovations of warning of terrorist
activities, taking the view that terrorism
is not only a problem of individual
nation alone, but has both intra-regional
and international ramifications. An
international movement has to be
initiated by developing a mechanism to
fight on both intra-regional and
international levels.

Restoring Moral Standards in


Public Life
Finally, one of the important primary
condition towards good governance in
South Asian countries is to restore moral
standards in public life and all political,
administrative and others. I agree that
that is easier said than done. But, given
the incidence of rapid decline in public
values and behavior, it is an essential
strategy towards: good governance in
all countries of South Asia. This will
also help in combating corruption in
these nations.
To the question what can be done for the
restoration of moral standards and
ethical values in public life, there is no
simple answer. In the context of the
current feeling of resignation to
corruption and unethical and criminal
practices in public life, and the
disposition to consider them as
inevitable and, therefore, acceptable, it
may be well to remember Gandhiji's

14

Towards good governance: A South Asian perspective

observations
that
"Life
is
an
aspirationthe ideal must not be
lowered because of our weakness and
imperfections", and the fact of his longlife resistance to evil in many form-from racialism and imperialism to
untouchability.
Thus, in addition to the many
suggestions already made above, like
the adoption of various legislative
measures to effectively curb defections,
operation of black money, break the
nexus between electoral politics,
economic resources and criminal
support, and establishing the institution
of Ombudsman, it is necessary that a
rigorous Code of Conduct be drawn for
both Ministers/Legislators and also for
important functionaries of all political
parties, which should incorporate what
the Nolan Committee in the U.K. has
suggested as the seven principles of
public life-- viz., selflessness, integrity,
objectivity, accountability, openness,,
honesty and leadership.
A Public Ethics Committee consisting of
representatives of all Political Parties
and some eminent public persons,
presided over by a retired Justice of the
Supreme Court may be constituted to
enforce, oversee and monitor the
adherence to this code (Jain, 2006).

Operationalizing
Governance in South Asia

Good

In order to meet the challenges of good


governance for promoting human
security, a six pronged action plan needs
to be adopted at this juncture of the
evolution of the Indian Polity: which
may as well be relevant for other
developing societies.
a)

On the institutional front, it is necessary

to
regenerate
political
and
administrative institutions from the
virtual collapse that India has
experienced in the last three decades -restore the legitimacy and effectiveness
of the legislature, bureaucracy, the
judiciary and the non-state actors of the
civil society. As the 'sustainability of
transition' in India has been greatly
affected by the gradual incremental loss
of the capacity and effectiveness of the
democratic institutions, it is necessary
that a radical package of reforms to
revamp the institutional framework be
implemented immediately. At the same
time, it is necessary to consolidate and
operationalize
the
gains
of
decentralization of authority and
empowerment of the people especially
the weaker and vulnerable sections of
the population in reality, affected by the
73rd and 74th Amendments of the
Constitution. Initiatives for local
planning coupled with augmenting of
local resources is of utmost for restoring
the credibility of sub-national and local
institutions.
b) In respect of the administrative system,
there is an immediate need to cut down
the size of the government and its
expenditure as early as possible.
Downsizing of bureaucracy has always
been a controversial and complicated
task. But the excessive fat of
governments has to be trimmed down to
make them run faster.
c) One of the other measures adopted in
many western countries to ensure
transparency in the functioning of the
government and to fight corruption and
maladministration is the enactment of
Public
Interest Disclosure
Acts
popularly called Whistle-blower Acts.
The object of such elements is to
improve accountability in government
and public sector organizations by
encouraging people not to turn a blind
eye to malpractices taking place in their

