A plethora of developmental theorists and realists have always sought to define, propose and adopt a proper and perfect development route at both national and continental scales. At large, development has always been understood as much more of a socio-political phenomenon vis-ï¿½-vis economic progression. However, the upsurge of planned economies meant a shift from the view that was expansively held. With the emergence of concepts such as good governance, democracy and such, development has come to be understood along the lines of economies, as thus extracting the political aspect from development.
Societal relations and relations between State and civil society has evolved to assume a shape determined by political and economical development. The evolution is always typified by the emergence of mode of practice and norms such as democracy, good governance, rule of law, and some other aspects that are axiomatically viewed as concomitant to development. Hypothetically, good governance involves a variety of characteristics. These include issues such as participation, consensus orientation, accountability, transparency, responsiveness, effectiveness and efficiency, equity and inclusivity and the rule of law. It assures that corruption is minimized1, 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 supposed to be responsive to the present and future needs of society.
According weighty significance to what was raised above, and will be raised herein, the below writing is destined at making attempts to discuss whether “good governance” depoliticises development. It further will discuss the probable positive and/or negative implications of the phenomenon, if it were, for development theory and practice in the current epoch.
It seems as if the general, perhaps hypothetical conception held around and about good governance at State level is that which refers to rule of law, respect of human, political & civil rights, transparency and accountability. A closer analysis and/or deduction would qualify neo-liberal policies and conditionality for development at the current developmental sphere, as interlinked and intertwined with good governance.
Recently the terms “governance” and “good governance” are being increasingly used in development literature. Bad governance is being increasingly regarded as one of the root causes of all-evil within societies. Major donors and international financial institutions are increasingly basing their aid and loans on the condition that reforms that ensure “good governance” are undertaken. Recently, United States (US) aid experts visited 16 low-income countries selected to receive aid as a reward for good governance in a multibillion-dollar programme that has won high praise for the Bush administration2.
By and large, good governance, which is mostly and at practical level, defined on proper economic and corporate governance, has taken the development agenda. As thus, the political aspect of development is minimised, since political influence on development has decreased its sphere of operation and functioning.
There has always been the notion that states must embrace neo-liberal policies in order to realise development. Despite the fact that neo-liberal policies have their own shortcomings, they have always been justified, largely after the collapse of communism and end of Cold War. For instance, the failure of Structural Adjustment Programmes in Africa was blamed on the ‘poor governance’ of African governments. The view propounded is that neo-liberal solutions were not wrong, instead they were incorrectly and insufficiently implemented. There can be minimal opposition to the view that the West is using good governance as a tool for domination over weaker developing countries. As thus, good governance deprives developing countries of their political powers to decide their own future.
While it is true that the promotion of democracy has always been part of Western foreign policy rhetoric and that the end of Cold War allowed this ideal to be pursued more consistently, the good governance agenda is not exactly an expression of pure altruism. As a discursive transformation, good governance has been contingent in the past allowed and/or enabled the West to maintain its hegemony over the third world, perhaps with even fewer resources and less resistance than in the past3.
Good governance is much more of a discursive transformation that, while claiming to liberate the poor, enables the West to continue its undisputed hegemony on developing world under changed conditions of the new world order4. It reproduces the hierarchies of conventional development discourse, whereby the third world is still to be reformed and delivered from its current underdeveloped stage by the first world.
Through that form of created continued dependency, the rich industrialised countries retain moral high ground, the right to administer development and democracy to the South. The first world becomes the symbol of democracy, and the third world is to be made more like the first through the application of the good governance agenda5. By placing the good governance discourse in the wider context of the changing global balance of power, the intention to sustain and reproduce specific forms of power and polices, is observable. Good governance is not simply a humanitarian effort concerned to promote development, growth and democracy, but rather a development discourse intrinsically linked to larger discursive practices through which global power and domination are exercised.
The World Bank’s report, Sub-Saharan Africa: from crisis to sustainable growth is one pretext that introduced the concept of good governance to the development discourse. After outlining a variety of problems that emerged out of post independence’s bad governance by African leaders, the pretext recommended good governance as the substitute way forward and liberator that would allow not only for development, but also for release of society’s true, indigenous values6. The pretext regards state and state-capitalism as imported artefacts, and capitalism is represented as an integral part of Africa’s indigenous culture, perfectly attuned to African local, traditional values.
