In order to understand the crisis of good governance, it is imperative to have know-how about the good governance. Good governance is relatively an old concept. In term of government, it refers to run the administration based on the defined laws and fixed principles to address public affairs for the welfare of the people. Deviation from these laws and principles causes the crisis of good governance.
However, the good governance was the least discussed topic until 1989, when the World Bank first published its report entitled “Sub-Saharan Africa: From Crisis to Sustainable Growth” and claimed the crisis of governance to be the main culprit behind the poor development of these regions. Afterwards, the term has become among the most discussed topic of the 21st century. Undoubtedly, all the social, economic and political problems of the developing countries including Pakistan are linked to the crisis of good governance.
Why the World Bank turned its attention towards the issue of governance and published reports after reports to end the crisis of good governance? The institution was set up on July 1st 1944 to provide financial and technical assistance to the developing countries for the construction of dams, seaports, highways, power plants and so on. In 1980s the bank widened its objectives and gave particular attentions to the projects that could directly benefit the poorest people like education, housing, health care and nutrition among others and also provided low interest loans for small-scale enterprises. The institution realized that these loans were not making significant improvement and came at the conclusion that it was because of the crisis of good governance in the developing countries. Unless governance is improved, all the efforts of the World Bank to improve the livelihood of the people will go down the drain.
There are 8 characteristics of good governance. The crisis of good governance is witnessed in the country where these characteristics are absent and unfortunately Pakistan is among those states.
According to the World Bank, maximum participation in governance is the first and foremost precondition of good governance. It is our irony of fate that only 400 families, who are in politics, control decision-making in Pakistan because of the hereditary politics. They use their wealth to purchase votes from the poor and have been framing policies that suit their interest well. The importance of public participation can be judged from Bangalore reforms. Bangalore- the city of India faced numerous challenges ranging from poor health and sanitary system to alarming illiteracy rate. The administration involved local citizens and asked their opinions to solve the issues and eventually succeeded in resolving them. Today, Bangalore is among the top city of India.
It is a reason that democracy is considered the best form of government ever evolves till toady because it ensures the maximum participation of citizens in the governance. However, the feudal lords, who win the elections by exploiting the voting bank of their farmers, are monopolizing the system in Pakistan.
- Consensus orientation:
Consensus orientation is a major ingredient of good governance. It refers to frame laws by involving the interested groups that could be affected by the new legislation. For instances, while increasing tax on online transaction, the consensus orientation requires to hear the opinions of traders who would be hit hard by the decision. In Pakistan, most of the decisions are taken without broad based consensus. The federal government led by Imran Khan enhanced the power of National Accountability Bureau (NAB) without broad based consensus involving the businessmen and bureaucrats. As a result, bureaucrats stopped signing the file and businessmen investing the money. The economic activities in the country came to a halt. Consequently, the government had to soften the rules to exempt businessmen from the accountability of NAB. Besides, Prime Minister of Pakistan, Imran Khan, reversed his decision to increase natural gas price when he was warned of overall increase in the prices of fertilizers.
It was the consensus-based decision of our last prophet (PBUH) to face enemies outside Medina during battle of Uhad because he asked for the opinions of the citizen and most of them favored to fight outside the city. Although, he knew that it would cause a great loss, but he accepted the consensus-based decision.
Accountability also plays a central role in good governance. Normally, public institutions are held accountable by the competent authorities regarding the discharge of their constitutional responsibility. The moment these institutions favors individuals unconstitutionally and illegally, the accountability bureau punishes the individual involved. Undoubtedly, this practice ensures good governance. However, in Pakistan, these concerned institutions like Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) and National Accountability Bureau (NAB) are toothless to look into the corrupt practices of other institutions. It is because the political bosses have deliberately weakened these institutions by influencing the appointment, promotion and transfer of the officers. Besides, instead of putting check over the responsibilities of other institutions, they allegedly blackmail officer and businessmen for financial benefits. Thus, unless these institutions are strengthened by getting rid of black sheep and ensuring transparency in the appointment and transfer of the officers, good governance in Pakistan will remain a distant dream.
