Government and Governance

FUNCTIONS OF GOVERNMENT

All government performs a wide range of functions Self preservation : The authority of the State needs to be preserved both from external aggression and internal disturbances. Government discharges this function by raising and maintaining a national army, a police force and other enforcement agencies and empowering these agencies through legislations. Supervision and resolution of conflicts : Strengthening of democratic practices and processes, ensuring equity to all citizens, setting up of conflict resolution mechanisms and fair governance are some ways for minimization of conflicts. 

Socio-economic development :

Enactment and effective enforcement of laws, assuring welfare of the weaker sections, bringing about desirable social change are some measures which governments adopt to bring about socio-economic development.

Regulation of the economy :

This has emerged as one of the most important functions of government. Adopting sound fiscal and monetary policies is one of the major duties of a government.

Provision of goods and services :

With increasing emphasis on socio-economic development, governments today are major providers of different types of goods and services such as education, health, public distribution of foodgrains etc.

The functions of the government are broadly classified as follows:

  • Regulatory functions
  • Service providing functions
  • Developmental functions

REGULATORY FUNCTIONS 

Thomas Jefferson said government is created to secure the inalienable rights of all citizens – i.e., the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. If everyone were to be allowed to pursue complete freedom for doing whatever he wants to do and to pursue his happiness, then it could lead to a situation where rights and freedom of other persons may be affected. -This necessitates the regulatory role of government. The State enacts laws which impose restrictions on the activities of citizens, in the larger interest of society. In order to enforce these laws, the State creates a large number of organizations which are charged with the implementation of these laws. However, attaining ‘optimum regulation’ is a challenging task, as a balance has to be achieved between an individual’s freedom and society’s interest.

The 2nd ARC observed that all regulatory functions should adhere to five principles – simplification, transparency, objectivity, convergence and speedy disposal. Besides, the Commission would emphasise the following aspects of regulation:

Regulation only where necessary :

It has been argued that India is an over-regulated country, but many of the regulations are not implemented in right earnest. The reasons include:

  • The sheer number of such regulations;
  • Outdated regulations that continue to remain on statute books;
  • The tendency to over-legislate – as a result, the legislation becomes an end itself; and • The complex procedural formalities stipulated in these regulations.

It is, therefore, necessary to have a detailed scrutiny of all laws and regulations – Union, State and Local – followed by the repeal of unnecessary regulations, updation of outdated ones and simplification of procedures so that compliance becomes easy. 

Regulation to be effective :

One of the consequences of a large number of regulations has been their poor enforcement. Social legislations are classic examples of this. Slack enforcement leads to corrupt and unethical practices and the objectives of the legislations are also not met. Another reason for the poor enforcement of regulations is the lack of attention to building capacity in the agencies entrusted with their enforcement. For example, the capacity and expertise of the Motor Vehicles Department has not kept pace with the explosive growth of vehicles on the road. – The Commission is of the view that in order to ensure that the regulatory measures do not degenerate into corrupt practices, it is necessary to have an effective supervision of the agencies which carry out these regulatory functions. This supervision should primarily be done internally by the supervisory officers and should be supplemented by a periodic assessment by an independent agency. 

Self regulation is the best form of regulation :

In the field of taxation, there has been a shift from departmental assessment to greater reliance on self assessment. This holds good for Union taxes such as Income Tax, State taxes like the VAT and local taxes like the Property Tax. This principle of voluntary compliance can be extended to other fields like building bye-laws, public health regulations etc. 

Regulatory procedures to be simple, transparent and citizen friendly:

The Commission has dealt with a series of systemic reforms to minimize the scope for corruption. These include, simplifying transactions, using IT, promoting transparency, reducing discretion, effective supervision etc. 

Involving citizens’ groups, professional organizations in the regulation activities:

The burden of the enforcement machinery can be shared by associating citizens’ groups as well as professional organizations to certify compliance and report violations of the regulations to the concerned authorities. 

