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What is Governance?

  • In order to understand the concept of Good Governance, let’s first understand the concept of Governance:
  • The concept of “governance” is not new. It is as old as human civilization.
  • Simply put “governance” means: the process of decision-making and the process by which decisions are implemented (or not implemented). Governance can be used in several contexts such as corporate governance, international governance, national governance and local governance.

Formal and Informal actors in Governance

  • Since governance is the process of decision making and the process by which decisions are implemented, an analysis of governance focuses on the formal and informal actors involved in decision-making and implementing the decisions made and the formal and informal structures that have been set in place to arrive at and implement the decision.
  • Government is one of the actors in governance.
  • Other actors involved in governance vary depending on the level of government that is under discussion.
  • In rural areas, for example, other actors may include influential land lords, associations of peasant farmers, cooperatives, NGOs, research institutes, religious leaders, finance institutions political parties etc.
  • The actors other than government are called “Civil Society”.
  • At the national level, informal decision-making structures, such as “kitchen cabinets” or informal advisors may exist.
  • In urban areas, organized crime syndicates such as the “land Mafia” may influence decision-making.
  • Such, informal decision-making is often the result of corrupt practices or leads to corrupt practices.

What is Good Governance (GG)?

  • The concept of good governance is not new.
  • Kautilya in his treatise Arthashastra elaborated the traits of the king of a well governed State thus: “in the happiness of his subjects lies his happiness, in their welfare his welfare, whatever pleases himself, he does not consider as good, but whatever pleases his subjects he considers as good”.
  • Mahatma Gandhi had propounded the concept of ‘Su-raj’.
  • As per the 1992 report of the World Bank, titled “Governance and Development”, good governance has been defined as follows:
  • GG is the manner in which power is exercised in the management of a country’s economic and social resources for development.
  • The essence of good governance has been described as predictable, open and enlightened policy, together with a bureaucracy imbued with a professional ethos and an executive arm of government accountable for its actions.
  • All these elements are present in a strong civil society participating in public affairs, where all members of the society act under the rule of law.
  • It assures that corruption is minimized, the views of minorities are taken into account and that the voices of the most vulnerable in society are heard in decision-making.
  • It is also responsive to the present and future needs of society.

4Es- Pillars of Good Governance

  • Ethos (of service to the citizen)
  • Ethics (honesty, integrity and transparency)
  • Equity (treating all citizens alike with empathy for the weaker sections)
  • Efficiency (speedy and effective delivery of service without harassment and using ICT increasingly)

Citizens are thus at the core of good governance. Therefore, good governance and citizen centric administration are inextricably linked.

What are the characteristics of Good Governance?

  • Good governance has 8 major characteristics. It is participatory, consensus oriented, accountable, transparent, responsive, effective and efficient, equitable and inclusive and follows the rule of law.
  • Participation: Participation by both men and women is a key cornerstone of good governance. Participation could be either direct or through legitimate intermediate institutions or representatives. It is important to point out that representative democracy does not necessarily mean that the concerns of the most vulnerable in society would be taken into consideration in decision making. Participation needs to be informed and organized. This means freedom of association and expression on the one hand and an organized civil society on the other hand.
  • Rule of law: Good governance requires fair legal frameworks that are enforced impartially. It also requires full protection of human rights, particularly those of minorities. Impartial enforcement of laws requires an independent judiciary and an impartial and incorruptible police force.
  • Transparency: Transparency means that decisions taken and their enforcement are done in a manner that follows rules and regulations. It also means that information is freely available and directly accessible to those who will be affected by such decisions and their enforcement. It also means that enough information is provided and that it is provided in easily understandable forms and media.
  • Responsiveness: Good governance requires that institutions and processes try to serve all stakeholders within a reasonable timeframe.
  • Consensus oriented: There are several actors and as many view points in a given society. Good governance requires mediation of the different interests in society to reach a broad consensus in society on what is in the best interest of the whole community and how this can be achieved. It also requires a broad and long-term perspective on what is needed for sustainable human development and how to achieve the goals of such development. This can only result from an understanding of the historical, cultural and social contexts of a given society or community.
  • Equity and inclusiveness: A society’s well being depends on ensuring that all its members feel that they have a stake in it and do not feel excluded from the mainstream of society. This requires all groups, but particularly the most vulnerable, have opportunities to improve or maintain their well being.
  • Effectiveness and efficiency: Good governance means that processes and institutions produce results that meet the needs of society while making the best use of resources at their disposal. The concept of efficiency in the context of good governance also covers the sustainable use of natural resources and the protection of the environment.
  • Accountability: Accountability is a key requirement of good governance. Not only governmental institutions but also the private sector and civil society organizations must be accountable to the public and to their institutional stakeholders. Who is accountable to whom varies depending on whether decisions or actions taken are internal or external to an organization or institution. In general an organization or an institution is accountable to those who will be affected by its decisions or actions. Accountability cannot be enforced without transparency and the rule of law.