Transparency contributes to the good governance. It means that information is freely available and directly accessible by the citizens. For example, if the citizens are paying taxes, transparency refers to provide them full information about how their tax money is used. In Pakistan, the citizens are hardly provided information regarding the total daily expenditure of the head of government at home or during his foreign trips let alone other development projects. Hardly any citizen knows or gets information about how the foreign funding for the construction of Diamir Bhasha Dam was exploited by the government and how much money were spent on the foreign tours of the collectors. Even more alarming, the citizens are not provided information about how much money is spent on the local infrastructure projects like school or hospitals. Actually, the all information should be uploaded on the website of the institutions and the citizens be given full access.
It means the government should act to implement policies and solve the crisis within reasonable timeframe and by responding expeditiously. It can be understood in the context of COVID-19 pandemic that exposed the responsiveness of the different countries around the globe. China acted at once by sealing the entire city of Wuhan from where the first case of Corona virus emerged. It strictly isolated the citizens at home. It was the responsiveness of China to fight the pandemic. In Pakistan, the Sindh government took the hastily measures and was appreciated, but the other provinces lacked responsiveness. Besides, the overall responsiveness of the government in Pakistan is poor. The institutions are very slow. For example, it takes a lot of time to pass any file from the public institutions because of bureaucratic red tapes that involves paying extra money to the officials at every stage. Chinese investors in CPEC are also not happy because of poor responsiveness of Pakistani institutions that consume their time.
- Effectiveness and Efficiency:
Efficiency is defined as the ability to accomplish something without consuming more money time, energy and efforts. For example, the efficient way to solve the energy crisis in Pakistan is to purchase gas from Iran through Iran-Pakistan gas pipeline. It would save money time and efforts because pipeline from Iran to Pakistani border is already constructed and Iran would provide the gas at reasonable rate or in exchange for the wheat that is produced in surplus quantity. Purchasing LPG from Qatar was inefficient decision because it involves constructing a huge infrastructure at the port and arranging transportation for it. The government took decision to import the LNG without realizing it and caused a huge loss to national reservoirs.
Effectiveness is defined as the degree to which something is successful in producing a desired result. For example, it is ineffective decision by the government to increase electricity tariffs to meet circular debt. Instead of raising the price, the government needs to curb electricity theft, which acts as debt multiplier.
- Equitable and inclusive:
Equitable refers to the fair and impartial distribution of resources among all the communities living in the country so that they do not feel excluded from the society. It was the unfair treatment of West Pakistan towards the citizens of East Pakistan that caused the crisis of good governance and eventually led to the formation of Bangladesh. The problem of Baluchistan is also related to equality. They needs equitable share in their natural resources. Inclusive means create a sense of feelings among different groups including the most vulnerable like minorities to feel that they are the part of the country. The 18th amendment was a step in the right direction to ensure inclusiveness.
- Rule of law:
The rule of law is a basic characteristic of good governance. It is equality of all citizens before the law, whether he is a Prime Minister or clerk. Regrettably, in Pakistan, the same law does not treat rich and poor. The victory sign shown by model Ayan Ali and Sharukh Jatoi exposes the dilapidated state of rule of law in Pakistan. Islam also put stress on the rule of law. Usama approached the Prophet (PBUH) on behalf of a woman (who had committed theft). The Prophet (PBUH) said, “The people before you were destroyed because they used to inflict the legal punishments on the poor and forgive the rich. By Him in Whose Hand my soul is! If Fatima (the daughter of the Prophet (PBUH) did that (i.e. stole), I would cut off her hand.
Thus, the term crisis of good governance came into limelight in 1989 after the World Bank published its report and linked the poor development of African countries to the bad governance. The 8th characteristics of good governance were later devised to check the status of governance in the countries. Sadly, in Pakistan’s governance, these characteristics are not followed effectively resulting in the crisis of good governance. However, the country is gradually moving in the right direction and improving its governance as evident in the disqualification of former PM on the charges of corruption. It is hoped that one day our country will embark on the path of good governance.