In the context within which good governance is placed, it is made to construct a binary opposition between alien state interventions, which is associated with past development failures, and indigenous capitalism, which represents the basis for future development success. While there is no denying the dismal performance of the African state, a clear consequence of this binary opposition is that it bestows legitimacy on the contraction of the state and its services in accordance with structural adjustment programmes. Good governance is raised within the context as offering alternatives to political institutions, which are largely depicted as corrupt, evil and counter development.
Within the understanding of this good governance, State is depicted as an alien oppressor; the curtailment of state activities becomes a people-friendly, democratic venture, almost to the extent that state contraction or destatisation is presented as synonymous with democratisation. This conflation of destatisation (minimising of state power) with democratisation is an essential characteristic of the good governance discourse, as precursor to development. It somehow extracts the political aspect of development.
The conflation of destatisation and democratisation has its roots in the perception of democracy and economic liberalism as the two sides of the same coin. Contemporary development thinking perceives democratisation and economic liberalisation as interrelated and mutually reinforcing processes, an argument that can be synthesised as follows: economic liberalisation is expected to decentralise decision-making away from the state and multiply the centres of power. This in turn is assumed to lead to the development of a civil society capable of limiting the power and providing the basis for liberal democratic politics.
Perhaps an important aspect to note is the belief that at times the hitherto greatest and most dominant theory of the prerequisites of democracy, are thought to be modernisation and/or development. The basic tenet of this view is that a general economic development, measure in GNP per capita, the degree of industrialisation, urbanisation, etc, should bring about an overall transformation of the society which, in turn, gives rise to a political change in favour of democracy. The sequence would be followed by a need for good governance to make democracy work. This analysis is ignorant of the fact that bad governance as personified in institutions such as corruption, is not a congenital trait of leaders in developmental states, but can also be attributed to the institutions of neo-liberalism imposed to mostly third countries.
It is instructive to note that in Regions such as Africa, there were views that ruled out the possibilities of democratic rule because of modernisation or dependence exacerbated by Structural Adjustment Programmes. Because of limited resources and the manner in which neo-liberal policies were introduced, features such as corruption and/or bad governance were inevitable symptoms. For instance in Africa, the conflation of pre-colonial and traditional institutions of power and neo-liberal practices bred undesirable and perhaps counter development consequences. In order to address this, the West introduced good governance, which erodes the politics in development, noting past failures.
In the good governance discourse, democracy emerges as the necessary political framework for successful economic development, and within the discourse democracy and economic liberalism are conceptually linked: bad governance equals state intervention, and good governance equals democracy and economic liberalism. In the conceptualisation of World Bank, governance means competent and accountable government ‘dedicated to liberal’7.
The governance agenda’s overall aim to ‘release the energies of ordinary people’ and to ’empower ordinary people to take advantage of their own lives, to make communities more responsible for their development, and to make governments listen to their people’ is also intrinsically bound up with economic liberalism8. The appealing power of development is clearly demonstrated in the intention to empower; it draws on emotive and forceful imagery and appeals to notions of rights and justice. If taken literally this call for empowerment has far reaching political consequences, in that it implies a challenge to local as well as national power structures. If people were enabled to hold those in power more accountable, they might demand more services and a more just distribution of income, and thus put into question the whole gamut of existing socio-economic arrangements. Needless to mention, this is not the intention of the development apparatus, and when analysed within the overall context of the economic policies of the good governance agenda empowerment takes on quite a different meaning.
An issue worth of note is the reality that good governance is largely propagated by International Financial Institutions, irrespective of their disrepute of failing to address the development question in Africa. The undemocratic nature of institutions such as the World Bank and International Monetary Fund is being ignored whilst third world countries are made scapegoats when underdevelopment (largely heralded IFIs bad instructions) is phenomenon.
