Towards Good Governance: A South Asian Perspective

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 'mis¬governance'. 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.
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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.

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 sub-discipline 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, democracy and development followed, which sought to establish their inter-relationships 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 de-bureaucratization and a competition (and cooperation) between the private and public sector, with increasing role 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 and Good Governance

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 non-democratic 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. 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 naïve, 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 China’s land area. Here is the largest concentration of the worlds poor numbering 500 million, or South Asia’s one third. There are contrasting estimates of income also. South Asia’s 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, as the Bangladeshi scholar Sobhan Rehman has said: “South Asia is united by a common thread of ‘mis-governance" (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). Nepal’s 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 high-handedness by governments, especially, concerning ethnic and religious minorities along with the excluded and 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 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 governance—it basic concepts, assumptions and values—relevant for the South Asian nations? Should not consideration be given to various indigenously developed alternatives more suited to tackle the satisfaction of people’s 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 (Dwivedi, 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 Dwivedi’s 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/briefing/1999/weakdev.pdf.pdf):

  1. 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.
  2. Initiate to become active policy dialogue partners of South Asian governments, NGOs, local government institutions, press and political parties.
  3. Reforms rather than projects should be the development priority for South Asia.
  4. Donors need adopt people-centric, empowerment approach to development and remain aware of the deception and diversion tactics of governments.
  5. Trade, aid, transaction and immigration- all should be tied to compliance requirement.
  6. 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 Good Governance in South Asia

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 politico-administrative 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 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 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 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 share-holders 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 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 cost-benefit analyses. In future, public authorities are meant to be results-oriented 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 people’s 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 citizen’s 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 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 anti-corruption agencies organizing high-level 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, p130 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 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 observations that "Life is an aspiration…the ideal must not be lowered because of our weakness and imperfections", and the fact of his long-life 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 Good Governance in South Asia

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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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 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 decision-making 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).
  4. 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 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.
  5. 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 public-private 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.
  6. 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 primary education and primary health-care 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,
  7. 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 transparency—a 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.

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