    Good governance through SMART Governance

    • The mandate of any democratic government is to provide a set of services to its citizens in an efficient, convenient, equitable and in effective manner.
    • This can ensure the welfare and wellbeing of its citizens and will facilitate the growth of economic activities.
    • SMART captures the important attributes of Good Governance i.e. Simple, Moral, Accountable, Responsive and Transparent government.
    • It is necessary to discuss these five attributes to understand them and to know what can be achieved from these elements with electronic intervention.
    • Simple–Citizen expects a user friendly government with simplicity of laws, rules, regulations and processes, procedures formulated by the government. The multiplicity of laws and their complex procedures with the requirement of many proofs drive citizens to middle men, resulting in delay and corrupt practices. To avoid this situation with the help of e-Governance, government is implementing ―Single Window one stop services through CSC to facilitate common citizen.
    • Moral – It denotes emergence of new system of governance based on moral values. The cleaning up process is very slow but it is very essential for the survival of values cherished by Good Governance. Some of the processes like systematic changes in electoral reforms, downsizing of government, enhancing literacy, to increase awareness and participation can take a longer duration to show its effects still such programs should not be overlooked. The maintenance of high ethical standards in the system with proper checks can improve efficiency of police department, judiciary and administration in general. The use of technology will be limited in creating a moralist government. M also stands for “Measure” in SMART government qualities as it is an equally important parameter to access the performance of e- Governance.
    • Accountability: The civil service is accountable for design of strategies, action plan drawn to implement particular program or system and performance achieved. IT helps in design, implementation with sophisticated systems as MIS or SAP which helps top officials to execute, to pinpoint minutest details and take corrective actions in time.
    • Responsiveness: It means to be attentive to the needs of common man and by action to show the urgency in responding to such needs. It includes quality of service offered in time. Service delayed is as good as service denied. An important concept developed to assure Responsiveness is “Citizen Charter”. Citizen Charter is a set of assurances given by the government agency on the quality of service and time limit for delivery. ICT can play a significant role in improving the performance of delivery and to fulfill promises set by Citizen Charter.
    • Transparency– Transparency brings some of the essential virtues in to public life such as equity, level playing field, the rule of law. These virtues confer social benefits to the deserving with no discretion, no scope of corruption. ―Transparency arises out of the citizen‘s Right To Information (RTI), the right to know why certain decisions were taken. The deployment of ICT can quickly disseminate information through the use of web sites or portals which can be used to form decisions, opinions.
    • Government of India through decentralization of power and citizens empowerment, trying for effective citizen participation at all levels in program and civic service reforms.
    • The five principles of SMART governance are relevant to the working of public sector. If e-Governance systems are designed and built to enhance these principles in practice they can provide multiple benefits to its users.

    Challenges to Good Governance in India

    • The criminalization of politics and corruption are two major challenges of good governance in India which need to be addressed on urgent basis.
    • Corruption has virtually spread in almost all aspects of public life.
    • It not only averts the benefits of globalization to reach the common men but also denies transparency, accessibility and accountability, confuses rules and procedures, proliferate mindless control and poor commitments at all levels.
    • The nexus of crime and politics is so strong that the common citizens of the country have no stand to say or exert their rights.

    Questions for you:

    1. What is the difference between Governance and Good Governance?
    2. What is the difference between Good Governance and SMART governance?
    3. What are the challenges for Good Governance in India?
    4. Enlist various Good Governance initiatives of the government.