The International Monetary Fund acclaims to have long provided advice and technical assistance that has helped to foster good governance, such as promoting public sector transparency and accountability. Traditionally the IMF’s main focus is said to be encouraging countries to correct macroeconomic imbalances, reduce inflation, and undertake key trade, exchange, and other market reforms needed to improve efficiency and support sustained economic growth9. The hostility of capital masquerading under good governance and democracy promotion is always ignored. The fact that the policies from IMF erode weaker states’ sovereignty and taking away their political power is always obfuscated.
IMF states “While good governance remain its first order of business in all its member countries, increasingly the IMF has found that a much broader range of institutional reforms is needed if countries are to establish and maintain private sector confidence and thereby lay the basis for sustained growth10.” It is perceptible that IMF role is to propagate neo-liberal policies, such as maintaining private sector confidence. The private is mostly transactional companies and corporations.
In most countries, development is hypothetically (sometimes hypocritically) led by governments, whilst the de facto rulers and directors of development are the multinational firms. Because the working-class is not structurally incorporated in the Management of modern economies, the depoliticised functioning and nature of transformational firms and as thus economies thrives within supposed democratic states11. Mostly the problems of huge corporations, accentuated in developing countries is their supranational authority which compromises national sovereignty and allow managers/capitalists to determine power relations within states and/or how state internal affairs are run. As an archetype, the limited transformation in African economies by capital produced an insignificant labour force, unable to influence the state to regulate anti-worker practices of companies.
The immediate consequence of this ‘good governance’ is that it shifts power to capital and in most cases; the private sector and/or owners of capital take decisions on the development route a state should take. This can be related to the South African situation, when the neo-liberal Growth, Redistribution and Employment strategy was adopted. Clear retraction indicates that earlier macro-economic recommendations from companies such as Anglo-American, Sanlam and others constituted GEAR’s larger component. Therefore, it is possible that there is an invisible hand behind the rhetoric of good governance.
Development is largely defined in its broadest social terms as an upward directional movement of society from lesser to greater levels of energy, efficiency, quality, productivity, complexity, comprehension, creativity, choice, mastery, enjoyment and accomplishment. Development of individuals and societies results in increasing freedom of choice and increasing capacity to fulfill its choices by its own capacity and initiative. Growth and development usually go together, but they are different phenomena subject to different laws. Growth involves a horizontal or quantitative expansion and multiplication of existing types and forms of activities12. Development involves a vertical or qualitative enhancement of the level of organization.
Development of society occurs only in fields where that collective will is sufficiently strong and seeking expression. Development strategies will be most effective when they focus on identifying areas where the social will is mature and provide better means for the awakened social energy to express itself. Only those initiatives that are in concordance with this subconscious urge will gain momentum and multiply. Development of the collective is subconscious. It starts with physical experience, which eventually leads to conscious comprehension of the process13. Conscious development based on conceptual knowledge of the social process accelerates development and minimizes errors and imbalances.
The ‘good governance’ discourse has temporary positive implications on development, whilst it has negative impact in the long run. Whilst good governance hallmarks such as accountability and transparency will be enjoyed by development states for short period, there will be continued and sustained negative consequences, when the socio-economic benefits an gains or promised developments are not realised. Good governance will just create false impressions and expectations that development will happen in the long run.
There are major impacts at economic level that come with the embracing of neo-liberal policies by weaker states. Measures of economic impact include employment, income inequality and expenditures. Direct increases in these measures due to new development are straightforward calculations using data from local, regional, state and Federal sources.
The direct social impacts of new development separated from political influence are generally increases in population and unemployment, which are basic costs for economic, fiscal, transportation and environmental analysis. Population and unemployment in turn generate demands for public facilities and services such as school buildings, teachers, and public safety personnel14. Once these direct social impacts are not quantified, they create hostility between the rulers and the ruled.
The writing made attempts to discuss whether ‘good governance’ depoliticise development. It further discussed the probable positive and/or negative implications of the phenomenon, if it were, for development theory and practice in the current epoch. A variety of issues were reflected upon, mostly invoking the observable conflation of good governance with adoption of neo-liberal policies. In most cases, reference was made to third world and Africa in particular. Pause!