Prof. Syed Ahsanul Alam*
Economic development can not flourish in the absence of good governance. The pre-condition for good governance is effective democratic institutions. What is important for good governance is democratizing the society? Improvement of the living standard of people can not participate in governance, human rights are not respected, information does not flow and civil society and the judiciary is weak. We can outline nine criteria of good governance that may be used to determine whether any country qualifies to have good governance. For good governance also predominantly important are institutions like:
1. Independent and non partisan election commission
2. Independent Judiciary and the rule of law
3. Independent media and freedom of speech
4. Independent anti-corruption commission
5. Investing in the people
6. Independent and effective parliament
7. Independent human rights commission
8. Independent ombudsman system
9. Investment friendly environment
I would propose these Nine components to be referred as the Nine I’s of good governance or Nine `I’ model of good governance. These Nine components of good governance should be institutionalized as democratic institutions for democratization the society.
These components constitute the foundations of modern democracy and create the underpinning to establish free economy and spur domestic and foreign investment, specially the potential investment of the non residents.
It is not true that only elections lead to a democracy. Democracy should be a 200-300 pages of home work (Manifesto) of the political parties where they ought to outline their ideas and concept of democracy they want to offer to the citizens in lieu of their votes. The political parties should make it vividly transparent as to how and when they will apply their policies for establishing a democratic society ensuring parity, rule of law, equitable distribution of wealth, social justice, freedom of speech and thought if voted to power. The political philosophy and the commitment of the political parties should be expressed in the form of party manifesto much ahead of elections for empowering the voters so that they can make informed decisions before casting their votes during the elections. Unfortunately the practice of presenting the manifesto of the political parties are not transparent and as such it may be stated that political commitment of the parties to people is also not transparent which gives the parties a space to shift form their commitments and promise after the election.
Sound politics and their execution are essential pre-condition of development. Good governance necessarity means govern justly, invest in the people and encourages private economic enterprise. To decide whether our country meets these standards must be determined by using specific indicators of performance. A crucial indicator will be evidence that our country practices good and just governance.
We have yet to promote principles of good governance and initiative of our civil society reinforces the need for good governance. Through cooperative ventures of our parliament, judiciary, executive organ of the state along with the civil society it is possible to enact policies and design the governance so that human dignity and freedom are allowed to flourish. Some of the principles of good governance date back to the time of ancient Greece. Others are principles developed in more recent years or lessons learned from our own history and that of other democracy practicing societies.
Broadly speaking, good governance promotes fundamental and universal human rights. As per our constitution the political power lies with the people (Article 7). Principles of good governance allow people to pursue their lives in a just, equitable and democratic society. Developing countries need the tools to educate their citizens to take part in the opportunities offered by the global economy. We need to work to eradicate corruption and create a renewed respect for human rights as well as constitutional rights.
Perhaps the most basic and important principle of good governance is that a nations political institutions be democratic. In the words of one of America’s greatest presidents, Abraham Lincoln, democracy is a form pf government “of the people, by the people and for the people.” This means that the rights and principles of democratic government can and should be universally applied. They are not a uniquely American invention. The right of every person to speak freely about his government is a basic human right to overcome bad governance and make sure that government by the party, for the politician and nothing for the people be not established. The right of any citizens to express his opinion about his government is one that is supported by the doctrine “Rule by the Ruled” as has been recognized by nations all over the world. Now let us examine the Nine I’s of Good Governance.
Independent and non partisan election commission
Independent and Non partisan election commission is a precondition for free and fair participative elections to elect public representative to the parliament. Elections however are not the only cornerstone to democracy. Accountable leadership and fulfillment of the
Will of the people is essential to ensuring that elections are a means to a democratic society, not an end in themselves. One of the indicators of good governance is a country’s commitment to citizen’s political rights for functional democracy. It is critical that a nation’s election be free and fair level plane ground. This means that every citizens have a equal access and opportunity to compete to become public representative. Votes have a choice among candidates and that they have a right to information concerning those candidates background.
Free and fair elections are open and transparent to all people without discrimination based on sex, religion or race. Such elections are not restricted by government interference and coercion by money and muscle. The right to free and fair elections should be guaranteed by independent non partisan election commission having appropriate capabilities and skill to deliver hones acceptable elections. And such elected government can only be held accountable to their citizens. Voters should be able to participate freely in the political process, whether through political parties or independent candidates.
Independent Judiciary and the rule of law
Another criterion of good governance is independent judiciary, important for preserving the rule of law. It is very essential to have a strong judiciary and courts to ensure that a nation’s laws are enforced constantly and fairly. All organs of government must be law abiding. The rule of law also is the basis for the formation of Business enterprise and the establishment of a free market, which underpin economic development. Citizens or their elected representatives should be involved in all levels of lawmaking including the local government. Participation in this process gives people the confidence that the law will protect their property rights and human rights. Respects for the citizens and rights relating to personal privacy are a far cry in a weak democracy.