SERVICE PROVIDING FUNCTIONS 

Government provides a variety of services to citizens ranging from social services like education and health to infrastructural services like power, road, transport and water etc. As far as infrastructure services are concerned, Government agencies have traditionally been responsible for these services since these were considered natural monopolies. However, there is now an increasing trend towards privatization of many of these services in order to ensure greater efficiency, competition as well as accountability. Privatization of power distribution in several Indian cities including Delhi reflects this trend. Whether these services are provided by Government or private agencies, there is need to ensure greater efficiency and accountability to the citizens. Ensuring full cost recovery, effective implementation of Citizens’ Charters, feedback mechanisms from citizens’ groups and public-private partnership are some of the mechanisms to meet these objectives.

Recommendations

Government agencies, whether regulatory or developmental, should introduce the Single Window Agency concept within their organisations to minimize delays and maximize convenience to citizens. Government as a whole should draw a roadmap with timelines for expeditious creation of a single window at the local level for provision of all developmental and regulatory services to citizens. 

DEVELOPMENTAL FUNCTIONS OF GOVERNMENT 

Government implements a large number of welfare and development programmes for promoting the socio economic upliftment of its citizens. These include programmes for poverty alleviation, employment generation schemes, schemes to strengthen infrastructure, measures for the welfare of weaker sections of society, programmes to improve the health and nutritional status of citizens etc. These programmes are implemented largely by the State Governments through their machinery and through Local Governments. 

The 2nd ARC would like to suggest that the principle of subsidarity should be adopted in implementing various programmes. While doing so, citizens should be involved in all stages of these programmes and social audit should be made mandatory for all developmental programmes. 

  • The principle of subsidiarity should be followed while deciding on the implementation machinery for any programme. 
  • Citizens should be actively involved in all stages of these programmes i.e. planning, implementation and monitoring. 
  • Mandatory social audit should be carried out for all programmes. 
  • Impact assessment should be carried out for all programmes at periodic intervals.

EMERGENCE OF THE CONCEPT OF GOVERNANCE

The rise in the popularity in the use of the term governance is closely linked with the redefinition of the role of state. In the post World War II period, state was seen as an engine of growth, but with failures in development performance, it began to be blamed for all that had gone wrong. Ineffective development policies and poor implementation of these policies together with inefficient and incompetent absorption of international aid, triggered the search for alternative frameworks for policy making and alternative institutions for delivering public services. 

It is now widely known that governance was first used by the World Bank in its report on sub-Saharan Africa in 1989. In this report, the Bank suggested that the programmes of fiscal adjustment and investment in that region were being rendered ineffective by a ‘crisis of governance.’ What the Bank saw in its experience of advancing structural adjustment programmes was the weak role of the state and its institutions in implementing these programmes. There were incompetent and corrupt governments that tended to curtail or dilute these programmes and even after governments accepted the conditions, enjoined in these programs, they were not able to implement them. This led the Bank, in its initial formulation, to focus on managerial and administrative competence as a strategy to improve governance (World Bank, 1989; World Bank 1992) and committed itself to the seemingly more apolitical and largely technical strategy of improving governance. What was advocated was a slim but efficient administrative state, detached from its prior pervasive involvement in economic matters (Leftwich, 1994:368). The role of state was redefined in the World Development Report 1992. The state could undertake basic investment in, and management of, essential social and physical infrastructure, but its central role was to encourage the free and fair play of market forces in an impartial, open and accountable manner. 

What the World Bank did in redefining the state was to shift the focus from government to governance. But this shift reflected the ascendance of neo-liberal ideology in economic theory and public policy from the 1970s in the Western world. Many of these countries in the advanced world faced a fiscal crisis due to the inability to bear the burden of welfare policies and the cost of vast bureaucracies maintained to implement them. Consequently, social spending began to be reduced, market was increasingly relied upon to meet many demands of citizens and search for alternative strategies to deliver public services began. Privatization and liberalization became the new slogans of effective government. However, in this formulation, role of state was not reduced but reconceptualised. It was recognised that the liberal policies could only succeed in providing citizen welfare if the state had the capacity to direct and regulate them. Effective and competent bureaucracies were still needed but in different avatar. 