Nepalese Journal of Public Policy and Governance, Vol. xxv, No.2, December, 2009

organizations and to report the same to


the appropriate authority in a
confidential manner or by a public
report. Although the Government of
India has not been able to enact such an
Act, but it has lately been quite
concerned to protect the identity and
person of such officials, albeit with little
success, who have dared to come out
openly to disclose administrative
malpractices to the public. There is a
need for the enactment of such a law to
encourage persons to come out openly
when they smell of scams or corruption
in the government. Transparency in
administrative procedures and decisionmaking is an important ingredient of
good governance. The experience of
Government of India has enacted the
Right to Information Act in 2005, but
its implementation has raised a lot of
controversy and confusion, which need
to be clarified immediately for its
smooth operation (Mathur, 2005, p343).
d) Simultaneously, the bureaucracy is to
be revamped in terms of change in its
orientation, behavior and attitude.
Instead of being the defender of the
status quo, there has to be a realization
that with the advent of globalization,
liberalization and privatization, it has to
play a major role of a catalyst for
change. Apart from the changes in the
traditional values and norms of work
culture, it has to demonstrate its
willingness to accept new technical
innovations and values of achievement
and
competition,
equity
and
egalitarianism and concern for broader
collective social goals.
Besides absorbing the values of
participatory
democracy,
decentralization of authority and power,
bureaucracy has not only to observe a
modicum of transparency and concede
an appropriate right of information to
the people in its decision-making
process, but has also to secure a balance

e)

f)

15

between a rule-bound administration


and an administration that can
effectively and quickly deliver results,
particularly in developmental and social
welfare activities.
The bureaucracy is also both under
legal and moral obligation to exercise
its authority and discretionary powers
with a view to meet the norms of
responsiveness and accountability.
Apart from its professional norms of
efficiency, effectiveness, economy and
cost consciousness, the core public
service values of integrity, impartiality
and responsibility need to be observed
if the gains of the process of
liberalization are to be consolidated for
protecting human security.
On the economic front, it is of utmost
importance that a comprehensive and
concerted policy strategy based on
general consensus be developed for (i)
revamping public distribution system
(PDS) (ii) disinvestment in public
enterprises in key economic sectors like
power,
energy,
oil,
transport,
telecommunication
and
in
sick
industrial units, and (iii) reconsideration
of proportion of subsidies in
agricultural. oil, and other key sectors
of the economy, which are at best
counter-productive, (iv) creating publicprivate synergy in collaborative
governance, and adopting a viable
pattern of contracting out and
outsourcing of delivery of public
services at the local levels of
governance with appropriate safeguards
for accountability, standards of services
and redressal of public complaints.
In respect to social security, the system
of governance faces a massive
challenge to provide for adequate
employment generation, good health,
universal education system, shelter, and
the basic facilities of sanitation and
drinking water. Providing for higher
outlays and spending on items like

16

g)

Towards good governance: A South Asian perspective

primary education and primary healthcare is not the solution alone, the real
challenge is effective management on
the part of the administration to deliver
these goods at the lowest costs and in an
equitable manner. These are some of the
areas where the state cannot abdicate its
responsibilities notwithstanding the
emphasis
of
liberalization
and
privatization, increased public and
foreign investments, and contracting out
of the services in various industrial and
other sectors of the economy and social
services., and finally,
Utilizing the tools of technology and
on-line
governance,
wherever
feasible, for quick delivery of services.
Providing information and redressal of
grievances. In the management of
public services, the adoption of
information technology is essential to
eh efficiency of public administration.
Communication to the public through
the Internet and other media is required
to achieve transparencya condition
for accountability.

Concluding Observations
In conclusion, however, it should be
remembered that for achieving good
governance, no amount of planning and
thinking in all these areas would be
useful unless the governments at all
levels of the polity are capable enough
to take hard and unpleasant decisions
and have the will and capacity to
implement and continuously monitor
and evaluate their impact. At the same
time, the political leadership has to
demonstrate its strong determination to

undertake reforms by first cleaning its


own stable from corrupt and criminal
influences, and setting ethical standards
of quality governance both at the
political and administrative levels. For
changes to come, it is necessary to
change the mindset and attitudes of both
the public administrators and the
politicians in power.
In the perspectives of the worldwide
developments at the threshold of the
21st century, this paper has attempted at
discussing some of the emerging
challenges to quality and good
governance, on which the strategies for
growth and sustainable development in
South Asia and in other transitional
societies
can
be
built
and
operationalized. It is heartening that
people in almost all South Asian states
have recognized their importance, and it
is likely that the growing concerns
towards poverty removal, fighting
corruption and devising innovations for
quality governance may turn out to be
a concerted international movement, not
confined merely to the realm of
academic discussions or writings in
specific contexts like South Asian
region, but of taking constructive
actions for positive results transcending
the jurisdictions of national boundaries.
This is the only hope for achieving
universally good and corruption-free
good governance in South Asia, for the
very survival of humanity, towards
which we must all strive.

Nepalese Journal of Public Policy and Governance, Vol. xxv, No.2, December, 2009

17

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