Another characteristic of good governance is the presence of constitutional limits on the political power. Such limits include transparent, creditable, periodic elections, guarantees of Fundamental Rights, guarantees of Human rights by a independent judiciary, which allows citizens to seek protection of their rights and redress against government actions. These limit help make government departments accountable to each other and to the people. Accountability is another characteristic that is considered globally for the eligibility when determining whether a country practices good governance.
Not only should the law be enforced, but it should also be enforced fairly and without any sort of discrimination. Good governance means equal protection for all without any discrimination of sex, cast, creeds and race. An open and easy access to judicial and administrative systems. Political and civil rights should not be denied to citizens because of their sex, race or religion. A nation’s courts should not be open to only a select few. Government agencies should allow appeals of regulations as well as citizen participation as well as citizen participation in their decision-making process and citizens should be granted access to these bodies in a timely and easy manner.
Government also have a duty to protect their citizens from criminal violence, especially the practice of trafficking of persons. Women, girls and children are most vulnerable to this illegal trade, which can only be stopped by diligent law enforcement.
Independent media and freedom of speech
To function properly, a democratic society must ensure free exchange of information and ideas. This is best realized in the creation of a free and open media and the freedoms of speech and expression. A free and independent media provides voters with the information they need to make informed decisions. It facilitates the exchange of political discourse, creating an “open place for ideas” where no view is neglected and the best are chosen. Free media can also serve as a check on government power ensuring that bureaucracy, public officials and government departments remain accountable to the voters. The media’s ability to report on trade and industry and the economy is also important for preserving public trust in the free economy and for attracting domestic and foreign investment including the potential investment of the NRB’s. The right of the free media to publish, to editorialize, to criticize and to inform is a fundamental principle of democracy.
Independent Anti-corruption commission:
Good governance also means combating corruption and countries can not be considered having good governance, if they are corrupt. To preserve the integrity of democracy, governments must strive to rid themselves of corruptions and bribery. Corruption destroys economic foundations, impedes the ability of developing countries to attract foreign investment. Corruption hinders the growth of democratic institutions and concentrates power in the hands of a few having money and muscles. The best way to combat corruption is for governments to be open and transparent. Official secrecy Act must not be abused. While in certain cases governments have a responsibility to retain secrecy and confidentiality regarding national security alike issues. Democratic governments must be sensitive to the citizens’ right to know without any discrimination. Strong laws against corruption, application of such laws and the actions of law enforcement agencies that work against corruption demonstrate a government commitment to this principle.
Investing in the people
Good governance requires that government invest in their people and work to preserve the welfare of their citizens, without regard to gender, race or religion. Government should invest in health care, nutrition, housing, education and poverty elevation, They should ensure an economic environment where people can find jobs and establish business enterprises. Along with other measures, a government’s ability to provide job and a high standard of living for its people is considered by the democratic world in determining governmental effectiveness. The importance of the other Four- I’s i.e. Independent and effective parliament.
Independent Human Rights commission, Independent Ombudsman system, Investment friendly environment could not be discussed here due to limitations of space which I have intention to discuss later in some other articles of mine.
Practicing these components (Nine I’s) of good governance results in a free and open society where people can pursue their hopes and aspiration. This will facilitate the creation of free markets, which are trusted by investors and financial institutions. Good governance is a pre-condition for any economic development. Development can not flourish where people can non participate in governance, human rights are not respected, information does not flow and civil society and the judiciary are weak. UNDP and the world Bank among others, have come to realize that focuses only on economic governance at the expense of democratic governance fails. The proof is that, 42 of the 49 high human development countries on the UN Development index are democracies. With few exceptions, all of the world’s richest countries have the world’s most democratic governance.
The fundamental rights and the standard of living of citizens will be enhanced through the creation of strong democratic society with prosperous economy. All democratic societies have deep appreciation for the freedoms and opportunities they enjoy and believe the principles that underlie democratic institutions and vibrant civil society are the best way to achieve sustainable economic development. Governments that govern rationally with the commitment of good governance get support for their reform efforts from their people as well as from the democratic world.
Prof. Syed Ahsanul Alam Parvez
*Author Syed Ahsanul Alam is a Governance Analyst, Associate Professor at the University of Chittagong, Bangladesh and Chairman-Center for Good Governance. His recent administrative post includes Vice rector- Premier University, Director-S.B Corporation (Sadharon Bima Corp), Treasurer-USTC (SWC), Representative of the President, USTC. He lectured widely at various business schools including University of Science and Technology, Open University, ABAC Thailand and also in Singapore . Rotarian Syed Ahsanul Alam is a well known Academician, Institution Building Personality and Activist for Good Governance. The Author may be reached at Cell: 880-1711 748 748, Fax: 880-31-2550872, E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org, www.goodgovernancebd.org.
Filed under: South Asia | Tagged: Governance | Leave a Comment »