This experience of advanced countries in redefining the role of state was profoundly significant for the emerging conceptualization of governance and its use by the donor agencies. Neo-liberalism strengthens the social powers of capital especially finance capital and discourages state investments in sectors that can be included in the purview of the private sector. So the effect of the rise of the role of private enterprise or greater reliance on the market largely eclipsed the state oriented growth model that had been prevalent since the end of the Second World War. Governance now was envisaged in this new perspective and was not state centric. The state was one actor – albeit an important one-in steering society. 

Together with this insistence of prioritization of markets in domestic public policies, processes of globalization further strengthened the role of financial capital and promoted its movement across countries. As more and more countries got incorporated in international production process, the demand of finance capital, as represented by transnational corporations, on the state was to provide conditions that would allow production to take place efficiently and smoothly. 

Good governance came to be associated with the capacity of the state to provide these conditions and create a climate that attracts international capital through corporations and aid through international agencies. The impact of the progress of globalization has thus been that of further emasculation of the role of state. The chief beneficiary of this development has undoubtedly been the domain of the market, which has gained previously unthinkable pre-eminence in the last decade of the twentieth century. 

Governance is defined as the manner in which power is exercised in the management of a country’s economic and social resources for development. Good governance is synonymous with sound development management. There are four areas of governance that are consistent with the Bank’s mandate: public sector management, accountability, the legal framework for development, and information and transparency. 

MEANING OF GOVERNANCE

Governance is defined as the manner in which power is exercised in the management of a country’s economic and social resources for development. Good governance is synonymous with sound development management. There are four areas of governance that are consistent with the Bank’s mandate: public sector management, accountability, the legal framework for development, and information and transparency.  
– World Bank

Governance is defined as “the exercise of economic, political and administrative authority to manage a country’s affairs at all levels. United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) .

Reviews of the literature generally demonstrate that governance has different meanings and is used in a variety of ways. But there is a baseline agreement that governance refers to the development of governing styles in which boundaries between and within public and private sectors have become blurred. What previously were indisputably roles of government are now increasingly seen as more common generic, societal problems which can be resolved by political institutions but also by other actors. The main point is that political institutions no longer exercise a monopoly of the orchestration of governance. The concept of governance indicates a shift away from well established notions of the way government sought to resolve social issues through top down approach. 

n summarising the perspective of governance identified in the literature, Stoker (1998) lays down five dimensions. These dimensions are: 

  • Governance refers to a complex set of institutions and actors that are drawn from but also beyond the government. 
  • Governance recognises the blurring of boundaries and responsibilities for tackling social and economic issues. 
  • Governance identifies the power dependence involved in the relationships between institutions involved in collective action. 
  • Governance is about autonomous self-governing networks of actors. 
  • Governance recognises the capacity to get things done which does not rest on the power of the government to command or use its authority. It sees government as able to use new tools and techniques to steer and guide. 

More simply put, governance is concerned with network of relationships of three actors – state, market and civil society. It is an interactive process where government may like to impose its will but its acceptance will depend on compliance and action of others. One institution depends on another and this is what Stoker refers to as power dependence. In this relationships and networks, no one institution can easily dominate; it will depend on particular process of exchange. The monopoly of political institutions in providing services is diluted; the private sector and institutions of civil society fill in the space previously occupied by these institutions.

Reviews of the literature generally demonstrate that governance has different meanings and is used in a variety of ways. But there is a baseline agreement that governance refers to the development of governing styles in which boundaries between and within public and private sectors have become blurred. What previously were indisputably roles of government are now increasingly seen as more common generic, societal problems which can be resolved by political institutions but also by other actors. The main point is that political institutions no longer exercise a monopoly of the orchestration of governance. The concept of governance indicates a shift away from well established notions of the way government sought to resolve social issues through top down approach. 

