India: A Good Country with Bad Governance!

GoodpalStarred Page By Goodpal, 26th Sep 2011 | Follow this author | RSS Feed
Posted in Wikinut>News>World

India is a free country but the framework of governance is still colonial. Isolation of ruling elite from ordinary people and improper implementation of laws are both symptoms and reasons of bad governance in India.

Governance in India

Good governance is a prerequisite for strengthening the economic and social performance of a country. Governance implies the traditions and institutions by which authority in a country is exercised. This includes how governments are selected and replaced; its capacity to effectively formulate and implement sound policies and provide public services; and the respect for the institutions that govern economic and social interactions among them. Good governance, respect for human rights and efforts to crack down on corruption are not just desirable for their own sake but they also provide foundation for faster economic development.

India owes its system of governance to the British rulers. When the British left India, after dividing it into India and Pakistan, the system remained. They had designed it to serve their colonial interests – to rule the colored Indian subjects and exploit the resources so that the “Great Britain” prospered and remained “great”. The new rulers began ruling and the elections became the only proof and symbol of Indian democracy. No one cared to make it participatory despite Gandhi’s suggestion to empower village assemblies (called Panchayats); the common man and his interests remained confined to election talks. Once elected, the representatives colluded with the rich businessmen and bureaucrats to serve their own interests. Six decades after independence, the gap between the ruling class and general public has remained as it was when the British ruled. Gandhian Social worker, Anna Hazare can not be more accurate when he says “In 1947, the “white British” were merely replaced with “brown Indian”; nothing changed in the mindset of the rulers. No one showed the courage or foresight to “Indianize” the system of governance.

Worldwide Governance Indicators

World Bank’s Worldwide Governance Indicators (WGI) provide a comprehensive picture of the quality of governance in individual countries. The indicators provide a good overview of a country’s political stability, quality of governance, and the rule of law.

Financial institutions such as Goldman Sachs use them as a guiding tool in their investment decisions and countries like US and Netherlands decide aid to developing countries based on the picture provided by such Indicators. Risk rating agencies as well as certain NGOs also use them. However, it must be emphasized that the World Bank does not use WGI to allocate funds.

Recent research using the Worldwide Governance Indicators shows that industrial countries with more corruption also have higher budget deficits. Further, the evidence for developed and developing countries suggests that quality of governance has a major impact on a country’s development.

The governance indicators are defined to correspond to what are considered “fundamental governance concepts.” The WGI rank countries with respect to six dimensions of good governance:

  • 1. Voice and accountability – the extent to which the general public is able to participate in selecting the government, degrees of freedom of expression and association, and the extent of media freedom.

  • 2. Political stability and Absence of Violence – likelihood that the government will be destabilized or overthrown by unconstitutional or violent means, including political violence or terrorism.

  • 3. Government effectiveness – the quality of public services, the quality of the civil service and the degree of its independence from political pressures, the quality of policy formulation and implementation, and the credibility of the government’s commitment to such policies.

  • 4. Regulatory quality – ability of the government to formulate and implement sound policies and regulations that permit and promote private sector development.

  • 5. Rule of law – the extent to which people have confidence in and abide by the rules of society, and in particular the quality of contract enforcement, the police, and the courts, as well as the likelihood of crime and violence.

  • 6. Control of corruption – the extent to which public power is exercised for private gain, including both petty and grand forms of corruption, as well as “capture” of the state by elites and private interests.

The aggregate indicators combine the views of a large number of enterprise, citizen and expert survey respondents in industrial and developing countries. The data comes from a diverse variety of survey institutes, think tanks, NGOs, and international organizations. The WGI cover 213 countries and territories.

The Nordic countries along with New Zealand have been the perennial chart-toppers in the WGI, but rich countries are by no means always better governed than emerging or developing economies. In fact, over 30 developing and emerging economies, including Slovenia, Chile, Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, Rwanda and Costa Rica have higher governance scores than industrialized countries such as Italy (ranked 87 in Corruption Control) or Greece (ranked 82).

Worldwide Governance Indicators and India

In terms of WGI, India ranked at about 46th percentile in 2009, implying that more than half of the 210 countries studied score better on governance. India is particularly weak on political stability and regularity quality. If the control of corruption indicator is compared for top ten economies of the world, India gets third rank from the bottom – only better than Russia and China.

Therefore, India has a long way to go in improving its system of governance to inspire confidence not only in its own people but also in the global community. Growth in terms of GDP alone is neither sufficient to provide a better quality of life to majority of its citizens nor for eradicating poverty – government recognized that 407 million Indians live below the latest defined poverty line. Needless to say this number is grossly underestimated – other measures such as the multidimensional poverty index put this number at 665 million.

Perhaps the most basic issue facing the Indian democracy is reflected by the first indicator – voice and accountability. Freedom of expression and media freedom is pretty good, but Indian democracy is certainly not very participatory. There is a wide separation between the ruling political class and the masses they claim to represent. In collusion with the highly callous bureaucracy they have mastered the art of evading accountability. Highly opaque political financing leaves them defending interests of the rich and the powerful who provide money power at the time of their election. Therefore, on paper legislations are created supposedly for the people, but careful reading between the lines and the manner of implementation gives a lot of maneuvering space to the rich and the powerful at the cost of the common man.

The Global Integrity Index report of 2009 also highlights this “implementation gap” of the written law. This gap is a sign that the written law is widely ignored, creating a situation where progress depends more on political will than new laws.

You may also like to read:

Why So Much Poverty in India?
Analyzing Indian Poverty through Poverty Indicators
Poverty in India: Rediscovering its Multidimensional Nature


Accountability, Control Of Corruption, Corruption, Corruption In India, Governance In India, Implementation Gap, India, Political Stability, Worldwide Governance Indicators

Meet the author

author avatar Goodpal
I am a keen practitioner of mindfulness meditation for past several years. I firmly believe in "goodness" of people, society and world. I regularly write on personal growth and social topics.

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author avatar Buzz
27th Sep 2011 (#)

Insightful article. Bad governance is prevalent outside of India.

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