The Myth of Good Governance!

Prime Minister Imran Khan on February 10, 2019 addressed the World Government Summit in Dubai and in his speech, he said that “No society or country can make progress without improving governance, ensuring accountability, and checking corruption.”

As indicated from the above statement and as observed in Pakistan’s political climate, a word which is used extensively by the treasury and opposition benches and their supporters is “Governance”. Although the word itself is very extensive and encompasses a lot, but our interpretation of good or bad governance in the Pakistan’s political climate is very subjective and biased. If a political party does something which relates to our value and culture, we refer it to as upright decision and governance.

On a personal level, I think that our understanding (as Pakistanis) of good governance is flawed. Due to our glorious (pun intended) democratic past, we have set the bar of good governance so low that if now any government which remotely tries to do its job, we misinterpret it as “good governance”.

In order to simplify matters, I have set out below my own version of governance:

Good Governance: Proactive steps are taken by the government to prevent the issues and safeguard public interests.

Governance: Detective and corrective measures are taken to correct the issues and safeguard public interest.

Bad / Poor Governance: No measures are taken to protect and safeguard public interests and the system is designed to benefit the status quo.

Let’s look at some of the examples for this government initiates which are generally regarded as measures for “good governance” and understand whether these are in actual “good” or is it a product of our flawed understanding of good governance.

Publishing the Inquiry Reports: Most recently the government has published various inquiry reports on wheat, sugar, IPPs, etc. This action was lauded by the media, public and their supporters (except those who were adversely affected by it). This indeed is a very positive action considering our political history as we don’t often see such kind of inquiry reports being made public. However, if you come to think of it, this is something which should be a part an parcel of normally functioning democracy that inquiries are carried out, reports are made public and action is taken against those found guilty. This is not a measure of good governance but rather a measure of normal governing body.

Pakistan Citizen Portal: This portal is widely regarded as a good use of technology to step towards e-governance and connect the public directly to the prime minister. Again, I would appreciate the effort and based on few social media posts I can also ascertain that this portal has proved to be very useful for the public in general. However, if you consider this portal as a means to register and submit a complaint against government services, then this would seem to be something which is very common and basic. As a consumer, a person should be able to register his complaint regarding the products/ services quite easily to the service provider, in this case the government. Therefore, easing this access would make it a slightly good governance measure but the overall concept of this portal is basic, and this portal entails that the existing system of complaint management within governmental institutions is not working properly.

Ehasaas Programme: One of the flagships programme of the existing government is “Ehasaas”. It includes various sub policies which are aimed to alleviate property and provide social safety net to the needy and poor people of Pakistan. Historically some of the policies included in this programme have been there and have been used by other governments. However, designing and an overall programme for poverty alleviation is something which can be seen as a good governance measure.

These are only few of the example which can elaborate that not everything that is presented to us as a good governance measure actually meets the definition of it. This by no means is a complaint against the government for taking such measures, rather the message of this article is to increase awareness amongst the general public that they should rethink their standards and perception of good governance, and to hold their representatives accountable against such high standards.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Dunya News’ editorial stance.  

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