In summarising the perspective of governance identified in the literature, Stoker (1998) lays down five dimensions. These dimensions are: 

  • Governance refers to a complex set of institutions and actors that are drawn from but also beyond the government. 
  • Governance recognises the blurring of boundaries and responsibilities for tackling social and economic issues. 
  • Governance identifies the power dependence involved in the relationships between institutions involved in collective action. 
  • Governance is about autonomous self-governing networks of actors.
  • Governance recognises the capacity to get things done which does not rest on the power of the government to command or use its authority. It sees government as able to use new tools and techniques to steer and guide.

More simply put, governance is concerned with network of relationships of three actors – state, market and civil society. It is an interactive process where government may like to impose its will but its acceptance will depend on compliance and action of others. One institution depends on another and this is what Stoker refers to as power dependence. In this relationships and networks, no one institution can easily dominate; it will depend on particular process of exchange. The monopoly of political institutions in providing services is diluted; the private sector and institutions of civil society fill in the space previously occupied by these institutions. New forms of institutions emerge and this finds expression in the blurring of boundaries between the public and the private sector. A range of voluntary agencies arise that respond to collective concerns. 

Governance is concerned with the changes taking place in the organisation of the state and its relationships with private sector and civil society actors. Here, academic attention turns from state-centric analysis towards an understanding of the wider public policy system in which the institutions of government appear to be involved in processes of negotiation, bargaining and compromise with a host of other actors. This is what is conventionally described as the transition from government to governance.

The World Bank’s notion of governance refers to reducing corruption and encouraging rule bound behaviour. In reforming public bureaucracies, it reflects the concerns of the Weberian model insisting on merit in recruitment, professionalization and neutrality and impartiality in enforcing rules. World Bank has employed six dimensions to construct measures of governance. These dimensions are:

  • Voice and Accountability, measuring political, civil and human rights 
  • Instability and violence -measuring the likelihood of violent threats to or changes in government, including terrorism 
  • Government effectiveness, measuring the competence of the bureaucracy and the quality of public service delivery 
  • Regulatory burden- measuring the incidence of market unfriendly policies 
  • Rule of law- measuring the quality of contract enforcement, the police, and the courts, as well as the likelihood of crime and violence 
  • Control of corruption-measuring the exercise of public power for private gain, including both petty and grand corruption and state capture. 

In concluding this section, it is necessary to remind ourselves that the concept of governance reflects empirical reality much more sharply than what focus on government alone did. It points to networks in society that are involved in policy making and moves away from the well established notions of authoritative single agencies at work. Networks connect disparate set of actors who jointly realize that they need one another to craft effective political agreements. Their efforts to find solutions acceptable to all who are involved tend to challenge the constitutional institutions established for this purpose. Thus, governance provides a new perspective and provides the potential to explore how power shifts take place in society. Governance now is envisaged in this new perspective and is not state centric. The state is one actor – albeit an important one – in steering society. 

The challenge for the practitioners and international aid agencies is the realization that governance is not confined to civil service reform or introduction of corporate practices in government alone. Reform for good governance carries a wide agenda that touches virtually every aspect of politics, economy and society. The governance agenda is particularly demanding of states that are poor, disorganized, vulnerable to political disruption and lacking in legitimacy. The most important realization that has emerged in the efforts at external initiatives of reform in governance is that this reform is a matter of political contestation. Without political commitment even the technical strategy of building institutional capacities cannot work. Each country has its own history and context. There is no universal model of good governance. It is good to remind ourselves of an old lesson learnt during the heydays of development administration movement when strengthening bureaucratic capacities was the order of day: ‘… decision-making is enmeshed so intricately and so deeply in the surrounding culture that it cannot be extricated as an autonomous behavior and transplanted’. 

More simply put, governance is concerned with network of relationships of three actors – state, market and civil society. It is an interactive process where government may like to impose its will but its acceptance will depend on compliance and action of others. One institution depends on another and this is what Stoker refers to as power dependence. In this relationships and networks, no one institution can easily dominate; it will depend on particular process of exchange. The monopoly of political institutions in providing services is diluted; the private sector and institutions of civil society fill in the space previously occupied by these institutions. New forms of institutions emerge and this finds expression in the blurring of boundaries between the public and the private sector. A range of voluntary agencies arise that respond to collective concerns. 

 

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